Local Wildlife Sites

Photo of a Local Wildlife Site (c) Joyce PittPhoto of a Local Wildlife Site (c) Joyce Pitt

Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) are areas which are important for the conservation of wildlife in the administrative areas of Kent and Medway. They may support threatened habitats, such as chalk grassland or ancient woodland, or may be important for the wild plants or animals which are present.

In Kent, there are over 460 Local Wildlife Sites, covering a total area of over 27,500 hectares, (roughly 7% of the county). They range from a 0.13 hectares churchyard important for its orchids, to grazing marsh sites of over 1,000 hectares.

The majority of Local Wildlife Sites are private and the designation does not infer any rights of access, however some Local Wildlife Sites are open to the public. For ideas of sites you could visit, please see our interactive story map.

In Kent, where Local Wildlife Sites were previously known as Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs), the system has been running since the 1980s.

The Kent Nature Partnership oversees the selection of LWSs in this county, using robust, scientifically-determined criteria and local knowledge and understanding of this area’s natural environment. The Partnership is made up of a great variety of stakeholders including local authorities, public bodies, nature conservation NGOs and groups representing landowners and farmers.

A Short Guide to Local Wildlife Sites as produced by the Wildlife Trust.

Why are LWS important

Local Wildlife Sites matter because:

  • they are vital havens for wildlife even small sites may support rare species;
  • they form nature highways, provide corridors along which wildlife can move;
  • they are often the starting place for landscape scale conservation projects;
  • they can be buffers to prevent damage to other protected areas from surrounding land uses;
  • even private site can enhance our lives by supporting the wildlife that visits our gardens and parks;
  • they are often sanctuaries for people and wildlife in an increasingly urbanised environment;
  • people need nature –nearby green space is good for our mental and physical health.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) protect the very best wildlife areas in the UK, and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) protect areas which are important on a European scale. However, these designations do not protect wildlife at a local level, and cannot ensure that the countryside as a whole is rich in wildlife.

Therefore Local Wildlife Sites fill an important gap not covered by other designations and are vital in building a Living Landscape. The importance of international, national and locally designated sites is recognised in government policy. The 2012 National Planning Policy Framework says protection should be “commensurate with their status and give[s] appropriate weight to their importance and the contribution that they make to wider ecological networks.”

The “Making Space for Nature” report to Defra (Lawton et al September 2010) stated that: ‘Local Wildlife Sites are important to future ecological networks, because they not only provide wildlife refuges in their own right but can act as stepping stones and corridors to link and protect nationally and internationally designated sites’.

To view the boundaries and find out the names or reference numbers of Local Wildlife Sites, Roadside Nature Reserves and our Living Landscape areas you can use this map. For instructions for the map, click here.