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A large proportion of the land area in Great Britain is under the
protection of conservation designations. Statutory designations broadly fall
into three categories: nature conservation, landscape conservation and natural
heritage conservation, which protects wildlife, landscape and cultural aspects
of the countryside. The organisations which look after nature and landscape
conservation were, until recently, separate. They have now been combined into
the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, the 1990 Environmental Protection
Act and the 1991 Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act (Rydin,
1993). England retains two organisations: English Nature for conservation
interests and the Countryside Commission for landscape interests.
Historically the first laws to protect nature resources were the Forest
Laws of King Canute in the Eleventh Century. The oldest surviving area, the New
Forest, was declared a reserve in 1079. In more recent times, policy and
legislation relating to nature conservation was first seen in British overseas
territories. A number of bird sanctuaries were declared in the Nineteenth
Century and the first National Park was declared in 1951, following the
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949 (WCMC,
In the last fifteen years there has been an increase in the range and
effectiveness of nature conservation designations, while the arrangements for
protecting valued landscapes has remained essentially the same for many years
(Scottish Office, 1996). This has led to an imbalance
between nature conservation and landscape designations.
The principle designations are as follows:
- Nature conservation
- National Nature Reserves (NNR)
- Local Nature Reserves (LNR)
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
- Special Protection Areas (SPA)
- Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
- Landscape conservation
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
- Heritage Coasts
- National Scenic Areas (NSA) (Scotland only)
- Regional and Country Parks (Scotland only)
- Natural heritage conservation
- National Parks
- Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA)
- Natural Heritage Areas (NHA) (Scotland only, none designated at this time)
There are far more designations, both statutory and non-statutory which may
be applied to an area. These will be listed in the appendix of this report. The
following table shows the area and percentage of the terrestrial area which is
under nature, landscape and natural heritage designations.
Table ?? Designated land areas (source: Scottish
||England & Wales
area & percentage of land
||Scotland area &
percentage of land
|| 1,129,000 ha
|| 893,000 ha
|| 86,000 ha
|| 113,000 ha
|| 1,486,400 ha
|| 2,122,500 ha
|| 1,486,400 ha
|| 1,001,800 ha
Nature Conservation Designations
Nature conservation designations do not include the visual landscape as
part of their remit; it is the flora and fauna within that landscape which is
protected through these designations. However, this may still impact on
development proposals for windfarms, if the development is within one of the
National Nature Reserves
NNRs are areas of national or international importance for nature
conservation and include some of the most important natural and semi-natural
habitats in Great Britain (Scottish Office, 1996). Nature
reserves were declared under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside
Act 1949, which was the first legislation to enable habitat protection and
encourage public access to the countryside. The Wildlife and Countryside Act
1981 amended the statutory protection of nature reserves and thus introduced
National Nature Reserves (Thorburn, 1996).
All NNRs are also SSSIs and are either owned by the respective conservation
organisation (CCW, English Nature or SNH) or managed under agreement between
the conservation organisation and the owner to ensure that the nature
conservation interest is maintained. NNR is the only national designation whose
statutory intention is entirely proactive (Scottish Office,
Local Nature Reserves
LNRs are declared by local authorities (borough, county, district and
regional councils, and special planning boards) (WCMC,
1997). These reserves are declared in conjunction with the conservation
organisations to reflect areas of locally important nature conservation or
amenity value and to give access to the public. Management agreements are
Sites of Special Scientific Interest
SSSIs are areas of nature conservation and wildlife importance which are
not of national importance but are of "special nature by reason of its
flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features" (Dower, 1945; Scottish Office, 1996). SSSIs also contribute to
the overall maintenance of biodiversity of species and habitats; their special
interest is protected in accordance with specific guidelines. SSSI status does
not change the use of the land, but local authorities, owners and occupiers
must consult their conservation organisation on any developments or activities
which may affect the site (Scottish Office, 1996).
SSSIs were formed under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside
Act 1949, but management agreements were only considered in the Countryside
Acts of 1967 and 1968; there had been calls for stronger methods of protection
to be enacted than originally envisaged since 1949 (Thorburn,
Management plans and a list of potentially damaging operations (PDO) are
used to prevent damage to sites in order to protect the conservation interest.
