The West Pennine Moors have been given legal protection after being designated as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

Natural England announced the exciting endorsement on Friday 18th November, recognising the area as a place of vital importance to wildlife and habitats.

Very much like the South Pennine moors, where we have been working for the past 14 years, the West Pennine moors are home to specialist animal and plant species and provide drinking water for thousands of households. It is also an area of immense beauty, with millions of people living, working, holidaying and playing there.

Bogs in good condition provide many benefits including increased water storage in the upper catchments to reduce flood risk downstream, creating long-term carbon storage and reducing the risk of wildfire, as well as providing a unique habitat for wildlife.

SSSI status will help secure the widest possible commitment to the conservation of the West Pennines and lead to further action to secure the future of this moorland landscape.

Natural England will work with owners and land managers to continue to protect and enhance the wildlife importance of the area, whilst maximising the other benefits from the moors. This includes sensitive management of blanket bogs, and maintaining water levels close to the surface of the peat.

Mike Burke, Natural England’s Area Manager for Cheshire to Lancashire said: “The West Pennine Moors are truly special and wholly warrant this SSSI status. It confers special legal protection and recognises the national scientific importance of its mosaic of upland habitats and populations of breeding birds.

“We will continue to work with all farmers, landowners and conservation groups across the area over the coming weeks and months to explain the importance of this designation and agree how we can work together to protect the area now and in the future.”

Explaining the relevance of this designation, James Cross, Natural England’s Chief Executive added: “Conservation is not about holding things back, but about moving them forward. The outcome Natural England wishes to achieve with this designation is sustainably conserving a wonderful upland landscape and safeguarding the services it offers for the benefit of both people and the environment.”

The West Pennine Moors is the largest new SSSI notified by Natural England since 2004, covering a total of 76 square kilometres between Chorley, Blackburn, Bolton and Haslingden in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Following the announcement, there is now a four month consultation period for people to have their say.

Find out more about SSSI public consultation.