New research reveals the state of North East beauty spots

Almost half of the North East’s protected beauty spots are classed as being in an unfavourable condition, new analysis shows.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 11:59 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 2:01 pm

Hundreds of the region’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) units are in a poor state, analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit found.

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

The data shows:

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New research has shown the state of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSIs) across the UK.
New research has shown the state of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSIs) across the UK.

In the North East, of 1161 SSSI units assessed, 601 (52%) were deemed to be in a favourable condition, with 560 (48%) not.In County Durham, of 559 SSSI units examined, 269 were said to be in a favourable condition (48%) but 290 (52%) were not. In Northumberland, of 667 units examined, 336 were said to be in a favourable condition and 331 were not. In Tyne and Wear, of 100 units looked at, 70 were in a favourable condition and 30 were not.

Nationally, half of the most recent inspections (49.9%) of protected land or natural features found poor conditions or the destruction of habitats, analysis showed.

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.

“If our governments are serious about tackling the climate and nature emergencies we need a huge step change in action, and it needs to happen now.”

Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trust’s director of campaigns and policy, said bodies such as Natural England, which monitor the condition of sites, had been starved of funding.

She called for them to get a substantial cash injection “to enable them to carry out their functions effectively and to ensure our protected sites are restored and enhanced”.

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.

The picture is worst in the East Midlands and the North West, where two-thirds of inspected areas are rated unfavourable.

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”.

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