Any operations carried out have to be sympathetic to the conservation interest
but are not prohibited (Hamilton, 1990). PDOs relevant to
the development of a windfarm include (Nature Conservancy
- Erection of permanent or temporary structures, or the undertaking of
engineering works, including drilling;
- Use of vehicles or craft likely to damage or disturb the biological and
PDOs must be notified to the conservation organisation four months prior to
the start or the development. The conservation organisation may then negotiate
with the owner to alter or stop the development, offer compensation to the
owner for profits lost or refuse permission. In the latter case, a management
agreement would have to be offered to the owner by the conservation
organisation (Thorburn, 1996).
The conservation organisation has further options: nature conservation
orders and compulsory purchase orders may be used if the site is of national
importance. However, if the owner does carry out a PDO against the wishes of
the conservation body, the fine is unlikely to deter them: it is currently
£2000, compared to £20,000 for damage to trees under a Tree
Preservation Order (Thorburn, 1996).
Special Protection Areas
SPAs are required to comply with the 'EC Directive on the Conservation of
Wild Birds'. Within these areas special measures are required to protect wild
birds and their habitats, particularly rare or vulnerable species listed in the
Directive, and regularly occurring migratory species. All terrestrial SPAs are
SSSIs. Measures to protect the birds will be strictly applied in all SPAs
(Scottish Office, 1996).
Special Areas of Conservation
SACs require to be designated to safeguard rare and threatened species and
habitats in accordance with the 'EC Directive on the Conservation of Natural
Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora'. As with SPAs, all terrestrial SACs will
be SSSIs. Some globally threatened habitats and species are given priority
status and strict measures to protect those will be applied; in Scotland they
include peatlands, Caledonian pinewoods and otters. The aim of the network is
to maintain rare or endangered species and habitats at a favourable
conservation status throughout Europe.
These reserves are representative examples of natural habitats,
characteristic of one of the world's natural regions. They are used for long
term research of ecosystems, environmental change, and diversity of species.
There are currently 13 reserves in the UK, nominated from existing NNRs
This is a network of reserves, to continue to conserve representative
examples of European flora and fauna and natural areas. It is intended
primarily for biological research, selected from existing NNRs. There are no
special controls imposed by the designation (Scottish Office,
World Heritage Sites
Areas of outstanding natural or cultural value can be designated as a World
Heritage Site. They can include exceptional examples of outstanding natural
habitats, or superlative natural features. A high standard of management is
required before listing of the site can be considered. Three natural sites have
been inscribed to date: the St Kilda archipelago off the west coast of the
Outer Hebridies; Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland; and Henderson Island, a
UK dependency in the Pacific Ocean (Scottish Office, 1996; WCMC,
Council of Europe Diploma Site
Awarded by the Council of Europe in recognition of exemplar management and
protection of areas of outstanding nature conservation and landscape importance
where this includes social and recreational attributes. Beinn Eighe and Fair
Isle in Scotland have diplomas. The Diploma is conditional on the site
continuing to be managed to a high standard (Scottish Office,
Landscape Conservation Designations
In contrast to the Britain-wide approach for nature conservation based on
SSSIs, the national statutory designations for landscape have developed
separately in Scotland and in England and Wales (Scottish
Office, 1996), there are no country-wide designations. At present around
23% of England and Wales has a natural beauty designation and in Scotland
Figure ??. Countryside Protection Policies (Rydin,
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 also provided for
the designation of AONB; their purpose is to conserve the natural beauty of the
landscape rather than to provide means for public access and enjoyment.
Development plans and development control are required to have regard to
conservation aims and permitted development rights are withdrawn on the same
basis as in National Parks (Rydin, 1993).
AONBs remain the responsibility of local authorities and have no special
organisational provisions. Grants are available for the maintenance and
enhancement of AONBs, activities which are undertaken by the local authorities
under specific powers.
In coastal areas the non-statutory designation of Heritage Coast is
designed to protect the landscape and provide for managed recreation. Since
this is not a statutory designation there is no withdrawal of permitted
development rights. However, the majority (37 out of 44) are in AONBs or
National Parks, and therefore are accorded the protection of that designation.
A review of these areas has concluded that the objectives for these areas
should be widened to "recognise the need to preserve and enhance important
habitats for flora and fauna, and to protect architectural, historical and
archaeological features" and to promote higher standards of environmental
protection within the areas (Bishop et al, 1995).
National Scenic Areas
Introduced by the Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1980, the NSA
designation replaces two earlier categories of importance for scenic interest
in Scotland: National Park Direction Areas and a variety of regional landscape
designations such as Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) and Areas of Scenic
Value (ASV) (Scottish Office, 1996; DoE, 1994).
