Surrey Local Sites Partnership

The Surrey Local Sites Partnership provides a framework to establish and administer the Local Sites system in Surrey. A ‘Local Site’ is a defined area, identified locally for its substantive natural heritage conservation value; including the most important habitats and species, or geological features, evaluated within their national, regional and local contexts. Although they do not have statutory status, many Local Sites can be equal in quality to the representative sample of such sites that make up the national series of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Local Sites may have multiple interests and benefits in addition to their natural heritage conservation value. They may provide social and community functions and will often play a part in wider Green Infrastructure or Open Space strategies. They may also have interests relating to education and research in addition to the simple enjoyment of nature.

There are a number of terms in use by Local Sites systems around the country to describe these sites. The generic Local Sites term includes both Local Wildlife Sites and Local Geological Sites (also known as Regionally Important Geological Sites, or RIGS). In Surrey, Local Wildlife Sites have always been referred to as Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI).

Sites of Nature Conservation Importance have their origin in the 1975 Surrey Structure Plan and since then a system of identification, selection and recommendation for protection in the planning system has been in place, initially under the remit of the Surrey Nature Conservation Liaison Group. In 2010 this body was renamed as the Surrey Local Sites Partnership (SLSP), and is now governed as a working group of the Surrey Nature Partnership. There are currently 787 Local Sites in Surrey, including 761 SNCI and 26 RIGS. Although many in number it is important to note that SNCIs still only represent 9% of Surrey by area.

The Surrey Local Sites Partnership is made up of professional ecologists from organisations and groups active in the county. These include suitably qualified representatives from Surrey County Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Surrey Biodiversity Information Centre, statutory regulatory agencies, local planning authorities and representatives from Surrey’s specialist wildlife recording groups. The SLSP is primarily responsible for site selection and review against a published set of selection criteria; maintaining a master register of selected sites by borough/district; presiding over a site owner consultation procedure; and collecting data for the annual report to DEFRA on the proportion of Local Sites in positive management for Single Data List Indicator 160-00.

More information on the Local Sites system in Surrey and the governance of the Surrey Local Sites Partnership is available in the document below:

Policies & Procedures for the Identification & Selection of SNCI in Surrey & SLSP Terms of Reference (Surrey Nature Partnership 2018).

The selection of Sites of Nature Conservation Importance is based currently on criteria published as Guidance for Selection of Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs) in Surrey (Surrey Wildlife Trust 2008).

This page is still under development and new information and resources will be added in time. The nominated secretariat to the Surrey Local Sites Partnership is the Surrey Biodiversity Information Centre, to which all related enquiries should be addressed following the link here.