Report reviews selection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest

29 July 2009

An Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee report examining Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) 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The Committee found that the current guidelines for selection of biological SSSIs were out of date, and during evidence the Chief Executive of Natural England agreed that there was a need to act to ensure that the guidelines reflected, for example, the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"Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee need to improve the out-of-date guidelines for selecting SSSIs.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."

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