Skip to Content

Special Areas of Conservation – overview

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are protected areas in the UK designated under:

  • the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) in England and Wales (including the adjacent territorial sea) and to a limited extent in Scotland (reserved matters) and Northern Ireland (excepted matters),
  • the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) in Scotland,
  • the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) in Northern Ireland, and
  • the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) in the UK offshore area.

Under these regulations, the UK Government and devolved administrations are required to establish a network of important high-quality conservation sites that will make a significant contribution to conserving the habitats and species identified in Annexes I and II, respectively, of European Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, known as the Habitats Directive. The listed habitat types and species are those considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds). Of the Annex I habitat types, 78 are believed to occur in the UK. Of the Annex II species, 43 are native to, and normally resident in, the UK.

SACs, together with Special Protection Areas (SPAs), form part of the UK’s national site network.

JNCC is responsible for advising the UK Government and devolved administrations on aspects of the designation and management of SACs from a UK perspective. JNCC also has specific responsibilities for advising on the designation and management of SACs in the UK offshore area. Further information on UK offshore SACs and JNCC’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) work can be found on our MPA webpages.

SAC network summary

Special Areas of Conservation in the UK as of 18 December 2020. UK figures exclude two SACs which have been submitted in the UK Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.

Country

Number of SACs1

Number of SCIs2

Number of cSACs3

Total number
of sites (SAC, SCI & cSAC) 

Area ha4

England

242

 

 

242

1,068,558

England / Scotland

3

 

 

3

112,770

England / Wales

7

 

 

7

95,182

England / Offshore

3

 

 

3

3,795,179

England / Wales / Offshore

1

 

 

1

584,989

Northern Ireland

57

 

 

57

85,871

Northern Ireland / Offshore

1

 

 

1

160,367

Scotland

238

1

 

239

2,288,674

Scotland / Offshore

2

 

 

2

182,232

Wales

85

 

 

85

590,915

Wales / Offshore

2

 

 

2

1,062,562

UK Offshore Waters

15

 

1

16

4,712,596

UK TOTAL

656

1

1

658

13,491,2815

Gibraltar

2

 

 

 

5,687

1 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are sites that have been formally designated by the government of each country in whose territory the site lies.

2 Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) are sites that were adopted by the European Commission before the end of the Transition Period following the UK's exit from the EU, but not yet formally designated by the government of each country.

3 Candidate SACs (cSACs) are sites that were submitted to the European Commission, before the end of the Transition Period following the UK's exit from the EU, but not yet formally designated.

4 Site area figures have been calculated using GIS and rounded to the nearest whole hectare. Please note that site area figures for each country relate to both the terrestrial and inshore domain. Where an extension to a designated SAC or SCI is pending, different parts of the site can have different statuses – so, for example part of the site may be SAC, and the remainder cSAC. In this case the site would only appear once in the table, with the whole site shown as SAC.

5The UK total is calculated from GIS and does not reflect the sum of the totals in each country, due to overlapping sites in the different areas.

Top

Latest changes to the SAC network

Information on the most recent changes to the SAC network is provided below. This includes the information which was submitted in "tranches" to the European Commission prior to the end of the Transition Period which followed the UK’s Exit from the EU.

Details of the most recent tranches updates are provided below. Information on changes within historical tranches is available in the National Archives.

Tranche 60 – submitted 18 December 2020

Site code Site name Country Main reason(s) for inclusion in Tranche 60
UK0019759 Braehead Moss S Habitat 7120 (Degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration) now considered as habitat 7110 (Active raised bogs) following restoration.
UK0019763 Dykeneuk Moss S Habitat 7120 (Degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration) now considered as habitat 7110 (Active raised bogs) following restoration.
UK0019757 Black Loch Moss S Habitat 7120 (Degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration) now considered as habitat 7110 (Active raised bogs) following restoration.
UK0019765 Waukenwae Moss S Habitat 7120 (Degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration) now considered as habitat 7110 (Active raised bogs) following restoration.
UK0012570 Braunton Burrows E Site now considered a SAC with ‘marine components’ because of habitat 1140 (Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide). Marine area % included.

 

Tranche 59 – submitted 31 October 2019

Site code Site name Country Main reason(s) for inclusion in Tranche 59
UK0030381 Croker Carbonate Slabs O Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7); habitat area updated (field 3.1)

 

Tranche 58 – submitted 26 March 2019

Site code

Site name

Country

Main reason(s) for inclusion in Tranche 58

UK0030364

East Mingulay

S

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

UK0030393

Inner Hebrides and the Minches

S

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

UK0030396

Bristol Channel Approaches / Dynesfeydd Môr Hafren

EWO

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

UK0030398

North Anglesey Marine / Gogledd Môn Forol

WO

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

UK0030399

North Channel

NIO

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

UK0030395

Southern North Sea

EO

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

UK0030397

West Wales Marine / Gorllewin Cymru Forol

WO

Change in site status from SCI to SAC (field 1.7)

Information on updates in earlier tranches is available on The National Archives website.

Top

SAC site information

JNCC maintains site information for all SACs in the UK.

The list of UK SACs links to individual SAC site webpages that present summary statistics, descriptions of the constituent protected species and habitats, a location map, and the site’s Standard Data Form (see SAC selection). Individual UK country and offshore lists are also available for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as for UK offshore. 

The lists of species and habitats protected by UK SACs link to individual species and habitat webpages that describes the ecological characteristics and UK/European distribution of the protected feature.

In addition, a spreadsheet of UK SACs and their qualifying habitats and species, other published data relevant to SACs, and a spatial layer of SAC site boundaries is available through the UK Protected Area Datasets for Download webpage. JNCC also manages an online library of UK and EU case law relating to SAC designation and management.

Site information for SACs designated in the UK Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is available on the Protected Areas in Gibraltar webpage.

Top

SAC selection

JNCC has produced an explanation of the UK’s approach to selecting Special Areas of Conservation for designation.

Each UK Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area has its own Standard Data Form containing site-specific information about the designation. Information from these Standard Data Forms is managed centrally by JNCC in a UK-wide database for SAC and SPA designations.

Top

SAC condition & reporting

The UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs) are responsible for assessing the condition of habitats and species protected the designated SACs. This is carried out through Common Standards Monitoring.

Every six years, the results of this monitoring within SACs are used to inform a UK-wide assessment of the status and trends of species and habitats for which these sites are protected. This is undertaken by the five statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs) on behalf of UK Government and the devolved administrations. This feeds into a broader assessment of the status and trends of these species and habitats across their whole UK distribution (i.e. both inside and outside sites). There is also a general implementation report that summarises the main work and achievements in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and UK offshore on the implementation of the Habitats Directive, including some specific information on SACs and their contribution to the national/UK site network.

The reports are accessed through JNCC’s European Reporting webpage.

The primary objective of management is to achieve the Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) of protected habitats and species. The UK’s SNCBs have produced a common statement setting out the concept of FCS within a UK and UK country context.

Top

Published: .

Back to top