Puffin at The Shiant Isles

Safeguarding sites in the UK

Learn about safeguarding sites and nature designations by country, from the UK.

England

The most important wildlife sites in England are protected through a series of national and international designations.

Nationally important places for wildlife are notified by Natural England, the UK government's statutory body for nature conservation in England, as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This Act was recently strengthened through Part III of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The Act provides for the protection and positive management of SSSIs; sites may only be damaged or destroyed under very specific circumstances.

Currently, there are some 4,088 SSSIs in England, managed by more than 26,000 owners and occupiers, covering about 8 per cent of the country. More information about the SSSI network in England is available from the English Nature website.

The RSPB works to protect England's special wildlife places from damage and improve their management. We are now lobbying for the creation of a network of nationally important marine protected areas. Wildlife does not recognise national boundaries, and two European Union Directives and several international conventions require the protection of internationally important species and habitats.

Northern Ireland

Nationally important places for wildlife in Northern Ireland are known as Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs).

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) which is within the Department of the Environment (DoE) notifies these sites. 

DoE is the body that designates ASSIs in Northern Ireland under The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002. Currently, there are 345 ASSIs designated in Northern Ireland.

The RSPB works to protect Northern Ireland's special wildlife places from damage and to improve their management. In the past RSPB Northern Ireland have campaigned for improvements to ASSI protection through a Safe and Sound campaign and we continue to work toward the protection of Northern Ireland’s most valuable natural places for wildlife. 

Scotland

The most important wildlife sites in Scotland are protected through a series of national and international designations.

Nationally important places for wildlife are notified by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Government’s statutory body for nature conservation in Scotland, as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) under Section 3 of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Currently, there are more than 1,400 SSSI in Scotland, covering nearly 12 per cent of the country.

The RSPB works to protect Scotland’s special wildlife places from damage and improve their management. There is also much effort to persuade government to fulfil obligations under the EU Birds Directive by establishing an adequate network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs), in particular at sea, as well as securing the best possible management for Scotland’s new Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Read about Safeguarding Scotland's seabirds.

Wales

Nationally important places for wildlife are notified by Countryside Council for Wales, the government's statutory body for nature conservation in Wales, as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This Act was recently strengthened through Part III of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The Act provides for the protection and positive management of SSSIs sites may only be damaged or destroyed under very specific circumstances.

The RSPB works to protect Wales' special wildlife places from damage, and improve their management. The improvements to SSSI protection through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act were made, in part, as a result of the support given by members to the RSPBs 'Land for Life' campaign. We are now assisting John Randall MP in promoting a private members bill to create a network of nationally important marine sites.