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Protected or designated areas

England’s natural environment is unique. Our geology, soils, landscapes and their biodiversity along with our marine and coastal ecosystems are a rich inheritance. There are a number of statutory designations protecting England’s terrestrial natural environment under both national and international law; and by way of government policy.

Nationally-designated sites comprise:

Internationally-designated sites cover those with European designations including Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs); and those with international designations, such as Ramsar sites of wetland importance.

Further information on protected sites in England and their locations can be found on the Natural England website.

Latest news

  • October 2010 – 94.6% of all SSSIs by area were in favourable or recovering condition. Government is working to bring 95% of SSSI area in England into this condition by December 2010.
  • 1 April 2010 – Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 replaced The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) in England and Wales (and Scotland, to a limited degree).
  • February 2010 - national implementation of Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 was postponed in order to allow more time to fully learn lessons of the pilot implementation.

Key facts and figures

In England, there are:

  • over 4000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), covering around 7.5% of the country
  • 224 National Nature Reserves
  • Over 1,400 Local Nature Reserves, covering over 37,000 hectares
  • Over 40,000 Local Sites.

As a whole, the UK has:

  • 613 designated Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) covering over 2,631,415 hectares
  • 262 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) covering over 2,389,000 hectares
  • 170 Ramsar sites, including 24 sites in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

Note that site designations may overlap.  Nevertheless, these protected areas cover approximately 10% of the UK land area.

Page last modified: 2 February 2011