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Through the establishment of a system of protected and designated sites, the UK ensures its responsibility to national and international conservation of species, habitats and geodiversity features. The statutory basis for which is provided by various pieces of national legislation; in particular, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The internationally designated sites within the UK are represented by the wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention, known as Ramsar sites; alongside the European designations known as Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), established under the EC Birds Directive and Habitats Directive respectively, which together form the Natura 2000 network. Currently there are 8 Ramsar sites, 12 (124,654ha) Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and 7 (105,152ha) Special Protection Areas (SPA), either within or that intersect the Norfolk boundary.
National designated sites, such as National Nature Reserves (NNRs) are underpinned by the network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), coordinated by Natural England. This network is also the basis of UK's network of SACs and SPAs. There are 21 NNRs and 167 SSSIs within Norfolk.
National landscape designations are also vital to conservation effort. In Norfolk the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is of particular importance to biodiversity, geodiversity, local communities, public enjoyment and economic development. The AONB covers inter-tidal, coastal and agricultural land with a total area of over 450 square kilometres.
- International and national nature conservation and landscape designation definitions can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website.
- Natural England also has a Designated Areas page.
Outside the national suite of designations, there are locally relevant designations. At a statutory level Local Nature Reserves (LNR) are designated by local authorities. There are currently 27 LNRs in Norfolk.
Norfolk has a very important and extensive Local Sites Network, which includes County Wildlife Sites (CWS). Known as the CWS system it is managed by a partnership of Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), Norfolk County Council, NBIS, Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership, Natural England, Environment Agency and the Broads Authority, with the lead role taken by NWT. There are 1326 County Wildlife Sites (as of last update, July 2015). Norfolk County Council also runs a network of Roadside Nature Reserves (RNRs) - 111 already designated (as of last update, July 2015). NBIS also hold information about Local sites of geodiversity importance in Norfolk, including County Geodiversity Sites (CGS).
A map of Designated Wildlife Sites in Norfolk is produced as part of the annual CWS updates - please download the PDF HERE; OR view a low resolution image version in a new tab/window by clicking HERE. The designations on this map (SSSI, CWS, RNR and CGS) are made available on request as part of our enquiry service, through a data request.
Photos (left to right and down): Decoy Carr, Ormesby Broad (Geoff Nobes); Hunstanton Cliffs SSSI, designated for its Cretaceous geology and cliff-nesting colony of fulmars (©Mike Hurn); Southern marsh orchid (G Cresswell)