Nature Conservation Designations

Sites  Designated  for nature conservation

The various International, European, National and Local site designations can be quite confusing especially as some sites have an overlap of designation.

The designations found in South Somerset are


Ramsar Site

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention, an international agreement signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971

Ramsar sites are European sites with protection as set out in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. The Somerset Levels and Moors is a Ramsar Site.

The vast majority of Ramsar sites in England, as is the case with the Levels and Moors, are also classified as a Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Special Protection Area (SPA)

SPAs are areas which have been identified as being of national and international importance for breeding, feeding, wintering or the migration of rare and vulnerable species of birds found within Europe. They are European designated sites classified under the 'Birds Directive 1979' which provide enhanced protection given by SSSI status. The Somerset Levels and Moors is a SPA.


Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

SSSIs are the country's best wildlife and geological sites. They include some of the most spectacular and beautiful habitats. There are over 4000 SSSIs in England covering 7% of the country's land area. More than 70% of these sites also have further wildlife designations.

There are 39 SSSIs located in South Somerset

National Nature Reserves (NNR)

NNRs are the finest SSSI sites in England for wildlife and geology. There are currently 222 NNRs in England, three of them being located in South Somerset.

Hardington Moor NNR,

Barrington Hill NNR

Part of the Somerset Levels and Moors NNR

 Natural England is the body empowered to declare NNRs in England, the reserves being a selection of the very best parts of England's SSSIs. It is this underlying designation which gives NNRs their strong legal protection.


Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) - formerly known as County Wildlife sites (CWS)

These are local important areas for wildlife. There are nearly 600 Local Wildlife Sites in South Somerset. There are no legal or statutory implications for these sites and their conservation relies entirely on sympathetic management by their owners, sometimes under DEFRA Stewardship schemes. South Somerset recognises the importance of LWS in the District and takes account of the wildlife importance of such sites when considering planning applications. The majority of these sites are privately owned with no public access.

The Local Sites Partnership designates these sites and promotes their positive management.

Sites in South Somerset are listed at: /media/15494/a02_1.pdf

Local Nature Reserves (LNR)

Local Nature Reserve is a statutory designation made under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and amended by the NERC Act 2006.

LNRs are for both people and wildlife. They are sites of importance for wildlife or geology which offer people opportunities to enjoy or study nature.

All local authorities have powers to acquire, declare and manage LNRs

There are more than 1400 LNRs in England and 4 in South Somerset. The reserves are

Moldrams Ground  near Wincanton

Chard Reservoir

Eastfield, High Ham near Langport

Bincombe Beeches, Crewkerne

Ham Hill

In addition to the LNRs the Council owns and manages Yeovil Country Park.

For more information consult our the Council's  Countryside services here

Strategic Nature Areas (SNA)

Strategic Nature Areas are areas identified in South West Nature Map as being the best areas in the South West to conserve, create, and connect wildlife habitats at a landscape scale.

The Council's LBAP focuses on Lowland heath SNA, Calcareous and Neutral Grassland SNA, Woodland SNA and Purple Moor Grass SNA.

For a full list of sites consult