Protected Areas

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1. UK Designations

National Parks

CLICK HERE for National Parks Website.

National Park  Area (km2) Year of designation
Dartmoor 954 1951
Lake District 2292 1951
Peak District 1438 1951
Pembrokeshire Coast 584 1951
Snowdonia 2142 1951
North York Moors 1436 1952
Exmoor 693 1954
Yorkshire Dales 1769 1954
Northumberland 1049 1956
Brecon 1351 1957
The Broads* 302 1989
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs 1865 2002
Cairngorms 3800 2003
New Forest 570 2005

* The Broads is not strictly a national park - but the Broads Authority established in 1989 has similar powers to the other National Parks Authorities.  Within Scotland another land designation National Scenic Areas (NSA) also exists.

Pause for thought.........Which two other areas in the UK are currently moving toward National Park Status and at what stage are they in this process? (surf the National Parks and SNH website for this information).  The first National Parks in Scotland were designated some 50 years after those in England and Wales, why was this the case?

CLICK HERE for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Website


Area's of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

CLICK HERE for The National Association of AONBs (NAAONB) website which provides information about AONB's in England and Wales.

Designation body: Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales. Environment Service of Department of the Environment (NI)

There are 40 AONB's in England and Wales, and a further 9 in Northern Ireland. The Largest being the Cotswold Hills (2038 km2), the smallest the Isles of Scilly (16 km2

Pause for thought........State 4 ways in which AONB's differ from National Parks

Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA's)

Environmentally Sensitive Areas, impose restrictions on farming activities, but also involve compensatory payments, they are therefore covered in greater detail in the year 2000 schemes section. However, as current agreements come to an end it is hoped farmers in ESA's will enter the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

see also DEFRA on Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's)

See the Natural England's website on SSSI's

SSSI's are designated as the best examples of wildlife habitats, geological features and landforms. The SSSI designation applies throughout Great Britain. Sites are chosen to be representative of British habitats with each site seen as an integral part of the national set. The aim being to maintain the present diversity of animals and plants. For biological sites designation is based on an established set of criteria which include naturalness, diversity, typicalness, size, fragility and rarity.  There are about 6500 SSSI's ranging in size from 62,000 ha to 1 ha.  In total they cover approximately 1.6 million hectares or about 9% (1999) of the land area of the United Kingdom.  

There are over 4,100 SSSI's in England and notification of a site is carried out by Natural England.  Following notification landowners are allowed four months to object and raise issues.  After this four-month period, this notification will be confirmed by the Board of Natural England, or not as the case maybe.  Natural England tries to work in partnership with land owners to conserve and enhance the nature conservation interest of their SSSI. This is done through a combination of meetings, routine site visits and management plans.

Land owners and occupiers must give Natural England notice if they intend to carry out operations that are likely to cause damage to the site, which are listed in the notification.  Failure to do so may lead to prosecution.

Source: Natural England website 2008.

Pause for thought........Use the internet to find an example of where agriculture could account for part of the 17% in adverse condition as illustrated in the chart above. CLICK HERE for a starting point

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has significant implications for the protection of SSSI's. English Nature have produced a booklet to explain these implications... CLICK HERE   to access pdf file


National Nature Reserves

CLICK HERE to search NNR's by region. (Natural England)

There are currently about 220 NNRs in England covering some 91,000 ha or about 0.7% of the land area. Browse the Natural England website for detailed information.

Pause for thought.......Follow the above site to find out what other category of land protection is enclosed within the Martin Down NNR and what is its main habitat?

Local Nature Reserves

CLICK HERE to search LNR's by region. (English Nature) 

There are about 1280 LNRs and the total area covered by LNRs is about 40,000 ha.

Pause for thought......Can you suggest the differences between NNR's and LNR's 

Local Nature Reserves are often set up with a for a specific reason

Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC's)

Local authorities can designate SINC's, the main conservation value is to interfere with the local planning permission process. 

Green Belts

Contrasts: grass and graffiti, river and industry

Currently there are 18 green belt areas in England covering an area of 1.5 million ha (12% of the country).

Greenbelts are usually an element of National Planning Policy. There are, however, various measures that have been referred to as green belt, not all of them being the same. The green belt area in England doubled between 1979 and 1993. The principle is that a certain area around a metropolis has controls against development in place to check the unrestricted 'advance' of built-up areas.

In many cases green belts provide little or no protection for conservation purposes, and many are about as heavily industrialized as they could be.

