Wales’ special Sites for Wildlife under threat from the government body designed to protect them

INCC believes that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) may have acted unlawfully when failing to object to a development proposal in Mid Wales. The proposed development would have destroyed important grassland habitat and part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Speaking out for wildlife through campaigning and challenging Environmental Decision Makers is at the core of INCC’s work.

In 2019, INCC appointed one of the UKs leading law firms, Leigh Day to help make challenges and campaigns more robust and successful. Leigh Day specialises in Human Rights and Public Law cases covering wildlife, Environmental Protection and Nature Conservation. The law firm has a wealth of experience in pursuing cases aimed at improving the protection of habitats and species in the terrestrial and marine environments.

INCC instructed Leigh Day to investigate whether NRW acted unlawfully by breaching several of its statutory duties when failing to object to the development proposal at Black Brook Pastures SSSI.

SSSIs are protected areas of land that represent the absolute best examples of Wales’ natural heritage. The SSSI in question is one of the last remaining fragments of species rich marshy grassland in Mid Wales.

Although the case could not be tested in court, legal opinion suggested that NRW may have been in breach of its statutory duties under several pieces of legislation including the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.

Legal advice also highlighted that NRW may have failed to consider and comply with relevant national planning policy on the management and protections of SSSIs. Most notably, NRW’s response ignored Planning Policy Wales guidance on ‘the presumption against development likely to damage SSSIs’.

If this case is typical of NRW’s approach toward all harmful developments on SSSIs, INCC believes that the consequences would be that instead of reversing biodiversity losses in Wales, there would be a very real risk of NRW facilitating further species and habitat loss over the coming years.

NRW have since reviewed their advice to officers regarding potentially damaging development proposals on SSSIs.



Marsh-fritillary. Rob-Parry