Precious Lancashire landscape becomes largest protected wildlife site in a decade

Rivington Pike,  hill summit on Winter Hill, part of the West Pennine Moors near Horwich. Taken by reader Margaret Fowler

Rivington Pike, hill summit on Winter Hill, part of the West Pennine Moors near Horwich. Taken by reader Margaret Fowler

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One of the country’s most precious upland landscapes has been given special legal protection by Natural England for its nationally important wildlife and habitats.

The West Pennine Moors is the largest new Site of Special Scientific Interest (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. This move reflects the national significance of the area and its combination of upland habitats, moorland fringe grasslands and woodland, which support an impressive array of breeding birds.

Natural England’s chief executive James Cross said: “This is a significant moment for the protection of wildlife across a wild and beautiful expanse of north-west England. Our upland landscapes provide vital wildlife habitats and clean water, reduce flood risk and bring enjoyment and a sense of well-being to millions of people.”

Mike Burke, Natural England’s area manager, 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.”