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Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)

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 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.

UK SAC network summary

Special Areas of Conservation in the UK as of 20 April 2023


No. of SACs1

No. of SCIs2

No. of cSACs

Total number4

Area ha5







England / Scotland






England / Wales






England / Offshore






England / Wales / Offshore






Northern Ireland






Northern Ireland / Offshore












Scotland / Offshore












Wales / Offshore






UK Offshore Waters


















1 SACs: Special Areas of Conservation are sites that have been adopted by the European Commission and formally designated by the government of each country in whose territory the site lies.

2 SCIs: Sites of Community Importance 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 cSACs: Candidate SACs 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.

Total number of sites (SACs, SCIs and cSACs).

5 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.

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

7 UK figures exclude two SACs in the UK Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.


Site summary details

JNCC maintains datasets for all SACs in the UK.

JNCC provides summary data for all UK SACs and their qualifying habitats and species (spreadsheet format – includes SPAs) and a spatial layer of the SAC boundaries (shapefile format – excludes offshore area). 

The national site network site summary spreadsheet and SAC shapefiles can be downloaded from the Resource Hub.

Please note, the country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs) periodically update SAC boundaries, for example when natural features shift position. These changes are subtle and may not result in an update to JNCC’s datasets. For the latest SAC boundaries, visit the relevant CNCB website.

SACs with "marine components" are SACs which protect a habitat or species associated with the marine environment. Data for these marine sites can be found on the Marine Protected Area Datasets for Download webpage.


Latest changes to the UK SAC network

Information on the most recent changes to the UK SAC network relating to newly classified SACs and amended existing SACs are provided below, including new or amended Standard Data Forms.

This includes information from the first National Site Network (formerly Natura 2000) database update since the UK's Exit from the European Union (EU) in December 2020.

Information on changes submitted prior to the end of the EU Transition Period and previous historical tranches is available on the previous SAC updates webpage

JNCC coordinates an update to the UK SAC network on an annual basis, working with the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) based on any updates in England. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and offshore marine. This information is provided on these webpages in the spring each year.

Please note that the SNCBs may update SAC site boundary data in the intervening period between the annual updates on JNCC’s website. To access the latest UK National Site Network boundary data, please visit the relevant website.


20 April 2023

This is the second update to the UK's National Site Network subsequent to the Transition Period following the UK's exit from the EU.

This update has been carried out in the line with the process agreed by the Habitats Regulations and International Sites Management Group in September 2021. It covers three sites within the UK’s National Site Network and includes amendments to three existing SACs.

A summary of the changes is provided in the table below. An Explanatory Note and change log are also available, providing more information on the changes. 

Site Code Site Name Country Details of change
UK0019793 Hascosay S Amended site

Insh Marshes

S Amended site
UK0030171 Inverpolly S Amended site


30 September 2022

The most recent update to the national site network was in September 2022. This did not include any updates to the data JNCC holds on the UK's SAC site network.

For information on changes to the UK SPA network, visit the SPA webpage.


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 Approach to 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.


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.


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 country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs) 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 CNCBs have produced a common statement setting out the concept of FCS within a UK and UK country context.


Published: .

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