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Principal habitats and features

Cheshire West is a borough of contrasting landscapes - wooded river valleys and sandstone hills, meres and mosses, estuaries and heaths, industrial wastelands and old parklands - all set within a matrix of intensively productive farmland and urban development. The diversity of landscape types, in turn, supports a fragile and vulnerable wealth of different types of wildlife habitats, some of which are of national and international importance, for example: lowland heath, peatland, grassland, ancient woodland, rivers and estuaries, glacial meres, ponds, hedgerows, historic and notable trees and artificial habitats.

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (1992-2012) lists all the Priority Habitats and Species identified as threatened and requiring conservation action.

Local nature conservation policies

We help to ensure the conservation of biodiversity through the Development Control process. The Biodiversity section of our Total Environment team are consulted on any planning applications received that may have an adverse effect on nature conservation.

In Cheshire West, policies for the protection, conservation and enhancement of biodiversity are set out in Part 1 ENV 4 and Part 2 DM44 of the Development Plan of the former District Councils and in the former County Structure Plan.

Biodiversity net gain refers to a principle whereby development leaves biodiversity in a measurably better state than was currently present beforehand. The term generally relates to habitats, with protected/priority species and protected sites being covered by other legislation/policy requirements. The Interim CWAC Biodiversity Net Gain Guidance Note sets out the various ways development can achieve this, contributing positively to biodiversity and ecological networks in a way that is measurable in accordance with the adopted development plan. This has regard to national policy (National Planning Policy Framework) and emerging legislation such as the Environment Act 2021.

There is also a planning checklist to help developers decide when a Biodiversity Net Gain Metric is required in this interim period.

Local Wildlife Sites (LWS)

Local Wildlife Site (LWS) is the name given to non-statutory sites designated for their nature conservation value in Cheshire West.

They complement the nationally designated series of statutory sites, Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA), Ramsar Sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) found in the borough, and receive protection through the Local Plan policies and local planning documents.

The LWS information has been compiled following a review of the former Sites of Biological Importance (SBI) that were produced by Cheshire County Council and Sites of Nature Conservation Value (SNCV) that were produced by Chester City Council and Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council. This comprised of field survey work that was completed in 2010 and a subsequent review and verification in 2012/2013.

We maintain a register of sites and there is an ongoing process of additional survey and review so that from time to time sites will be added or removed from the register and boundaries may be reduced or extended.

There are currently 492 LWS in Cheshire West and these can be found on our interactive map. 

The selection criteria for Local Wildlife Site’s in the Cheshire region have been developed in partnership with other organisations and can be viewed on the Cheshire Wildlife Trust website.

Local geodiversity

The form and landscape of Cheshire West, a low, flat plain with a series of small prominent sandstone ridges, is reflective of its geology. The Cheshire Plain extends from the broad Mersey Valley, in the north, to the Shropshire Hills in the south. To the west the plain is bounded by the hills of the Welsh borders, and to the north-east by the foothills of the Pennines. Apart from a small outcrop of Carboniferous rocks in the north-east corner of the County, the solid geology of Cheshire West comprises Triassic mudstones and sandstones that were deposited on a wide desert plain. These rocks are throughout Cheshire overlain by Quaternary glacial deposits, largely consisting of till (or boulder clay), with local deposits of silt, peat, sand and gravels.

Rising up from the Plain are a number of small sandstone ridges and scarps formed from the Lower Triassic Sherwood Sandstone, such as the northern end of an outcrop which runs through central Cheshire between Malpas and Tarporley (this is the Peckforton Hills).

RIGs in Cheshire are identified by a Cheshire RIGs Group. RIGs complement the series of statutorily designated SSSls, but do not receive any statutory protection other than through the policies contained in the Former District Development Plans, Former County Structure Plan and Minerals and Waste Plans. There are currently 24 RIGS within the borough of Cheshire West.

A Cheshire Region LGAP (Local Geodiversity Action Plan) Group has been produced with the aim of contributing to the maintenance and improvement of the well being of the Cheshire region by producing a Cheshire LGAP to safeguard the geology, geomorphology, soils and landscapes of the area.

Further information

For further information about biodiversity please email us at: