County Wildlife Sites and County Geodiversity Sites are notified on the basis of their contribution to biodiversity and geodiversity (respectively) in the county. They are the two strands that make up Local Sites designation, comprising non-statutory sites of local nature conservation and geodiversity value in the UK. County Wildlife Sites (CWS) is the name for Local Sites of wildlife interest in Norfolk; and County Geodiversity Sites (CGS) is the name for Local Sites of geodiversity interest in Norfolk.
What are Local Sites?
The Local Sites system, at a national level, embraces both Local Wildlife Sites and Local Geological Sites. The purpose of notifying a Local Site is to recognise its value and to help conserve those features by affording it a degree of protection.
The principle behind the system is that a Local Site should contain features of “substantive nature conservation value”. The selection criteria for each county define what qualifies as “substantive” in the local context. The purpose of notifying a Local Site is to recognise its value and to help conserve those features by affording it a degree of protection.
Local Wildlife Sites are known as County Wildlife Sites (CWS) in Norfolk and are defined areas, identified and selected for their nature conservation value. CWS can be found on both publicly and privately owned land and vary greatly in size and habitat type. Habitats present can include ancient woodland, species-rich grassland, heath, fen and water bodies. These habitats are often of national priority, as set out in the Habitat Action Plans for England (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk). The habitats and species present often exist because of past management and many sites provide a refuge for rare or threatened plants and animals. Such sites play a vital role in the conservation of the UK’s natural heritage by providing essential wildlife refuges as well as stepping stones and corridors for wildlife travelling between other habitats.
CWS complement the internationally and nationally designated sites, such as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). These designations are frequently notify only the very best examples of habitats; in contrast, the CWS system selects all sites that match the relevant criteria. Taken together, CWS and the statutory sites form the minimum natural capital for a county – that is the area of habitat needed to maintain biodiversity at its current level.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has established a national standard for the operation of Local Sites systems, set out in “Local Guidance on the Identification, Selection and Management of Local Sites”, DEFRA 2006. This document recognises the following:
- Local Sites networks provide a comprehensive rather than representative suite of sites.
- Local Sites provide wildlife refuges for most of the UK’s fauna and flora and through their connecting and buffering qualities, they complement other site networks.
- Local Sites have a significant role to play in meeting overall national biodiversity targets.
- Local Sites represent local character and distinctiveness.
- Local Sites contribute to the quality of life and the well-being of the community, with many sites providing opportunities for research and education.
DEFRA also recognise that Local Wildlife Sites contribute to the protection of biodiversity through:
- Their inclusion in formal planning and development control processes,
- Providing a comprehensive framework for the promotion and prioritisation of nature conservation in the wider countryside,
- Monitoring the condition of the best habitats remaining in the wider countryside (that is outside of the statutory nature conservation sites) and hence to some extent effectiveness of conservation action being taken.
For more information on designated sites in Norfolk, please visit our Designated sites page.