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Guide to cross compliance in England: 2016

Rural Payments Agency
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SMR 2: Wild birds

You must preserve and maintain, as well as re-establish where necessary, a sufficiently large and diverse area of habitat for all wild birds

Check if your land is in a Special Protection Areas (SPA) at or by contacting Natural England.

For the purposes of this SMR, a ‘wild bird’ is ‘any bird of a species which is ordinarily resident in, or is a visitor to, the European territory of any member state in a wild state, but does not include poultry or any game bird’. This is the same meaning as in section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Any bird shown to have been bred in captivity is not subject to these requirements unless it has been lawfully released into the wild as part of a repopulation or reintroduction programme.

In England, Special Protection Areas (SPA) are also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

What you must do

If you have an SPA on your land you must:

  • get Natural England’s consent in writing before carrying out, causing or permitting any specified operation listed in a SSSI’s designation documents, or listed within a special nature conservation order, unless that operation is already covered by a management agreement, scheme or notice

‘Special interest features’ of an area are interpreted as the notified interest features of the Site of Special Scientific Interest that are also relevant to the SPA.

A ‘specified operation’ is one which has been identified as likely to damage the special interest features of the area. This information forms part of the notification package for SSSIs.

  • comply with all management notices and stop notices served by Natural England

A ‘management notice’ is different from a management agreement because it requires an owner or occupier of land to carry out work or do other things in relation to the land as specified in the notice. A management notice may be served where it appears to Natural England that the special interest features of the land are not adequately being conserved or restored.

A ’stop notice’ can be served in relation to land over which a special nature conservation order has been made.

  • comply with the terms of any restoration order served by a court. This applies where the purpose of the notice or restoration order is to protect or restore the special interest features of the area or otherwise restore the land to its former condition as may be so specified.

You must not:

  • intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage the special interest features of the area or disturb any bird that is a special interest feature (this requirement can apply to actions that take place other than on the SPA itself but which have the same consequences).

You might not be breaking the rules if you have a ‘reasonable excuse’, which could include any of the following:

  • planning permission to carry out the work
  • consent from a public body or statutory authority that has complied with its duty to carry out an assessment and consult Natural England before giving the consent
  • it was an emergency operation (provided that Natural England is told as soon as possible after the emergency).

More information

You can find out if your land is in an SPA by contacting Natural England, or by searching the Nature on the Map website at


Natural England: 0345 600 3078
RSPB: 01767 680 541