Nature sites and areas of countryside can be ‘designated’, which means they have special status as protected areas because of their natural and cultural importance.

Protection means that these places:

  • have clear boundaries
  • have people and laws to make sure that the nature and wildlife aren’t harmed or destroyed
  • can sometimes be used by people for recreation and study

Places are made into protected areas by:

  • organisations, eg Natural England
  • local councils and bylaws
  • national and international laws and organisations, eg the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

There are restrictions on activities and developments that might affect a designated or protected area, eg building new houses or roads. This includes areas next to as well as in those areas.

Search for protected areas

Check if your home or business is next to a protected area in:

You can find different kinds of protected areas, eg wetland sites, national parks or special scientific sites, across the UK, including:

Check if protected area restrictions apply

Contact your local council to find out what restrictions apply to your business or home.

You might need to do certain things if you’re opening a new business or building a home that may affect a protected area, such as:

EIAs can be different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Newly designated areas

You’ll be contacted by the local council, the Environment Agency and Natural England about any new restrictions if your business affects a newly designated area.