Specific SSSIs and SAMs at Mynydd Parys
Mynyyd Parys , a hill rising to 147 metres in North East Anglesey is one of the most famous mineralised sites in Wales and is selected as an SSSI for its' biological and geological interest. Formally the largest copper mine in Wales, the old workings are now an important site for the study and understanding of mineralogy. The mineralised rocks are rich in metals such as copper and zinc and a metallophyte ( metal tolerant) lichen community has developed associated with these rocks.
The mineralisation seen within the Great Opencast is dominated by pyrite and occurs within lensoid ore bodies and as slumped sulphides, stock works and disseminations. The pyrites is associated dominantly with chalcopyrite, but blend, galena,minor lead bismuth sulpho slats and terradymite group minerals occur. The whole sequence ,which is heavily silicified, was folded into syncline during the Caledonian deformation with associated remobilisation of some of the sulphide in quartz and chlorite veins. These veins cut the bedding and the primary sulphide mineralization. as the most famous mineral deposit in Wales, with a from quite unique within Great Britain, Mynydd Parys remains the subject of much active research work. Four areas on the rim and floor of the Great Open cast have been designated geological SSSIs.
Morfa Ddu provides exposure of an unusual Quartz rich rock, known as "Siliceous sinter" which is believed to have been deposited by a hot spring, relative to the escape of hot gases and liquids from volcanic activity which gave rise to the Parys Mountain Volcanics. The associated metalliferous deposits, best seen at the great opencast have been commercially worked since Roman times. Detailed study of this locality and the adjacent Great Opencast has led to comparisons being made between the style of mineralisation seen hear and the classic Kuroko deposit in Japan. recent work suggests that this is the only locality in Britain where Kuroko style mineralisation can be seen. The rocky exposure is the 5th geological SSSI.
Lichens are small plants composed of an intimate association of fungi and algae. Lichen found at Mynydd Parys include unusual and scares species able to tolerate the high levels of normally toxic metals such as copper, Zinc and bismuth which is found here.
Natural rock outcrops rich in heavy metals must have occurred in Wales at one time, and supported these unusual lichen communities. So extensive has exploitation of this resource been that no significant natural examples are known to survive. In order to protect these species, man made habitats must be selected. Mynydd parys is one of the few metal mines working in Britain which have a relatively undisturbed since mining ceased and lie in areas with relatively low atmospheric pollution. As a result it supports a rich and unusual lichen flora, including a range of species and communities which are restricted to mineralised substrates. More than 125 Lichen species have been recorded from the mineralised substrates alone; a number of these are very scares in Wales being restricted to metal rich substrates and at least one species (Leciea sp) is new to Britain and possibly new to Science.
The flora of the old spoil heaps and metalliferous rock outcrops is dominated by Lichens of the community acarosporion sinopicae which are particularly characteristic of rocks rich in iron sulphide. The most abundant species here include Acarospora sinopica, Porpidia tuberculosa and Rhizocarpon obscuratum, whilts the notable species, Rhizocarpon furfurosom is a frequent associate.
The ruined mine buildings and walls provide furher distinctive microhabitats, such as copper rich mortar filled crevices in which a community characterised by Psilolechia leprosa occurs. other distinctive mettalphpyte species which have been recorded include Tremolecia atrata, stereocaulon leucophaeopsis and lecanora epanora.
In less metal rich areas terricolous lichens are found associated with heather Callun vulgaris. The abundant Cladonia species in this community include C.fragilissima in one of only 3 know localities in Wales.
Nine areas of the mountain, around the great open cast, the windmill, and old mine buildings have been selected as biological SSSIs.
Scheduled Ancient Monuments by Cadw:
The Great Opencast (No. AN111D)
Windmill (No. AN111A)
Pearl shaft engine house (No. AN111 B)
Central precipitation pits (No. AN111C)
Dyffryn Adda reverberatory furnace (No. AN135 (Ang))
Mona Smelting site (in process)
OPERATIONS REQUIRING THE CONSENT OF THE COUNTRYSIDE COUNCIL FOR WALES CCW UNDER SECTION 28 (4) b OF THE WILDLIFE AND COUNTRYSIDE ACT. 1981 AS SUBSTITUTED BY SCHEDULE 9 TO THE COUNTRYSIDE AND RIGHTS OF WAY ACT 2000
The operations listed below may damage the features of special interest of the SSSI. Before any of these operations are undertaken you must consult CCW.
