A Short Guide to Local Wildlife Sites

LoWS Guide

The Wildlife Trusts have recently published a short guide to Local WIldlife Sites. These sites, although often small, are a vital part of our ecological networks, but often go unnoticed. Find out why they are important here!

The Wildlife Trusts have worked with local authorities, statutory agencies, landowners and other local partners for many years to identify, monitor and manage Local Wildlife Sites. Within these partnerships, we often play a significant role in advising and supporting site owners, and designating important local sites. Essex Wildlife Trust currently works with a number of local landowners to help maintain these sites for wildlife.

To find out more about why Local Wildilfe Sites matter, download the guide from the Wildlife Trusts website here.

To find out more about Local Wildlife Sites in Essex, please visit our LoWS pages.

Local Wildlife Sites

 What are Local Wildlife Sites?

Local Wildlife Sites are areas of land with ‘substantive nature conservation value’. They are identified and selected at a county level, based on important, distinctive and threatened habitats and species that have a national, regional and importantly, a local context.

From ancient woodlands and wild flower meadows to coastal grazing marshes, urban churchyards and previously developed brownfield land, there are thousands of quiet, often unnoticed places in England where wildlife thrives. Collectively, they play a critical role in the conservation of the UK’s natural heritage by providing essential wildlife refuges and corridors, forming key components of wider ecological networks.

Why do Local Wildlife Sites matter?

Local Wildlife Sites are the most important areas for wildlife outside legally protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and National Nature Reserves (NNR). They make up the fabric of our countryside and act as wildlife refuges in our villages, towns and cities. Many scarce and threatened habitats such as wildflower meadows, flood-plain grazing marsh and wet woodland are largely confined to these sites today, as are the species which depend on them for their survival. 

Local Wildlife Sites are vitally important for wildlife and people alike. Many studies have shown how they add value to local communities and contribute significantly to our quality of life, health, well-being and education. While many are private, and or out of reach - the very existence of this network of thousands of areas of natural habitat across the country, contributes to the wildlife we find in our gardens, parks and other public open spaces.

Who takes care of these special places?

Local Wildlife Sites are often privately owned and so rely on the sheer commitment of the landowners and sometimes volunteers who are prepared to carry out sensitive habitat management. Without such care and effort, a site will often gradually decline.

There is no obligation on landowners to manage their Local Wildlife Site to protect its wildlife interest. However, many Local Wildlife Site owners feel pride that they are the custodians of these special sites and what remains of our natural heritage.

Where resources allow, Essex Wildlife Trust may be able to provide advice to site owners on the management of these sites. 

Do Local Wildlife Sites receive any protection?

While they have no direct legal protection, Local Wildlife Sites are recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which gives them some protection from being developed.  The policy requires local authorities to identify, map and safeguard components of wildlife-rich habitats and wider ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity.

They are a 'material consideration' in the determination of planning applications, and this should ensure that there is a general presumption against harmful development upon them. However, even with this protection, many sites are lost each year.

What you can do to help?

If you don’t own a Local Wildlife Site, you can still get involved by becoming a volunteer with Essex Wildlife Trust or creating an area for wildlife in your garden.


  • For sites threatened by Local Plan allocations and development proposals:

Dr Annie Gordon | Landscape Conservation Planning Coordinator | Essex Wildlife Trust

01621 862976 | 07738457880 | annieg@essexwt.org.uk

  • For commercial ecological assessments and services:

Pat Hatch | Consultancy Manager | Essex Ecology Services Ltd. (EECOS)

01621 862986 | eecos@essexwt.org.uk



Find a Local Wildlife Site using our Essex Lows Finder


Report on the status of England's Local Wildlife Sites published

The Wildlife Trusts have published a report on the status of Local Wildilfe Sites (LoWS) in England in 2017/18. Local Wildlife Sites are part of the country's ecological network and form important links between statutory sites such as SSSI's. They are not legally protected in their own right, although national planning policy requires Local Authorites to give them some level of protection from development.

Local Wildlife Site in Essex. Photo: Essex Wildlife Trust.