Designated sites and areas of interest resources

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Birds Directive for rare and vulnerable birds (as listed on Annex I of the Directive), and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are areas which have been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. They provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity.

The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.  Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are areas of land and water (to the seaward limits of local authority areas) that Natural England considers to best represent our natural heritage based on its diversity of plants, animals and habitats, rocks and landforms, or a combination of these natural features.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) were established to protect some of our most important habitats, species and geology, and to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for research. National Nature Reserves offer opportunities to schools, specialist interest groups and the public to experience wildlife at first hand and to learn more about nature conservation.

Ancient woodland is any wooded area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. It includes:

  • ancient semi-natural woodland - mainly made up of trees and shrubs native to the site, usually arising from natural regeneration
  • plantations on ancient woodland sites - areas of ancient woodland where the former native tree cover has been felled and replaced by planted trees, usually of species not native to the site.

Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs) are identified and selected for their local nature conservation value. They protect threatened species and habitats acting as buffers, stepping stones and corridors between nationally-designated wildlife sites.

The designation of land as a Local Wildlife Site does not mean that anyone has rights of access to the site which they would not otherwise have.

Roadside nature reserves are roadside verges which have been specially designated because they contain a scarce or declining Kent habitat or the presence of a rare or notable species. Roadside nature reserves can link existing wildlife areas, helping to reconnect and restore landscape so that wildlife is no longer struggling to survive in isolation.

Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites (RIGGS) are locally designated sites of local, national and regional importance for geodiversity.

There are two AONB within Kent:

Within the UK there are 46 AONB and they cover 18% of our countryside.

AONBs are designated in recognition of their national importance and to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for everyone to enjoy.

MCZs are new designations under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to protect habitats and wildlife in the seas. They are the equivalent of nature reserves in the sea.

Heritage coasts were established to conserve the best stretches of undeveloped coast in England. There are 2 stretches of heritage coast within Kent and there are 45 heritage coasts in England and Wales.

The purpose of Green Belt land is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.

Biodiversity Opportunity Areas provide spatial reflection of the Kent Biodiversity Strategy.

They show where the delivery of Kent Biodiversity Strategy targets should be focused in order to secure the maximum biodiversity benefits and highlight where the greatest gains can be made from habitat enhancement, restoration and recreation.

View the Kent Biodiversity Action Plan

Read more about our country parks.

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are for both people and wildlife. They are places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally. They offer people opportunities to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it.

If a reserve is owned or managed by Kent Wildlife Trust, it does not mean that anyone has rights of access to the site which they would not otherwise have.

NIAs are designed to revitalise urban and rural areas by creating bigger, inter-connected networks of wildlife habitats to re-establish wildlife populations and help achieve nature’s recovery. NIAs will improve the health of the natural environment to support food production, reduce flood risk and increase access to nature.

In Kent we have the Greater Thames Marshes NIA.