Digging Guidelines:
How to get permissoin to dig on a SSSI

SSSI Digging Guidelines

A SSSI is a Site of Special Scientific Interest

SSSIs are areas of land above or below ground which have been designated by Natural England for their unique flora, fauna or geological interest. Natural England is the statutory body responsible for the monitoring and protection of these sites.

Most of the Cave systems of the Dales are designated SSSIs. The owner / occupier of a SSSI must "notify" Natural England if they wish to undertake work which is considered likely to damage the SSSI features of interest. This includes works by third parties such as cavers looking for new entrances.

Natural England may choose to "Consent" a "Notification" of a landowner's intent to carry out work. This means that Natural England takes on the liability for the work for the specified duration of the "Consent".

If you want to dig a cave entrance you should follow these guidelines:

  • Ask the landowner for permission;
  • Check to see if the site is within a SSSI boundary. See the link to maps below. If not a SSSI then only landowner permission required. If it is a SSSI, then continue down this list;
  • Landowner submits a "Notification to undertake works" form to Natural England;
  • Natural England's Conservation Adviser will make a site visit and discuss any areas of concern they may have (usually regarding where spoil is to be located);
  • Natural England sends the Landowner written "Consent" for the works for a specific time, usually a couple of years;
  • You may now commence your dig.

This official procedure can be speeded up by the cavers submitting a notification to NE on behalf of the Owner/ Occupier (with their agreement). Make sure the notification includes your intended goal and how you intend to go about it, plus what you intend to do to restore the site after gaining entry or if the dig fails.

If you want to dig underground you should follow these guidelines:

  • Ask the landowner for permission;
  • Do your research, has anyone dug here before?
  • If the cave is a SSSI you may need Natural England "Consent";
  • Seek advice on the scientific value of the sediments you're digging;
  • Be careful with the storing of spoil, avoid contamination elsewhere in the cave;
  • Have 'conservation tape' available for the moment of breakthrough (available from CNCC);
  • Keep your dig site safe and remove all equipment at the end of the project;
  • Report any archaeological finds immediately to the CNCC Conservation Officer.

Natural England encourages cave exploration when undertaken with care and forethought.

If you are lucky enough to discover new passage it is your personal responsibility to conserve the pristine condition by applying all reasonable conservation measures immediately (not after an hour of excited explorations).

Future generations will judge harshly on failure to respect a fragile cave environment through thoughtless actions by impatient original explorers.

Good Luck and Happy Digging!

Obtaining permisson

To acquire a SSSI "notification" form contact our conservation officer, Kay Easton (conservation@cncc.org.uk), who will put you in touch with the Natural England Cave Conservation Adviser for advice and guidance. Alternativly you can contact Natural England directly - enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

SSSI location map

Digging guidelines leaflet

Copyright 2024 Council of Northern Caving Clubs.