Publicly accessible wildlife sites

Please note that if you are an ecologist, planner or other professional requiring specific and validated information regarding the definitive boundary, status or a legal citation of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs), you need to Request a report

The publically accessible wildlife sites displayed here have been selected from the Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation because they are either freely accessible or open to the public.

The different kinds of sites and areas

There are three kinds of site, which are chosen on the basis of their importance to a particular defined geographic area. This use of search areas is an attempt, not only to protect the best sites in London, but also to provide each part of London with a nearby site, so that people are able to have access to enjoy nature.

Sites of Metropolitan Importance

Sites of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation are those sites which contain the best examples of London's habitats, sites which contain particularly rare species, rare assemblages of species or important populations of species, or sites which are of particular significance within otherwise heavily built-up areas of London.
They are of the highest priority for protection. The identification and protection of Metropolitan Sites is necessary, not only to support a significant proportion of London's wildlife, but also to provide opportunities for people to have contact with the natural environment
The best examples of London's habitats include the main variants of each major habitat type, for example hornbeam woodland, wet heathland, or chalk downland. Habitats typical of urban areas are also included, e.g. various types of abandoned land colonised by nature (‘wasteland’ or ‘unofficial countryside’). Those habitats which are particularly rare in London may have all or most of their examples selected as Metropolitan Sites.
Sites of Metropolitan Importance include not only the best examples of each habitat type, but also areas which are outstanding because of their assemblage of habitats, for example the Crane corridor, which contains the River Crane, reservoirs, pasture, woodland and heathland.
Rare species include those that are nationally scarce or rare (including Red Data Book species) and species which are rare in London.
A small number of sites are selected which are of particular significance within heavily built up areas of London. Although these are of lesser intrinsic quality than those sites selected as the best examples of habitats on a London-wide basis they are outstanding oases and provide the opportunity for enjoyment of nature in extensive built environments. Examples include St James's Park, Nunhead Cemetery, Camley Street Natural Park and Sydenham Hill Woods. In some cases (e.g. inner London parks) this is the primary reason for their selection. For sites of higher intrinsic interest it may only be a contributory factor. Only those sites that provide a significant contribution to the ecology of an area are identified.
Should one of these sites be lost or damaged, something would be lost which exists in a very few other places in London. Management of these sites should as a first priority seek to maintain and enhance their interest, but use by the public for education and passive recreation should be encouraged unless these are inconsistent with nature conservation.

Sites of Borough Importance

These are sites which are important on a borough perspective in the same way as the Metropolitan sites are important to the whole of London. Although sites of similar quality may be found elsewhere in London, damage to these sites would mean a significant loss to the borough. As with Metropolitan sites, while protection is important, management of Borough sites should usually allow and encourage their enjoyment by people and their use for education.
Since 1988 Borough sites have been divided, on the basis of their quality, into two grades, but it must be stressed that they are all important on a borough-wide view.
In defining Sites of Borough Importance, the search is not confined rigidly to borough boundaries; these are used for convenience of defining areas substantially smaller than the whole of Greater London, and the needs of neighbouring boroughs should be taken into account. In the same way as for Sites of Metropolitan Importance, parts of some boroughs are more heavily built-up and some borough sites are chosen there as oases providing the opportunity for enjoyment of nature in extensive built environments.
The borough is an appropriate search area in relation to Planning Policy Guidance on nature conservation (1994) which, in paragraphs 15 and 25, states that local plans should identify, and include policies for, areas of local nature conservation importance.
Since essentially a comparison within a given borough is made when choosing Sites of Borough Importance, there is considerable variation in quality between those for different boroughs; for example, those designated in Barnet will frequently be of higher intrinsic quality than those in Hammersmith and Fulham, a borough comparatively deficient in wildlife habitat. Only those sites that provide a significant contribution to the ecology of an area are identified.

Sites of Local Importance

A Site of Local Importance is one which is, or may be, of particular value to people nearby (such as residents or schools). These sites may already be used for nature study or be run by management committees mainly composed of local people. Where a Site of Metropolitan or Borough Importance may be so enjoyed it acts as a Local site, but further sites are given this designation in recognition of their role. This local importance means that these sites are also deserving protection in planning.
Local sites are particularly important in areas otherwise deficient in nearby wildlife sites. To aid the choice of these further local sites, Areas of Deficiency (see below) are identified. Further Local sites are chosen as the best available to alleviate this deficiency; such sites need not lie in the Area of Deficiency, but should be as near to it as possible. Where no such sites are available, opportunities should be taken to provide them by habitat enhancement or creation, by negotiating access and management agreements, or by direct acquisition. Only those sites that provide a significant contribution to the ecology of an area are identified.