B8.10.1 Continued…


The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

This is still the major legal instrument for wildlife protection in Britain.

The Act makes it an offence (with exception to species listed in Schedule 2) to intentionally:

  • kill, injure, or take any wild bird,
  • take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built (also [take, damage or destroy the nest of a wild bird included in Schedule ZA1] under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006), or
  • take or destroy an egg of any wild bird.


Special penalties are available for offences related to birds listed on Schedule 1, for which there are additional offences of disturbing these birds at their nests, or their dependent young. The Secretary of State may also designate Areas of Special Protection (subject to exceptions) to provide further protection to birds. The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking birds, restricts the sale and possession of captive bred birds, and sets standards for keeping birds in captivity.

The Act makes it an offence (subject to exceptions) to intentionally ([or recklessly] – only under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004) kill, injure or take any wild animal listed on Schedule 5, and prohibits interference with places used for shelter or protection, or intentionally disturbing animals occupying such places. The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking wild animals.

The Act makes it an offence (subject to exceptions) to intentionally) pick, uproot or destroy:

  • any wild plant listed in Schedule 8, or
  • any seed or spore attached to any such wild plant (only under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004));
    • unless the authorised person, to intentionally ([or recklessly] – only under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004) uproot any wild plant not included in Schedule 8,
  • to sell, offer or expose for sale, or possess (for the purposes of trade), any live or dead wild plant included in Schedule 8, or any part of, or anything derived from, such a plant.


The Act contains measures for preventing the establishment of non-native species which may be detrimental to native wildlife, prohibiting the release of animals and planting of plants listed in Schedule 9 (and any hybrid – only under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004). It also provides a mechanism making any of the above offences legal through the granting of licences by the appropriate authorities.

A DEFRA Guidance document is available here:  DEFRA guidance WCA Section14


The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 [SI 490]

These regulations update and consolidate the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994.

Although they mainly apply to England and Wales only, there are specific sections of the regulations that also apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The regulations implement the EU Habitats Directive in respect of conservation of natural habitats and wild flora and fauna and also partially implement parts of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

The only significant change is the establishment of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which takes on certain licensing functions from Natural England. The regulations have however, amended the extent of the regulations and they now more closely reflect devolved powers and duties, as regards Wales. Another objective of the consolidation has been to restructure the Habitats Regulations into a more logical structure and order and to update the drafting style and legislative references. This is intended to make it easier for people to use and understand the Regulations.


Conservation (Natural Habitats) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2009

These regulations amend the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994. The amendment brings the 1994 regulations in line with changes made in the Planning Act 2008 for nationally significant infrastructure projects. Subject to certain exceptions, a development consent for such a project cannot be granted where the integrity of the European site would be adversely affected.

Where planning permission has been granted, but a site then becomes designated as a European site, any planning consent must be reviewed and possibly revoked if the site could be damaged.

Competent authorities for England and Wales, and Scotland must consider the effect of a National Policy Statement on European sites, before the statement is designated.

The remit of special nature conservation orders issued under the Habitats regulations are extended to control any activities which are likely to harm a European site, whether those activities take place on the site or not and on land or not.

A notice preventing an operation must now be submitted to the person concerned and an offence is only committed if they have received a notice.



Natural England have prepared a list of “Guidance, Best Practice and Information relating to Natural England’s regulatory role”. This includes information on protected species (such as badgers and bats) and SSSIs. B8.10.1 Natural England Policy Guidance List