170.Sites of Special Scientific Interest were first introduced in legislation by section 23 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which required them to be notified to the local planning authority. A system of controls was introduced by the current Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (“the 1981 Act”).
171.Under section 28 of the 1981 Act, SSSIs are established by notification by the conservation agencies. Owners and occupiers are then required to notify the agency if they intend to carry out an operation on a site which is likely to damage the features of special interest (these operations are listed by the agency when notifying the site). The agency may consent to the work, or has 4 months to negotiate a management agreement for the land (including financial payments). If agreement is not reached at the end of the 4 month period (and if this period is not extended by agreement or by a nature conservation order, where appropriate, under section 29), the owner or occupier may undertake the proposed operation. The 1981 Act does not enable the conservation agencies to require owners and occupiers to manage a SSSI for its nature conservation interest.
172.Proposals for strengthening the legislation were published in Sites of Special Scientific Interest – Better protection and management(11). Over 550 responses were received, generally in support of the proposals. Following consideration of the responses to consultation, a framework document was published setting out proposals for legislation(12). This Act gives effect to those proposals.
173.The Government is a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity 1992 and, as part of its response to the Convention, has been committed to the development and implementation of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan(13) by working in partnership with others in the public and non-public sectors. The Action Plan identified certain habitats and species which were priorities for conservation, enhancement or restoration wherever they occurred.
Published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, September 1998. Available free of charge from: DETR Room 9/22 Tollgate House, Bristol BS2 9DJ. Tel. 0117 987 6170, Fax. 0117 987 8119
Sites of Special Scientific Interest: better protection and management. The Government’s Framework for Action. Published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, August 1999. Available free of charge from: DETR Room 9/22 Tollgate House, Bristol, BS2 9DJ. Tel. 0117 987 6170, Fax. 0117 987 8119
Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan Cm 2428 London HMSO January 1994
Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report, Vol 1 Meeting the Rio Challenge, Vol 2 The Action Plans London HMSO 1995.