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 something like an area of ancient woodland, or a flower-rich hay meadow or a village pond.  

Local Wildllife Sites can be found throughout Essex, and about 1500 such sites have been listed, which together with nationally and internationally statutory protected areas, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Conservation Areas (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA), represent the best areas for wildlife in the County.

A list of Local Wildlife Sites can be searched on the world wide web at http://www.essexwtrecords.org.uk/lowsfinder
where you can select a search by the name of a Parish or District and see a list of sites and then a map of each one.

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.

Why are Local Wildlife Sites important?

Local Wildlife Sites support both locally and nationally threatened wildlife (as defined by the Essex Red Data List), and many sites will contain habitats and species that are priorities under the Essex or UK Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP), which set out strategies for the conservation of much of our most vulnerable wildlife. 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. Advice to planners on protection of these sites is included in Government Planning guidance.

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). The EWSP has an Advisory Group, which comprises representatives from Natural England, Essex County Council, Essex Field Club, Essex Planning Officers' Association Planning Policy Forum, Environment Agency, and the Essex Biodiversity Project. This Group provides expert advice and support to the Project, and ensures the system in Essex follows national guidance and best practice.

EWSP carries out the following key roles:

  • Maintaining an up-to-date register of all sites in Essex
  • Information is held by Essex Wildlife Trust and is supplied upon request* by Essex Ecology Services (EECOS) the consultancy arm of the Trust;
  • Maintaining common standards
  • The EWSP has published 'Selection Criteria' and 'LoWS Monitoring Forms', and endeavours to work with local planning authorities to ensure sites are surveyed, selected and notifed consistent with national guidance;
  • Providing planning guidance to Local Authorities
  • Essex Wildlife Trust's Conservation Officer provides responses to planning applications that effect sites across the 14 District, Borough and Unitary Authorities. This vital work ensures the integrity of the LoWS network is maintained.
  • Liaising with landowners

 The Essex Wildlife Trust has a Local Wildlife Sites Officer, John More, who may be able to help owners maintain or improve the wildlife value of LoWS, by arranging wildlife surveys, and by assisting with site management by looking for sources of grant funds and designing a management programme for the land.

For more information please contact;
 Essex Wildlife Trust Local Wildlife Sites Officer - John More
Landowner liaison and general enquiries
Phone: 01621 862988
Email: johnm@essexwt.org.uk

    *N.B. There is a charge for providing information to consultants.


Data requests
    Neil Harvey EECOS Manager
Landowner liaison and general enquiries
    Essex Wildlife Trust Wildlife Sites Officer johnm@essexwt.org.uk

    LoWS Selection Criteria January 2010 (PDF 746KB)
    Essex Local Wildlife Sites Project (PDF 427KB)
    LoWS Development Control Model Policy ( .doc 27KB)
    National Defra Guidance (PDF 265KB)