Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

The following Planning practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • What is a Site of Special Scientific Interest?
  • Guidance
  • England
  • Wales
  • Designation of SSSIs
  • Representations
  • Registration as local land charge
  • Finding out if land is an SSSI
  • Operations requiring consent
  • More...

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

What is a Site of Special Scientific Interest?

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) give legal protection to the best sites for wildlife and geology in England and Wales. They are areas of land that Natural England or Natural Resources Wales designate as being of special interest because of their flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features, such as wetlands, rivers, meadows, beaches and peat bogs.

The owners of SSSIs are restricted in what they can do to and on the land and must manage the land so as not to cause any damage to it.



In England, Natural England has published guidance explaining the rules which owners and occupiers must follow when managing land within an SSSI. It states that anyone who plans an activity on land within an SSSI (eg a third-party event organiser) who does not own or occupy the land must work with the owner or occupier.

Separate SSSI guidance is available for public bodies.


In Wales, Natural Resources Wales has published guidance outlining the responsibilities of owners and occupiers of land within SSSIs.

It has also published guidance on the responsibilities of public bodies and statutory undertakers.

Designation of SSSIs

Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have responsibility for identifying and protecting the SSSIs in England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981).

Sites are selected by Natural England and

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