In most cases CCW is able to consent these operations where they can be carried out in certain ways, or at specific times of year, or on certain parts of the SSSI, without damaging the features of special interest. If you wish to carry out any of these activities please contact the local office of CCW, where a Conservation Officer will be able to give you advice and where appropriate, issue a consent.
In certain circumstances it will not be possible to consent these operations, because they would damage the features of special interest. Where possible the Conservation Officer will suggest alternative ways in which you may proceed, which would enable a consent to be issued. To proceed without CCW's consent may constitute an offence. If consent is refused, or conditions are attached to it, which are not acceptable to you, you will be provided with details of how you may appeal to the Welsh Assembly Government.
CCW is empowered to enter into management agreements with owners or occupiers to safeguard or enhance the features of special interest associated with the site.
OPERATIONS LIKELY TO DAMAGE THE SPECIAL INTEREST:
- Cultivation, including ploughing, rotovating, harrowing and re-seeding.
- Introduction of grazing.
- Introduction of mowing or other methods of cutting vegetation.
- Application of manure, fertilisers and lime.
- Application of pesticides, including herbicides (weedkillers).
- Dumping, spreading or discharge of any materials.
- Burning of vegetation.
- The deliberate introduction of any wild or domestic plant or seed.
- The destruction, removal or pruning of any plant or plant remains, including shrub, herb, moss or lichen.
- Tree planting, including afforestation.
- Modification of field drainage, including the use of mole, tile, tunnel or other artificial drains.
- Modification to ditches and drains including their banks and beds, by realignment, re-grading, dredging or cleaning.
- Changes in the present utilisation of water, including storage, the raising of water levels, irrigation and abstraction from existing water bodies and through boreholes.
- Infilling of ditches, drains, pools or pits.
- Extraction of minerals including topsoil, sub-soil and mine spoil.
- Construction, modification, removal or destruction of roads, tracks, walls (including buildings), fences, hard-stands, banks, ditches or other earthworks.
- Storage of materials on, in or against rock faces, outcrops or buildings.
- Erection of permanent or temporary structures, or the undertaking of engineering works, including the laying, maintenance or removal of pipelines and cables.
- Modification of rock faces and spoil heaps including clearance of boulders, large stones, loose rock or scree and battering, buttressing or grading rock faces and cuttings.
- Use of vehicles likely to damage lichen heath.
- Recreational activities, such as motorcycling, within the control of the owner or occupier likely to damage lichen heath.
This is a list of operations appearing to the CCW to be likely to damage the special features of this SSSI, as required under section 28(4 )(b) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as substituted by Schedule 9 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
Where an operation has been granted a consent, licence or permission from another Statutory Authority separate consent will not be required from CCW. However, authorities are required to consult CCW before such consents, licences or permissions are issued.
Any reference to "animal" in this list shall be taken to include any mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird, fish or invertebrate (including honey bees).
Legal aspects of SSSIs & SAMs
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act
1981 the government has a duty to notify as an SSSI any land which in
its opinion is of special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna,
geological or physiographical features.
SSSIs are designated by English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). This body is known as the designating body. An SSSI is not necessarily owned by a conservation organisation or by the Government - in fact, they can be owned by anybody. The designation is primarily to identify those areas worthy of preservation. An SSSI is given certain protection against damaging operations, and any such operations must in theory be authorised by the designating body. There is a list of just what can and cannot be done on an SSSI. The status also affords a certain amount of planning protection, but in practice this is sometimes not sufficient to prevent development.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 strengthened the law giving greater power to the designating body to enter into management agreements, to refuse consent for damaging operations, and to take action where damage is being caused through neglect or inappropriate management. Local Authorities and other public institutions now also have a statutory duty to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSIs both in carrying out their operations, and in exercising their decision making functions, which includes planning decisions.
SSSIs form the basic unit of UK protected area legislation - most higher designations are superimposed (sometimes a little loosely) onto existing SSSIs.
The key to the site safeguard provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Act rests upon a system of reciprocal notification. SSSIs are notified under Section 28 of the Act. Notification is a statement of scientific value which does not carry prohibitive powers. It depends on owners or occupiers (landholders) voluntarily consulting with Nature Conservancy Council over operations likely to damage the site.
Notification is to landholder, local planning authorities, statutory undertakers, and the Secretary of State. Landholders are allowed a period of four months within which they can object to the proposed notification. As notification is on scientific grounds, this is the only basis on which they can object. Other issues, such as loss of monetary value, can be dealt with on a compensatory basis at a later stage.
