Scarborough bucks national trend for threatened protected beauty spots

From the White Cliffs of Dover to the Scottish Highlands, the UK has an abundance of protected beauty spots - but many of them are under threat, new analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit has found.

By Corinne Macdonald
Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 9:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 9:53 am

Thousands of the country’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are in a poor state, with half of official inspections finding unsatisfactory conditions.

Wildlife charities have branded the findings “shocking”, while governments have said they are taking action to restore sites.

In Scarborough, Raincliffe and Forge Valley Woods are an SSSI made up of 19 units, of which 14 were classified as being in a ‘favourable’ condition and five as ‘unfavourable-recovering’ at the last inspection.

Cayton Bay. Picture: JPI Media/ Richard Ponter

The report said issues included species composition and age class distribution of fauna and deadwood presence.

Most sites in the area buck the national trend however, with Cayton, Cornelian & South Bays, Filey Brigg and Runswick Bay all being rated as ‘favourable’.

SSSIs are protected areas for nature conservation and can cover anything from breeding grounds for rare species to peatland.

Half of the most recent inspections of protected land or natural features found poor conditions or the destruction of habitats, analysis shows.

Forge Valley Woods. Picture: JPI Media/ Gary Longbottom

Paul de Zylva, of Friends of the Earth, said it was “shocking that our top wildlife sites are in such poor condition”.

He said: “If we can’t even protect the jewels in the crown, it’s little wonder that UK nature is in such poor shape. The new government must make the protection and restoration of our natural environment a top priority.”

Kate Jennings, head of site conservation policy at the RSPB, added: “The current state of SSSIs across the four countries of the UK is shocking. Many have not been assessed for years so the actual picture may in fact be worse.”

In England, SSSIs are inspected in smaller sections called units. More than half of these units (53%) are in an unfavourable condition, inspection data shows.

Filey Brigg. Picture: JPI Media/ Richard Ponter

Across the Yorkshire and the Humber, 63 per cent of units were assessed as being in an unfavourable condition, the third worst nationally after the East Midlands and North West.

Guidelines state SSSI features in England should be assessed at least every six years, but our analysis found more than half (12,394) of sites have not been assessed since 2011.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said while most of England’s SSSIs were either in a favourable condition or were recovering, they recognised that “more needs to be done to improve these vital sites”.

They said: “That’s why we’re focusing on restoring those sites that are still in a recovering condition so we can enhance these important areas.”