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Working in and around the countryside sometimes requires a knowledge of the law. Some UK Acts of Parliament are now on line, and more are promised. But, frankly, reading Acts of Parliament is not going to achieve much. You need to know the application of the law, and that's what you might be able to find via this page.
The internet is full of organisations, including pressure groups, who have produced their own guides to the law, which of course can be of interest to the "gamekeeper" as well as the "poacher" (sometimes literally). Naturenet has some links to these sites for their legal information, but be aware that sometimes external sites will be written from a particular point of view.
Acts of Parliament and what they mean
There are a huge number of Acts which could be relevant to the countryside and wildlife, but here you can find our in-depth analysis of the two most important ones which cover a wide range of issues:
and Rights of Way Act 2000:
read our full analysis.
The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981: still the major legal instrument concerning wildlife and countryside, as the name might suggest. This page gives plenty of detail about the Act, including the 'schedules' - the lists of what is protected.
Protected species and sites
and the law:
a comprehensive guide to the provisions of the Wildlife & Countryside
Act as applied to wild birds. Includes schedules, and updated Schedule
Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Other protected areas.
Protection of plants, including bryophytes.
Bats and the law.
Protection of amphibians and reptiles.
Protection of other animals.
European protected species: the law concerning the protection of certain species (including great crested newts, all bats, and cetacea) is even stricter because of these regulations.
a whole section dedicated to the many aspects of tree and hedgerow law.
Dogs in the countryside.
English Common Law: includes theft, trespass, etc.
Nuisance: what it is and what to do if someone thinks you are one!
Weeds: noxious or otherwise! What to do about Ragwort, Japanese knotweed and more.
Rights for water users and river owners: includes access to beaches, towpaths, lakes, and rivers.
High hedges: what to do about them and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.
Vehicles, parking and the Road Traffic Act 1991: useful provisions against unauthorised vehicle use.
Children Act 1989: why you probably do not need to worry about this Act.
Taxidermy and the Law - if you're tempted to say 'stuff it' then consult this interesting and comprehensive resource first.
The Country Code and the new Countryside Code.
Planning and development control ... or not.
Guns and weapons.
Shooting, hunting and angling seasons.
Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, and subsequent regulations: Riddor, COSHH, Risk Assessment and PPE - if these words mean nothing to you and you are part of a business of some sort, even if you are a volunteer, then you ought to look at this. With particular relevance to countryside work.
Flytipping: what to do if someone dumps rubbish.
Boundaries and encroachment: what happens when people move their boundaries.
Common land: what it is and what it is not.
Treasure: digging up old things and what you have to do if it turns out to be valuable.
An overview of UK law on environmental protection (as opposed to just Countryside).
Other Legislation and References (UK)
- Wildlife Crime: a good starting point for any query - it's the Government's own pages so you'd hope it would be right. Look here first. If the page moves, as it does all too often, use the search facility on the DirectGov website.
Garden law: an authoritative source of answers to several garden (and indeed any property) law questions, including trees, walls, boundaries and garden burials.
Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996.
Red squirrels and the law (pdf): a very comprehensive guide to reds and the law - also good background for just about any animal protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976: mostly about keeping dangerous animals, such as big cats, in captivity.
Acts of parliament: from HMSO. Check this for text of all acts from 1988.
DEFRA page on the Weeds Act 1959: covering ragwort and other weeds (but not Japanese knotweed).
Passing legislation: a general guide to how laws are passed (or not) in the UK, from the Wildlife Trusts.
Fishing in England: the Environment Agency is the place to go for up-to-date advice, or even to buy your licence online.
Basic law for road protesters: an online publication by a barrister, which is described as anti-copyright. Extremely well-written and authoritative, though now out-of-date. Includes useful sections on the Public Order Act and Aggravated Trespass. Worth reading whether you intend to protest, or try to prevent a protest. Correct up to January 1996 so now very old in legal terms, so read with caution and be sure to get up-to-date advice if you need it.
Public Record Office finding aids: look up the leaflet on byelaws to discover everything about byelaws.
Hedgeline: a campaigning group trying to change the law about 'problem hedges' Such hedges are usually, but not always made of leyland cypress.
Bats and the law: from the bat people.
The Earthrights charity: a charity to do with providing legal help for environmental campaigns in the UK. They have an impressive back catalogue!
nature conservation law and policy : a very wide selection of laws
and statutes, directives, you name it.
CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. An international agreement about trade connected with endangered species.
Overview of Swedish countryside law: it's radically different from ours!
New Zealand nature conservation legislation.
Everything on this page refers to the law in England and Wales unless it says otherwise. This means that outside England and Wales readers should seek other advice to be sure of the exact nature of the law. In many cases the law will be the the same or similar in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but not always. (see these links for more info: Wildlife law in Scotland; Wildlife law in Northern Ireland.) As far as countries outside the UK are concerned readers should assume that these laws do not apply to them. Some countries and states have based their law on English common law but most have not, so it would be best to make enquiries locally.