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 (LoWS), previously known as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) or County Wildlife Sites (CoWS) are areas of land with significant wildlife value. In reality they are typically an area of ancient woodland, a flower-rich hay meadow or a village pond.

Sites can be found throughout Essex and together with nationally and internationally statutory protected areas, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Areas (SPA), they represent the best areas for wildlife in the County.

Why are Local Wildlife Sites important?

Local Wildlife Sites support both locally and nationally threatened wildlife, and many sites will contain habitats and species that are priorities under the Essex or UK Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP). Together with statutory protected areas, LoWS represent the minimum habitat we need to protect in order to maintain the current levels of wildlife in Essex.

Local Wildlife Sites complement SSSIs and nature reserves by helping to maintain links between these sites. In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of conserving such places, so that wildlife can survive in the wider countryside, outside of nature reserves.

How are sites protected?

Local Wildlife Sites are protected within the local planning system. They are a 'material consideration' in the determination of planning applications, and this should ensure that there is a general presumption against development upon them.

It should be stressed that notification does not confer any rights of access either for the general public or nature conservation organisations; it is simply recognition of a site’s nature conservation value.

How does the system operate?

The Local Wildlife Site system in Essex is coordinated by Essex Wildlife Trust through the Essex Wildlife Sites Project (EWSP). This Group provides expert advice and support to the Project, and ensures the system in Essex follows national guidance and best practice. Local Wildlife Sites are designated according to a predefined selection criteria, which was revised in 2016. A copy of the LoWS selection criteria is available to download below.


If you require more information on Local Wildlife Sites please contact us, or click here for an introduction to the work we do.


Find a Local Wildlife Site using our Essex Lows Finder


LoWS boundary data

The Essex Local Wildlife Sites boundary dataset is available from us as part of our data provision service.

More than one in 10 of England's wildlife sites 'lost since 2009'

More than one in 10 of England’s Local Wildlife Sites have been lost or damaged in the last five years, conservationists say.

Monitoring of 6,590 of the country’s “quiet, unnoticed wild places in which nature thrives” such as ancient woodlands, hedgerows and churchyards revealed that 717 of them had been lost or damaged between 2009 and 2013.

Heather planting on Layer Breton Heath
Clearing Cherry Laurel at Friday Wood, Colchester