Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 consolidates existing national legislation to implement the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) and Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive) in Great Britain (NB Council Directive 79/409/EEC has now been replaced by Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (codified version)).  Equivalent provisions for Northern Ireland are contained within the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

The Act received royal assent on 30 October 1981. It is supplemented by the Wildlife and Countryside (Service of Notices) Act 1985, which relates to notices served under the 1981 Act. Various amendments have occurred since the original enactment.

The Act provides for the notification and confirmation of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) – these sites are identified for their flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features.  The Act also contains measures for the protection and management of SSSIs.

The Act places a general duty on 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 physiological features by reason of which the site is of special interest. This duty applies to the environment agencies and local authorities in relation to granting various forms of approval, including Environmental Permits, which are capable of damaging a SSSI. The Act requires the regulator to submit a formal notice to the relevant nature conservation agency if the activity to be granted a permit under PPC constitutes an "operation likely to damage" (OLD) the SSSI.  OLDs are now known as "Operations requiring Natural England's consent” and these can be found on designated sites view https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/.

For further information see:
http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1377
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/69/contents