NSAs are nationally important areas of outstanding beauty, representing
some of Scotland's grandest landscapes, the purpose of their designation is to
preserve and enhance their character or appearance (SNH,
1995). NSAs are not intended to be representative of the full range of
Scotland's landscapes, but to be examples of the type of natural beauty
associated with Scotland. Therefore, they tend to focus on diverse landscapes
with various combinations of prominent landforms, coastline, lochs, rivers,
woodlands and mountains (Scottish Office, 1996).
Local authorities are required to consult SNH in respect of certain
specified categories of development. However, there are no funds attached to
the designation and no new NSAs will be designated: the statutory power to
designate NSAs was repealed in the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991
(SNH, 1995). The designation can be seen primarily as a
planning designation - it is accepted that change will take place and some
development and change in land use is accepted (Scottish Office,
With respect to windfarms, one specified category of development which must
be notified to SNH is the construction of all buildings and structures over 12
meters (except forestry) (Scottish Office, 1996).
Regional and Country Parks
Regional and country parks are established and maintained by local councils
in Scotland. Regional Parks are extensive areas of countryside where existing
land use continues but agreements are made with landowners to allow public
access and informal recreation and to protect local landscapes. Country Parks
tend to be smaller areas of countryside near to centres of population and are
managed mainly for public enjoyment (Scottish Office, 1996).
Local authorities also have the power to designate areas of scenic heritage for
protection under their normal planning policies (Rydin,
There remain some AGLVs in Scotland, defined by local authorities in
development plans with a view to safeguarding areas of regional or local
landscape importance from inappropriate development. These areas can be small
beauty spots or extensive areas of countryside. The Inventory of Gardens and
Designed Landscapes includes private gardens, parks, policies in country
estates and botanical gardens. There is an obligation on planning authorities
to consult with SNH on any development in these sites (Scottish
Natural Heritage Designations
National Parks were the principle designation created by the National Parks
and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The government has announced that it
will be moving towards an independent planning authority for all ten National
Parks; at present two, the Lake District and Peak District, have independent
planning boards, while elsewhere national park committees within county
councils have responsibility (Rydin, 1993).
The statutory purpose of National Parks are the conservation of the natural
beauty of the countryside and promotion of its public enjoyment. Proposed
legislation will restate this purpose as relating to 'quiet enjoyment ' and the
understanding and conservation of wildlife and cultural heritage, thus
clarifying that in cases of conflict conservation overrides public access and
enjoyment (Rydin, 1993).
There are no National Parks in Scotland, despite both the Sandform
Committee in 1945 and the Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1991 proposing
the National Parks should be created.
Environmentally Sensitive Areas
ESAs are designated in order to enable farmers and crofters to access
assistance for adopting environmentally-friendly agricultural practices.
Designation covers areas where agricultural practices have played a particular
role in contributing to the nature conservation interest or the natural beauty
of the area (Scottish Office, 1996). They were introduced in
the European Directive and the Agriculture Act 1986 (Thorburn,
1996) and currently cover around 15% of the United Kingdom (DoE, 1994)
ESAs have no direct implication for the operation of the planning system,
and entry into an ESA agreement is entirely voluntary. However, ESAs are an
innovative designation which brings together nature conservation, landscape
protection, public access and recreation. Similarly Countryside Stewardship and
Tir Cymen integrate land management and conservation (Bishop
et al, 1995).
Natural Heritage Areas
The 1991 Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act introduced NHAs, to be proposed by
SNH and formally designated by the Secretary of State (Rydin,
1993). It was expected that this designation would be used for "very
special areas of outstanding natural heritage" taking in a wide range of
nature conservation and landscape interests. It would be the only national
statutory designation which related to the natural heritage as a whole
(Scottish Office, 1996). Integrated management would form
the basis of countryside planning, focusing on positive rather than restrictive
planning. However, the NHA designation would not bring any new powers, finance
or support for positive management measures.
To date no Natural Heritage Areas have been designated; SNH is currently
considering whether the provision for NHA designation should be implemented;
what the process leading to designation would be; and what powers the
designation should bring (Scottish Office, 1996).
Non-statutory Landscape Designation
There are a plethora of non-statutory landscape designations, mostly
designated by local authorities. These desingations are not created on a
national, or even regional level, but differ between the local authorities.