Country Park

A country park is an area designated for people to visit and enjoy recreation in a countryside environment. There are currently 250 in England and Wales.

2. International designations


CLICK HERE for information on RAMSAR site's

In UK there are about 146 designated RAMSAR sites. Browse the RAMSAR website to answer pause for thought below:

Pause for thought.........why are wetlands of international importance known as RAMSAR sites?

Biosphere Reserves

CLICK HERE for UNESCO Biosphere Reserve website

The Biosphere Reserve is an international designation made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) based on nominations made by more than 110 countries. Each reserve is therefore part of a world-wide chain of permanently protected areas dedicated to the study and understanding of the changes affecting land and water.

Pause for thought........What are the 3 principal functions of Biosphere Reserves?

Special Protection Areas (SPAs)

The EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds, requires member states to safeguard the habitats of migratory birds and certain threatened species. There are currently 253 SPAs with a further 11 potential sites identified.

Information on RAMSAR, SPA and SAC sites in the UK can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website

Special Areas of Conservation  (SACs)

The EC Habitats Directive (Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats, Flora and Fauna) adopted in 1992. Each member state must compile a list of areas containing the habitat and species contained in the directive. These SACs aim to protect Europe's rarest flora and fauna. There are 608 SACs currently in Great Britain with a further 6 candidate sites (cSAC) and 10 proposed sites (pSACS).

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

The Government's proposal to implement the 1991 'EC Directive on Nitrate Pollution' resulted in the designation of 72 NVZs in catchment areas, where nitrate levels exceed or are likely to exceed 50mg/l. Originally 650 000 ha, mostly in East Anglia and the Midlands were designated as NVZs in 1996.  Following a European Court ruling the UK had to rethink its NVZ strategy and in 2002 designated a much wider area of the country as NVZs.  This area is currently under review with further expansion of NVZs taking place to cover about 70% of England.

For more information CLICK HERE

Farmers in the NVZs are required to follow a programme of measures designed to limit their applications of both inorganic nitrogen fertiliser and organic manure. Farmers will have to ensure that they have adequate manure storage capacity to allow them to observe closed periods for the application of organic manure. There will be limits on application of inorganic fertilisers to levels which are consistent with the net nitrogen requirement of the crop. All farmers within the NVZ will be required to maintain records, on a field by field basis for fertiliser and manure usage. Farmers are required to undertake the programme of measures in order to receive any payments under the Single Farm Payment scheme. For further details CLICK HERE.



Pause for thought....... Examine the four pictures above and using your knowledge of agriculture and the environment suggest which one illustrates the highest vulnerability to nitrate loss and why? 

What  other environmental degradation problem may A and C be particularly susceptible to.

The following specifications are obligations to be met by farmers with land in NVZs. (Action Programme)

Inorganic Nitrogen Fertiliser:

bulletDo not apply between 1st September and 1st February unless there is a specific crop requirement.
bulletDo not apply when the soil is waterlogged, flooded, frozen hard or snow covered.
bulletDo not apply to steeply sloping fields.
bulletDo not exceed crop requirement for the quantity of nitrogen fertiliser on each field in each year, having taken into account crop uptake, soil residue and organic manures.
bulletDo not apply fertilisers in a way that would enable them to directly enter surface water.

Organic Manure Use

Applications of organic manures are not to exceed 250 kg/ha of total nitrogen over grass and 170 kg/ha averaged over the area of the farm not in grass each year. This applies to all farms, whether producing or receiving organic manure.

On sandy or shallow soils there are to be no applications of slurry, poultry manure or liquid digested sludge on grass between 1st September and 1st November and to fields not in grass between 1st August and 1st November. These manure's should also not be applied when the soil is waterlogged, flooded, frozen hard or snow covered, or to fields that are steeply sloping or land within 10m of surface water.

 Storage of Slurry and Silage

All new or substantially reconstructed or enlarged installations for the containment of slurry and silage must conform to The Controls of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) Regulations 1991. Storage capacity for animal manure's which cannot be applied during the autumn must be sufficient to cover this period unless other environmentally acceptable means of disposal are available.

Fertiliser Plans

All farms must keep field records of applications of nitrogen for both inorganic and organic fertiliser and manure's. 

See Environmental Management in Agriculture website for more information

Pause for thought..........can you think of a method of fertiliser application that would not allow nitrates to enter directly into surface water.

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