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Sites of special scientific interest: responsibilities of public bodies and statutory undertakers

Apply for our assent for works

If you are planning to carry out works which may affect a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) then you must first notify us and ask for assent under section 28H of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

You must do this even if the works will happen outside of the SSSI.

How to apply

You will need to tell us what you propose to do and give details about where, when and how you intend to carry out the works.

Attach any plans, photographs, method statements or maps that will help us assess the potential impact of the activity.

Send your notice to us at SSSI.notices@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Our decision

We are required to respond to you within 28 days. If we do not respond within that time you must assume that we do not assent.

We may give our assent with or without conditions or time limits. If you are happy to follow its terms, you can proceed once you receive our assent.

If we do not give assent

There is no right of appeal if we do not give assent to the works or we impose conditions.

However, the law recognises that you may have legal duties that mean you have to carry out works even if we do not assent to them.

If we do not assent, or we impose conditions that you cannot comply with, you may still carry out the works. You must, though, serve notice back to us stating:

  • When you intend to carry out the works (which must not be before 28 days from the date of the notice)
  • How, if at all, you have taken account of our written advice

You can tell us by completing the notice of intention to carry out operations other than in accordance with assent given under section 28H.

Send your notice to us at SSSI.notices@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

When you carry out the works, you must, as far as is reasonably practical, do it in such a way as to minimise damage to the site features (taking our advice into consideration) and restore the site to its former condition if any damage does occur.

If you carry out works without assent

If you carry out works that damage the features of a SSSI and did not first seek assent from us, your authority may be prosecuted and fined.

This is also the case if you fail to notify us of its intention to carry out works other than in accordance with our assent and damage occurs.

Activities that are not part of your functions

If the activity you are planning is within a SSSI and isn't part of your functions, the owner or occupier of the land will need to apply to us for consent.

If you don’t have sufficient legal powers to do the work without the landowner’s permission this is likely to be the case.

When assent is not needed

Work that will not damage the site

If you are confident that the work will not have an adverse impact on the site then you do not need to notify us and ask for assent.

If you are unsure, it is best to notify us.

Emergency works

You don’t need to wait for assent if you need to carry out genuine emergency works such as if you need to act quickly to manage an immediate risk to life or property.

You must inform us as soon as possible after starting the emergency works. Email SSSI.notices@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk or call us on 0300 065 3000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

If your works are urgent, but not an emergency, you still need to notify us and ask for assent. Make this clear when you submit your notice and we will do our best to process it quickly.

Planning permission and other permits

If your works have been given planning permission you don’t need to ask for assent.

You may not need our assent if you have been given a permit to carry out the activity by another authority, but only if they formally considered the potential impacts on the SSSI under section 28I of the 1981 Act before they granted it. You can ask the authority that granted the permission if they have done this. If you are unsure, then seek assent.

Obtain our advice when authorising others to carry out works

Under section 28I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, you have a duty to notify us and ask for advice before giving authorisation for works that are likely to affect a SSSI. This applies even if the work being permitted is outside of the site boundary.

For some regimes, such as development planning, this may be already incorporated in the formal consultation you send to us. There is no need to send us a separate notice if you have already consulted in this way. If in doubt, contact us.

How to notify us and ask for advice

You will need to tell us what you are being asked to give permission for. You should also tell us when and how the activity will be carried out.

Attach any plans, photographs, method statements or maps that will help us assess the potential impact of what is proposed.

Send your notice to us at SSSI.notices@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk.

How we will respond

We will respond within 28 days. If we do not respond within that time you can assume that we have no objection.

We may advise that we are happy for you to permit the activity, with or without conditions or time limits.

If we feel the site features will be seriously impacted as a result, we may advise that your authority does not give permission.

If you cannot follow the advice

The law recognises that you may have legal duties that mean you have to issue permissions in a certain way, even if we have asked you not to.

If you issue a permission that might damage a SSSI other than in accordance with our advice, you must notify us that you have given permission. Such a permission must not allow the work to take place before 21 days from the date that you notify us.

You must provide the terms of the permission and a statement of how (if at all) our advice was taken into consideration.

You can serve notice by completing the notice of intention to issue a permission other than in accordance with advice given under section 28I

Send your notice to us at SSSI.notices@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

What happens if you do not notify us

If you fail to follow section 28I and permit an activity that then damages the features of a SSSI, you may be prosecuted and fined.

Impact of your works on European sites

You are the competent authority for the purposes of carrying out a Habitats Regulations Assessment of the impact that any works which you carry out (or permit) may have on European sites such as SPAs, SACs or Ramsar sites.

We cannot do the assessment for you, but we will provide a formal consultation response if we're asked for it.

Your general duties

The 1981 Act places a general duty on statutory undertakers and public bodies to “take reasonable steps, consistent with the proper exercise of the authority’s functions, to further the conservation and enhancement of the flora, fauna or geological or physiographical features by reason of which the site is of special scientific interest”

You have an additional duty, not limited to SSSIs, under Section 6 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 to "seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity in the exercise of functions in relation to Wales, and in so doing, promote the resilience of ecosystems, so far as consistent with the proper exercise of those functions".

Find designated sites

You may have the information you need on your corporate mapping system. If not, use the Welsh Government's map browser or DEFRA's MAGIC map to check if land is designated.

Find details about a site's location, features and management team contact details using our designated sites search.

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