Call for Evidence - Protected sites for nature in England and Northern Ireland

We are inviting interested parties to submit evidence as part of our review of the implementation of laws for the designation and management of sites protected for nature on land and freshwater in England and Northern Ireland. We would appreciate it if evidence is submitted by Friday, 21 April, 2023 in order to best inform our review. 

Please see the full Call for Evidence document linked to via the blue button to the right of this page for more information about what we are seeking to cover in this review, including the general questions and issues we are interested in, how we will use information submitted to us and how you can provide evidence to us. 

The Interim Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales (IEPAW) has recently issued a call for evidence and expertise on protected sites. If, rather than responding to our call for evidence, respondents prefer to provide copies of any evidence submitted to IEPAW, we will gratefully receive it. 


Protected sites are important for recovering nature and helping the UK meet its domestic and international environmental commitments. For example, the new global biodiversity target to effectively conserve and manage 30% of land and sea. However, recent decades have seen little progress in expanding the protected site network on land and freshwater or improving its condition. This is despite commitments from the UK and Northern Ireland Governments to improve protected sites for nature.

We aim to review this area of law in detail to get to the root of how it is being implemented, its effectiveness and, if appropriate, to recommend improvements. We aim to establish the extent to which these relevant laws are working well and achieving their objectives, and the areas where improvements are needed. 

Our review will focus on: 

  • Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) designated for flora and / or fauna under the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) designated for flora and / or fauna under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 or Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995. 

We do not intend that our review will extend to other designations (such as National Parks or Nature Reserves). However, if those responding to this call for evidence believe there are points to be made about other designations which are relevant to the matters set out in this call for evidence, we will receive evidence on this. 

Our review will not cover Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) because we will examine these in a separate review.