Letter: Sites that warrant special protection

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The Independent Online
Sir: The failure of English Nature's appeal to the House of Lords (Law Report, 24 July) shows that the principle underlying the protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest is fundamentally flawed and that voluntary co-operation, where the owner's good nature is relied upon for site protection, is insufficient. SSSIs are in fact at most risk from the very people responsible for their protection because of wilful damage or simple neglect.

The case of Hill Heath SSSI has shown that the system offers no protection against the actions of non-owners carrying out operations on the land either. It is just one example of the 10 per cent of all SSSIs damaged each year. The Wildlife and Countryside Act, which aims to protect SSSIs, is now 10 years old, and in that time hundreds of SSSIs, the ecological jewels in our natural heritage, have been destroyed.

It is time for government to give the law some teeth and the whole SSSI network effective protection, for each SSSI lost leaves the British countryside poorer in wildlife and poorer for people. John Major's promises at the Rio Earth Summit to protect biodiversity, and Michael Howard's commitment to the European Habitats Directive will be shown to be without substance if no action is taken.

Yours faithfully,


Chief Executive

Royal Society for Nature