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Definition of a County Wildlife Site

A County Wildlife Site (CWS) is a non-statutory designation used to identify high quality wildlife habitats in a county context. The designation is used to identify land important for its wildlife. These include valuable semi-natural habitats such as:

  • Ancient woodland
  • Species-rich grasslands
  • Wetlands
  • Roadside verges
  • Hedgerows

The habitats and species that live there flourish because of past management practices. Many sites provide a refuge for rare or threatened plants and animals.

Together with statutory sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), County Wildlife Sites form an important part of the wildlife resource in the wider countryside helping to link and buffer sites.

County Wildlife Sites in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

There are 461 County Wildlife Sites across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 111 of these are in Peterborough, along with six Local Geological Sites. 

This figure is subject to change as survey data is continually gathered and the complement of sites amended. 

County Wildlife Sites Handbook

We have published a handbook which is a complete guide to how the County Wildlife Site system operates in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It is aimed at people who work with this system of non-statutory sites such as:

  • Landowners and managers
  • Local government officers
  • Officers within statutory agencies
  • Those in the conservation field
  • Anyone who liaises with landowners

View the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough County Wildlife Sites Handbook (opens PDF on the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants website).

County Wildlife Site designation doesn't mean the site is accessible to the public

County Wildlife Site (CWS) designation does not automatically make the site accessible to the public.

In many cases, you will not be allowed to go onto a County Wildlife Site without first obtaining the landowner's permission.

,For detailed survey information on a County Wildlife Site, please contact the Environmental Records Centre on 01954 713570.

If you would like some advice on management, please contact the Wildlife Sites Officer at the local Wildlife Trust on 01954 713500.

How a County Wildlife Site is selected

Survey data is gathered and sites are selected by assessing their wildlife importance in a county context against carefully constructed selection criteria. Those meeting the thresholds contained within the guidelines are then selected for designation. The County Wildlife Site system is intended to be flexible, so that newly discovered sites that meet the selection guidelines can be added, whilst those that are known to have deteriorated can be removed.

Implications for landowners and developers

Owning a County Wildlife Site does not mean that there will be open public access to your land. Existing public rights of way remain unaffected and no rights of access are created. The majority of ordinary land management and agricultural operations remain unaffected.

Identification of a County Wildlife Site does not give anyone other than the landowner or manager control over land management. However, following recent new regulations, some operations on County Wildlife Sites may require an Environmental Impact Assessment. Further information on the Regulations, or for an application form can be obtained from Defra, call the freephone EIA helpline on 0800 028 2140 or email

If your proposal involves afforestation, deforestation, forest roads or forest quarries further information and advice is available from the East of England Forestry Commission Conservancy Office based at Santon Downham, Suffolk on 01842 815544 or email

The recognition of a County Wildlife Site could assist you in attracting grant aid money such as environmental stewardship and woodland grants. Sympathetic management is encouraged and there are people able to assist you by providing further information and advice.