There is an inconsistency in the recognition of what value it is necessary to
place on a specific area; few authorities attempt to explain or evaluate their
proposals for designations (Bloomer Tweedale Architects and Town
A short list of non-statutory landscape designations includes: Special
Landscape; Special Landscape Area; Area of Landscape Value/Merit/Significance;
Great/Particular Landscape Value; Outstanding Landscape Area/Quality; Local
Landscape Area; High Landscape Value; Historic Landscape; Landscape
Conservation Area; Landscape Protection/Merit/Feature/Significance.
These areas are afforded some degree of protection by their designation.
The Area of Primary Importance in Landscape Terms designation, used by Powys
County Council, is meant to help provide a framework for preparing and
evaluating applications and associated environmental assessments (Nicholas Pearson Associates Ltd., 1993).
Lancashire County Council (1990) note that their Areas
of Special Landscape are those areas worthy of conservation and enhancement
which are not thought to possess the uninterrupted high landscape quality of
the AONB. Such designations will always fall below the level of the National
Park or AONB; any local landscape area can be seen as of secondary importance
(Bloomer Tweedale Architects and Town Planners, 1992).
In some cases it may be preferable to locate a windfarm within a National
Park or AONB, where there may be sites which can accommodate a windfarm with
little or no detriment to the landscape (Stanton, 1996)
whereas the impact on a nearby, higher populated, non-designted area may be
greater. Cornwall County Council (1992, cited by Stanton,
1996) state that "many parts of the countryside not subject to special
designations make an important contribution to the local environment where loss
of visual amenity may be of equal or greater significance than designated
The Countryside Commission (1991) states that as a
matter of policy windfarms should not be permitted in existing or proposed
National Parks, AONBs or Heritage Coasts, and that there should be a
presumption against windfarms in proximity to designated areas. However, given
the high degree of coverage of suitable rural areas in Great Britain which are
covered by landscape designation, it may not be suitable to use these
designations as decision making factors (Stanton, 1996).
It is therefore important not to sieve out all statutory landscape
designation areas, as it often done, leaving only non-statutory designations
and non designated areas for possible windfarm development. In some cases these
areas are actually as sensitive to such developments as those within sepcial
Wind Resource and Landscape Designation
The following figures show that a large proportion of the area suitable for
windfarm development in Great Britain occurs in areas of great natural beauty,
where the statutory designations in place may prevent any development
Figure ?? The extent of the UK wind resource compared to the location of
designated landscape areas (Coles and Taylor, 1993).
Figure ?? Areas of relatively high wind speed outside designated areas
(Coles and Taylor, 1993)
Bishop, K., Phillips, A. and Warren, L. (1995) Protected for ever? Factors
shaping the future of protected areas policy. Land Use Policy,
Bloomer Tweedale Architects and Town Planners (1992) Mapping the
Distribution of Special Landscape and Wildlife Areas Identified in Development
Plans in Wales. Countryside Council of Wales.
Coles, R.W. and Taylor, J. (1993) Wind power and planning: The
environmental impact of windfarms in the UK. Land Use Policy, 10,
Cornwall County Council (1992) Wind energy development in Cornwall -
interim policy guidance. Cornwall County Council, Planning Department, County
Hall, Truro. Cited in Stanton, 1996.
Countryside Commission (1991) Wind Energy Development and the Landscape.
Countryside Commission Publications.
Department of the Environment (DoE) (1994) Biodiversity: The UK Action
Plan, London: HMSO.
Dower, J. (1945) National Parks in England and Wales, HMSO: London.
Hamilton, A.D. (1990) Sites of Special Scientific Interest - Friend or Foe?
Landowning in Scotland pp. 28-29.
Lancashire County Council (1990) Lancashire: A Green Audit. A First State
of the Environment Report. Lancashire County Council.
Nature Conservancy Council (1991) Site management plans for nature
conservation - a working guide, Peterborough: Nature Conservancy Council.
Nicholas Pearson Associates Ltd. (1993) Bryn Titli Windfarm: Landscape and
VisualImpact Assessment. National Wind Power.
Rydin, Y. (1993) The British Planning System. Macmillan Press.
Scottish Office (1996) Natural Heritage Designations Review: Discussion
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) (1995) The Natural Heritage of Scotland: an
overview. Scottish Natural Heritage: Perth.
Stanton, C. (1996) The landscape impact and visual design of
windfarms. School of Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art,
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
Thorburn, A.P. (1996) The Implementation of the EU 'Habitats Directive':
Nature Conservation and Private Estates. Honours Thesis (unpublished)
Department of Agriculture, University of Aberdeen.
World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) (1997) United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland. Protected Areas Information Service.