County Wildlife Sites

River Ivel

Just over 400 sites have been recognized as County Wildlife Sites (CWS) and these total roughly 9,121 hectares in area. (About 7% of the county).

What is a County Wildlife Site?

A County Wildlife Site is a site that has been recognized as important for wildlife when assessed against a set of criteria. The selection guidelines consider aspects of the site such as Size, Diversity, Rarity, Fragility, Typicalness and Recorded History.

Recognition as a CWS does not confer protection on the site, or right of access, however for any significant change of land use the planning authorities will expect the wildlife interest to be taken into account alongside other normal planning considerations. Local conservation organisations may comment on planning applications that could affect a CWS.

Grants may be available to help manage a CWS for the benefit of wildlife.

A leaflet that summarizes the CWS system can be downloaded HERE (PDF). A copy of a National leaflet about CWS is available to download here.

Current CWSs

As of 08/03/2023 there are 408 CWS in Bedfordshire and Luton.

All National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest have been recognized as County Wildlife Sites. Most of the Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) have also been recognized, though the boundaries are not necessarily identical. Some of the Roadside Nature Reserves (RNRs) are also recognized as CWSs.

CWS Selection

CWSs are recognized by the CWS Panel which operates according to these Terms of Reference (.PDF)

The CWS Panel assesses potential sites against these Selection Guidelines (.PDF)

The CWS Panel contains representatives from the following organizations:

  • Bedford Borough Council
  • Bedfordshire and Luton Biodiversity Recording and Monitoring Centre
  • Bedfordshire Natural History Society
  • Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity
  • Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Natural England
  • Luton Borough Council
  • The Environment Agency
  • The Greensand Trust
  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • The Wildlife Trust

Monitoring and Surveying

Sites are periodically monitored to determine their condition. Monitoring protocols have been developed to assess the biological health of a site and determine if it is in a favourable or unfavourable condition and to recommend actions improve them.

Site surveys are undertaken to determine if a site meets the criteria for a CWS and then periodically thereafter as resources permit. These allow more comprehensive species lists to be built up for sites and for plant communities to be classified (to NVC), mapped and monitored over time.

HERE (.zip 301KBytes) are a suite of documents and forms that have been used in the monitoring process.

Site Details

The BRMC has prepared updated citations for all CWSs and these are available via our data request service. These living documents are extended with the latest information obtained by site surveys. Species lists can also be provided from our species database and images of some sites may be found in Bedscape. As many CWSs are privately owned we do not openly put CWS information into the public domain, but details can be obtained from the BRMC by those with a need to know.