Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee

Session 2008-09

29 July 2009

EVIDENCE BASE FOR DESIGNATING SITES OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST NEEDS UPDATING, CONCLUDE MPs

In a report published today examining Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee concludes that urgent work is necessary to ensure that Sites are selected on the best possible evidence base.

The Committee found that the current Guidelines for selection of biological SSSIs were out of date, and during evidence the Chief Executive of Natural England agreed that there was a need to act to ensure that the Guidelines reflected, for example, the pressures of climate change.

The Committee also recommends that Natural England ensures that in future the SSSI series is managed in a way that reflects the dynamic nature of the environment. Natural England itself acknowledged that "denotification of sites (or parts thereof) that are not considered to be of special interest" is an important way of ensuring that "the series as a whole is not devalued."

Natural England is also asked to commission research on the impact of SSSI site status on land values in England.

Phil Willis MP, the Chairman of the Committee, said: "Sites of Special Scientific Interest are a key part of this country's protection of its natural heritage and biodiversity. But the natural environment changes, as do the pressures on it, and this must be reflected in the choice of SSSIs.

Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee need to improve the out-of-date guidelines for selecting SSSIs. We hope this will be done alongside the current review of SSSIs, and with full consultation with interested organisations."

FURTHER INFORMATION:

For media inquiries please call Becky Jones on 020 7219 5693. Previous press notices and publications are available on our website. www.parliament.uk/ius

The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee publishes its Tenth Report of Session 2008-09, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, (HC 717) at 11.00 am on Wednesday 29 July 2009.

Copies of the Report are available in the following ways:

€ Media representatives can collect the Report from the Press Gallery, House of Commons.

€ The Report will be sent by post to all witnesses. Electronic copies are available on request from 11am on Wednesday 29 July 2009.

€ Copies of the Report may be obtained, on publication, from the usual outlets, including The Parliamentary Bookshop and The Stationery Office.

€ The Report will be posted on the Parliamentary internet on publication, and will be accessible via the Committee's homepage.