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Wildlife Guidelines

Wildlife Designations

There are a number of designations which relate specifically to nature conservation. These designations can be categorised as those of international, national or local importance.

Some sites are covered by more than one type of designation, such as the Exe Estuary which is subject to 7 different designations.

International Designations

Ramsar SiteA site designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention .
Under national legislation, all Ramsar Sites are also SSSIs
Exe Estuary
Special Protection Area (SPA)Site of European importance for bird conservation, designated under the EC Birds Directive .
Under national legislation, SPAs are also SSSIs.
Exe EstuaryEast Devon Heaths
Tamar Estuaries Complex
Special Area of Conservation (SAC)Site of European conservation importance containing listed habitats or species, designated under the terms of the EC Habitats Directive .
Under national legislation, SACs are also SSSIs.
Sites which are proposed for designation are submitted to the European Commission. Once submitted, sites are referred to as candidate SACs.
After these sites are approved by the European Commission, they are formally designated as SACs by national government. As of October 2002, all candidate SACs are awaiting approval by the European Commission.
Full protection is given to sites as soon as they become candidate SACs.
Candidate SACs:Beer Quarry and Caves
Blackstone Point
Braunton Burrows
Culm Grasslands
Dawlish Warren
East Devon Pebblebed Heaths
Exmoor and Quantock Oakwoods
Exmoor Heaths
Plymouth Sound and Estuaries
River Axe
Sidmouth to West Bay
South Dartmoor Woods
South Devon Shore Dock
South Hams
Tintagel - Marsland - Clovelly Coast

National Designations

National Nature Reserve (NNR)Site of outstanding wildlife or geological importance managed either by, or on behalf of, English Nature in the interests of wildlife, research and public appreciation (where appropriate). NNRs are declared by English Nature under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 or the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981Axmouth - Lyme Regis UndercliffsBlack-a-tor Copse
Dawlish Warren
Dendles Wood
Dunsdon Farm
East Dartmoor Woods & Heaths
Slapton Ley
Wistmans Wood
Marine Nature Reserve (MNR)Marine site of outstanding wildlife or geological importance where English Nature promotes the safeguarding and sympathetic management of their interest and appropriate educational and research use. MNRs are declared by English Nature under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981Lundy - this is the only MNR within England
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)Site of particular wildlife or geological importance, where measures are taken to promote the safeguarding and enhancement of this interest through the regulation of management activities and development. SSSIs are designated by English Nature under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Within Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay), there are 104 sites notified for their wildlife interest, 72 for their geological interest and a further 34 for a combination of both. In total these cover 51,479 hectares which equates to 7.6% of the area of Devon.    


Further Information
Department of the Environment. 1994. Planning Policy Guidance 9: Nature Conservation. London: HMSO.

DEFRA. 2002. European Protected Species: Guidance Note.

Local Designations

Local Nature Reserve (LNR)Site of local nature conservation importance owned or managed by a local authority. LNRs are designated by local authorities in agreement with English Nature, under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.There are approximately 22 LNRs within Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay).
Non-statutory nature reserveSite managed for the benefit of nature conservation, usually by a conservation organisation.RSPB - 5 nature reservesDevon Wildlife Trust - 43 nature reserves
Devon Bird Watching and Preservation Society - 7 reserves
County Wildlife Site (CWS)or County Geological Site (CGS) - also known as RIGSNon-statutory designations for sites of county significance for wildlife or geology. Positive management of CWSs and CGSs is encouraged and development affecting them is controlled by Local Plan policies. Local authorities are involved in the selection of CWSs and CGSs, on the basis of standard criteria.Some Local Plans adopt different names for sites of county or local importance.There are about 1,400 CWSs and 100 CGSs in Devon (excluding Plymouth and Torbay), including several on County Council land.

Further information

Department of the Environment. 1994. Planning Policy Guidance 9: Nature Conservation. London: HMSO.

English Nature. 1992. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): England's special wildlife and geological sites.