Nature conservation sites

There are lots of nature conservation sites in Cambridgeshire. Some are internationally important (Ramsar site, Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation) or of national importance (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) for their wildlife and/or geology. Others are valued locally for their landscape, history, geology or ecology (Local Sites).

National Nature Reserves and Local Nature Reserves provide an opportunity for people to experience nature (other wildlife sites may not be publicly accessible).

To find out more about the different types of site go to the Natural England website.

County Wildlife Sites Partnership

The County Council is part of the County Wildlife Sites Partnership (CWSP). It was set up for the conservation and enhancement of habitats and species across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough through the designation of Local Sites. Local Sites are selected following the County Wildlife Sites System (see CWS Handbook). Sites meeting the relevant criteria are designated as County Wildlife Sites or City Wildlife Sites.

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The County Council owns or manages a number of wildlife sites, including:

  • Sites of Scientific Interest
  • Local Sites
  • Protected Road Verges

The council manages these sites for their wildlife interest as part of its legal duty to conserve biodiversity (NERC ACT 2006).

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Sites of Scientific Interest

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the country's best wildlife and geological sites. There are over 4,000 SSSIs in England, covering around 7% of the country's land area. SSSIs contain some of our most spectacular and beautiful habitats supporting rare plants and animals that now find it difficult to survive in the wider countryside. Natural England works with owners and land managers like Cambridgeshire County Council to conserve these important sites.

The council does not own any SSSI but does own parts of the following:

  • Devil's Dyke
  • Cherry Hinton Chalk Pit
  • Thriplow Peat Holes
  • Upware South Pit
  • Whittlesford-Thriplow Hummocky Fields
  • Cam Washes
  • Grafham Water

Local sites

Local Sites (City and County Wildlife Sites) are non-statutory areas of local importance for nature conservation that complement nationally and internationally designated geological and wildlife sites. Designating these areas as Local Sites raises awareness of their nature conservation importance to owners, planners and conservation bodies, to help preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

In Cambridgeshire, Local Sites include:

  • 51 City Wildlife Sites
  • 368 County Wildlife Sites

To find out about specific wildlife sites go to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC).

A Local Site's designation does not give anyone other than the landowner or manager control over land management. Local Sites should be sympathetically managed - advice is available from the local Wildlife Trust. Some operations may require Environmental Impact Assessments - for advice contact Natural England or Forestry Commission.

Protecting road verges

Road verges represent the largest area of unimproved grassland in the county. This important habitat supports a variety of plant and animals, including rare and scarce flowers and animals. The best examples of road verge habitat have been designated as Protected Road Verges (PRVs) to raise awareness about their importance for wildlife to landowners, land managers, utility service providers and planners.

  • Protected road verge site selection - designated by the County Council through a selection process (sites that meet the selection criteria are classified as PRVs while those that have deteriorated may be removed).
  • Protected road verge management - road verges maintained by the County Council (including PRVs).
  • Protected road verge warden scheme - wardens encourage people to keep an eye on their local PRVs (wardens report damage to the verges, suggest new verges for protection and help spread the word about their importance).
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