In February the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) launched a call for evidence on protected sites for nature in England and Northern Ireland. The consultation considered specifically SSSIs, SACs and SPAs and asked if laws and implementation were fit for purpose, amongst other questions. IEMA hosted a small workshop of experts including from the IEMA Biodiversity and Natural Capital Network to respond to the consultation.

IEMA also hosted an additional workshop of experts across the IEMA membership and wider professional landscape to create a robust and detailed response. Protected sites are essential to halt the loss of rare and declining habitats and species. A summary of our recommendations are as follows:

  • There is evidence that the laws and to a greater degree the framework around those laws are not working and sites are becoming nature depleted.
  • The laws on Protected Sites should be updated and adapted (not removed) to have a greater focus on maintaining and improving irreplaceable habitats and priority habitats, enhancing populations and priority species and providing space for nature to adapt within them.
  • Protected Sites currently ‘stand alone’ and plans (see below) should include ways to improve connectivity with habitats. New Protected Sites might be created from Local Wildlife Sites to give them further protection.
  • Current monitoring reports must be replaced with mandatory reports every five or six years that include forward plans for managing the Protected Site alongside biodiversity trends.
  • Plans must be coordinated and shared with land stakeholders who have roles to play in managing protected sites. Data collected should be freely accessible. Monitoring methods should be improved.
  • Government agencies who are responsible for Protected Sites must have sufficient resources including capacity, knowledge, finances and means of enforcement, to ensure that Protected Sites are protected. The full consultation can be found on the OEP’s website.

IEMA’s full submission can be found here.

Photo of Lesley
Lesley Wilson

Policy and Engagement Lead

Lesley is Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA with a focus on biodiversity and natural capital. Lesley also supports IEMA’s role as Secretariat to the UK Business and Biodiversity Forum, working with businesses to raise the profile of, mainstream, and share good practice in, biodiversity. Lesley joined IEMA in December 2021 after 11 years delivering projects, programmes and solutions for business in the field of environmental sustainability for the British Standards Institution (BSI), including ground breaking standards in biodiversity net gain and natural capital. Lesley has a qualification in business management (MBA) and climate change management, and mentors environmental students at the University of Westminster.


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