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UK-wide digital GIS datasets for internationally designated sites

The datasets.

Whenever there is a change to the submitted information (e.g. the addition of a new candidate SAC or an extension to an SPA for example), the UK Government is required to update the GIS digitised boundary information. The area estimates (i.e. hectarages) shown on the official site documentation (e.g. Natura2000 standard data forms) have been derived from these digitised datasets and should therefore match. In the case of Natura2000 sites the version available here is an exact copy of the data sent to the EU. The Official data will only be updated on the JNCC website following new submissions of SACs, SPAs or Ramsar sites to the international authority (the EU or Ramsar Secretariat*). JNCC will re-publish the data in its entirety as soon as possible following the official submission.


The site boundary data have been collated by JNCC based on data held by the following organisations:
Scottish Natural Heritage
Natural Resources Wales
Natural England
Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (Marine Protected Sites team, advising on offshore MPAs.)


The datasets available include digital boundaries for all:
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) that have been submitted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) on behalf of the UK Government to the European Commission (the full UK dataset).
    • The UK SAC GIS submitted data has been sub-divided as follows:

    • The GB SAC dataset (terrestrial, inshore). The projection in this dataset is based on the Ordnance Survey British National Grid for terrestrial sites in the GB.
    • The Northern Ireland SAC dataset. The projection is based on the Irish National Grid.
    • The Offshore SACs within UK waters. The projection is WGS84.
  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) that have been submitted by by JNCC on behalf of the UK Government to the European Commission (the full UK dataset).
  • SACs with marine components (subset of the full UK SAC submission, including only SACs with marine components and offshore SACs).
  • SPAs with marine components (subset of the full UK SPA submission, including only SPAs with marine components).
  • Ramsar sites submitted by JNCC on behalf of the UK Government to the Ramsar Secretariat.
  • UK submission to the OSPAR MPA network JNCC submits MPAs to the OSPAR Commission on behalf of the UK contracting parties, under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. All UK MPAs are nominated as OSPAR MPAs (including SACs with marine components, SPAs with marine components, Marine Conservation Zones and Nature Conservation MPAs), with the exception of a handful of sites that are either: proposed but not yet designated; proposed for a site extension; or, designated but awaiting confirmation of the site's protected features. OSPAR MPAs are clipped to the their marine area and therefore their boundaries may differ from the boundaries of underpinning UK protected sites, especially for coastal sites straddling land and sea. For the complete boundaries of UK MPAs, please refer to our other boundary datasets. The OSPAR UK MPA boundaries and attribute information are available to download directly from the OSPAR MPA map tool and are also available on request.

    The number of sites in these datasets matches the number of sites submitted to the relevant authority as identified above.


    We cannot currently supply boundary data for proposed/possible sites (i.e. those that have not yet been submitted to the relevant authority) with the exception of those draft and possible offshore waters.


    Important note.
    The Country Nature Conservation Bodies (CNCB) periodically (usually several times per annum) update the Natura2000 boundaries in cases where:
    • the boundary has been re-digitised at a different scale.
    • there is a change to the Ordnance Survey's base map.
    • changes are required due to the Ordnance Survey's 'Positional Accuracy Improvement' scheme. (See OS website  for more information)
    • site boundaries follow natural features and it is stated on the 'official' paper map that the boundary moves with that feature then the boundary will be re-plotted to that new position. For example, the movement in river channels, Mean High Water Mark/ Mean Low Water Mark.


    The CNCB versions can be downloaded from the list below. Please note that each CNCB has its own procedures to maintain these boundaries.
     Scottish Natural Heritage Natural Spaces
     Natural Resources Wales
     Natural England open data
     Northern Ireland


    Generally these factors produce subtle changes to the boundary and do not trigger the need for re-consultation with site owners/occupiers and other stakeholders. On December 22 2015, the UK submitted updated GIS boundaries for all Natura 2000 sites based on CNCB data as at the end of July 2015. This ensures that the versions of the site boundaries submitted to the European Union are as close as possible to the CNCB versions.


    The intention, from September/October 2016 onwards is to update the EU submitted boundaries to synchronise with the CNCB versions on an annual basis.


    Many users will find that the very latest CNCB versions are more suited to their needs than the annually updated 'officially submitted' version.



    Natura 2000 sites (SAC and SPA) with marine components

    SACs with marine components are those sites which contain qualifying Habitats Directive Annex I marine habitats and/or qualifying Annex II marine species (where these species are reliant on the marine environment within SAC boundaries). SPAs with marine components are defined as those sites with qualifying Birds Directive Annex I species or regularly occurring migratory species that are dependent on the marine environment for all or part of their lifecycle, where these species are found in association with intertidal or subtidal habitats. Please note that the definitions of both 'SACs with marine components' and 'SPAs with marine components' are non-statutory, and do not affect SAC or SPA management (the sites' features are managed regardless of whether they are classed as marine or not).



    Details of the most recent updates

    Designation type Last updated Size (Mb)
    SAC 26 March 2019 80 Mb
    SACs with marine components 9th April 2019 50 Mb
    SPA 26 March 2019 45 Mb
    SPAs with marine components 14th December 2018 41 Mb
    Ramsar 05 December 2018 26 Mb


    Format of data supply

    The data are supplied only as ArcView shape files (the format required for submission to the EC). Most GIS software packages have conversion routines to change the data to a different format (e.g. MapInfo has a shape file to MapInfo file conversion routine). ArcGIS users (version 3, version 8 and version 9) will be able to use the shape files in their current format. For ease of use and analysis, the dataset has been 'dissolved' so that each individual SAC, SPA and Ramsar site has only one multipart polygon.


    Data that can be linked to the spatial information (attribute data)

    The attribute data supplied by JNCC with the boundary datasets includes the name of the site and the standard EU site code (e.g. UK0001234). Other attribute data, e.g. details of interest features on each designated site are available in the Excel spreadsheets included in the GIS downloads or available separately:

    SAC spatial/attribute data (from Jan 2016 onwards combined with SPA data)
    SPA spatial/attribute data (from Jan 2016 onwards combined with SAC data)
    Ramsar spatial/attribute data

    These spreadsheets can be used to filter the UK dataset in many different ways. For example, once you have imported the SAC boundary dataset into your GIS package, you can import a table of data from the SAC spreadsheet, and relate the two using the site code. (This is much more reliable than linking on the site name). The spreadsheet itself contains comments giving an explanation of each attribute. For further details on how you can use attribute data from the spreadsheet in your GIS package, you should contact JNCC's data custodian (email: , tel. +44 (0)1733 - 866 862.



    Re-use of the data is subject to the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 including attribution of the relevant copyright holders.

    If you re-use this information you must acknowledge the source in your product or application by including or linking to the following attribution statements:

     Contains Joint Nature Conservation Committee data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains Natural England data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains Scottish Natural Heritage data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains Natural Resources Wales data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains Northern Ireland Environment Agency data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains Isle of Man Government data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains UK Hydrographic Office data © copyright and database right [year].
     Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right [year].


    If you have any queries, please contact JNCC: Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Monkstone House, Peterborough PE1 1JY, or telephone +44 (0)1733 - 562626.



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