During this pre-notification period of
consultation, the site does not have SSSI status, but is known as a
Proposed SSSI (PSSI). An important loophole in the original legislation
was that, during the (then) three-month consultation period, a PSSSI had
no protection under the Act, and some landowners took advantage of this
to destroy the interest. The 1985 Amendment to the Act closed this
loophole by extending protection under Section 28 to PSSSIs.
The landholder is provided, in addition to a statement of the scientific interest in the site, with a list of "potentially damaging operations" (PDOs) thought likely to harm the interest. These might include drainage work, felling, variation of grazing, spraying of pesticides, and are specific to individual sites, though drawn from a standard list. The statutory body must be given notice of any PDO. In turn, they have four months in which to consult over the PDO, during which the landholder is constrained from proceeding with the operation. The possible outcomes are:
the statutory body gives consent to the PDO (possibly after modification following consultation) because it believes it not to be damaging to the interest in this instance;
the statutory body reaches a management agreement with the landholder under which the PDO is not carried out, and payments are made for profits foregone;
the statutory body fails to reach an agreement with the landholder, and the PDO may be carried out at the end of the four months, possibly damaging the interest.
This process embodies the so-called
"voluntary principle" on which the Act is based and on which great
emphasis was placed during its drafting.
The granting of planning permission on an application (though not a General Order) effectively authorises a PDO without a requirement for consent from the statutory body.
If the PDO is carried out by or with
permission of the landholder without consent, then Section 28 allows for
a fine on summary conviction. This was originally set at 500, but was
increased to 1000 under the Crime Penalties Etc (Increase) Order 1984
No. 447. The Act set the maximum level of fine under Section 29 at "the
statutory limit" (2000) on summary conviction. The fine on conviction on
indictment is unlimited.
Where, however, the Secretary of State believes that an SSSI, or any other area of land, is of national or international significance, additional powers may be brought into effect. The Secretary of State may, under Section 29 of the Act, issue a Nature Conservation Order (NCO) which gives an SSSI, PSSSI, or any other land considered to be of sufficient importance, protection over and above that afforded by notification under Section 28. Principally, additional protection takes the form of a prohibition on anyone carrying out a PDO, fines on conviction, and a potential chain of events which could lead to a compulsion to restore damaged land, or to a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).
To put penalties under the Act in perspective, any SSSI which does not come under Section 29 is worth only £1000 in terms of the maximum fine which can be levied against any instance of damage. A Tree Preservation Order is enforced by possible fines of up to £20,000, and damage to a listed building (equivalent to SSSIs in the built environment) can result in a fine which takes into account the benefits gained by the offender as a result of the damage, or 12 months imprisonment.
The Act makes further provision for the protection of SSSIs, or land under and Nature Conservation Order, by requiring that the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF in England or DAFS in Scotland) take into account conservation requirements when considering applications for grant aid.
The Act enables the Nature Conservancy
Council to provide grants to individuals or organisations for doing
anything conducive to or fostering the understanding of nature
conservation. The Nature Conservancy Council have used this facility to
provide grants to Non-Government Organisations for the purchase of SSSIs
so, in theory, ensuring a better level of safeguard than if they were
not in direct conservation ownership.
The procedure for selecting an SSSI is based on a rigorous definition of what constitutes "special scientific interest." This was originally described in "A Nature Conservation Review" (Ratcliffe, 1977) and the rationale was substantially revised in recent guidelines ( Nature Conservancy Council, 1989). This clearly states the objective of the SSSI series:
"to form a national network of areas representing in total those parts of Great Britain in which the features of nature, and especially those of greatest value to wildlife conservation, are most highly concentrated or of highest quality."..."each site represents a significant fragment of the much-depleted resource of wild nature now remaining in this country."
The features of interest in earth
science include rock types, crystal
structures, landforms and erosion products, while in life science the
features are species or lifeforms, and habitats or ecosystems within
which the species live. Some species, for example, the Pipewort and the
grey seal can be conserved within specific sites. Others, like the
otter, golden eagle and corncrake require some degree of protection
wherever they occur.
Following the Nature Conservation Review, "A Geological Conservation Review" was instituted by the Nature Conservancy Council, and this is still in progress. While the Nature Conservation Review supports the biological SSSIs, the Geological Conservation Review does the same for the geological SSSIs and a Marine Nature Conservation Review is now also in progress. The Nature Conservancy Council has no choice about designation; Section 28 of the 1981 Act requires all SSSIs to be designated, although the selection of sites for notification also depends upon informed judgement as well as the rigid application of objective criteria ( Nature Conservancy Council, 1989).