Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Among the regulatory measures in place to safeguard our ecosystems are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  The decision to designate an area as an SSSI is made by Natural England considering its unique flora, fauna, geological features, or habitats. These areas play a pivotal role in conserving the country’s biodiversity and maintaining the delicate balance of its ecosystems.

Natural England establishes specific conservation objectives for each SSSI, which outline the desired state of the site in terms of species, habitats, and geological features. Ecologists from Natural England conduct regular site visits, usually every 6 years, to assess the condition of the SSSI, gathering data to ensure that the site is meeting conservation objectives and will develop ongoing monitoring programmes. If monitoring reveals issues or challenges, management plans can be adjusted to address emerging concerns and ensure the long-term conservation of the SSSI.

In cases where persistent non-compliance is identified or if there are significant breaches of conservation regulations, Natural England has the authority to take legal action. This may include issuing management notices or, in extreme cases, pursuing legal action to protect the ecological integrity of the site.

It is possible to appeal an unfavourable assessment. Grounds for appeal typically include challenging the accuracy of the data, questioning the interpretation of the assessment, or presenting new information that was not considered during the initial assessment.

It is important to note that the specific details of the appeals process, including deadlines and requirements, may vary. Natural England will provide guidance on the procedures to be followed during the appeals process.

How can Butcher & Barlow assist?

Our Agriculture and Rural Affairs Team has experience of dealing with the appeal process and are happy to work with you or your land agent to ensure that your case is presented effectively. They can be contacted on 01606 334309 or emailed at


Mike Bracegirdle

Mike Bracegirdle


This blog was first published in January edition of The Farmart magazine.