What happens if you despoil an area that is designated as ans SSSI?
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by teh Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 the Magistrates Court has power both to fine and issue a Restoration Order if an SSSI is damaged. The Prosecuting authority is Natural England.
Section 28P(6) provides that it is an offence for " a person who without reasonable excuse intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages any of the flora, fauna or geological or physiographical features by reason of which land is of special interest, or intentionally or recklessly disturbs any of those fauna and knew that what he destroyed, damaged or disturbed was within a Site of Special Scientific..."
Section 31 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as substituted by Schedule 9 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provide that where a person is convicted of an offence under section 28P of that Act, the Court where he is convicted, in addition to dealing with the offender in any other way, may make a Restoration Order specifying operations for the purpose of restoring the SSSI to its former condition prior to the damage occurring. If the terms of the Restoration Order are not complied with, English Nature may enter the land and carry out those operations recovering from the person against whom the Restoration Order was made, any expenses reasonably incurred by English Nature in doing so. It also an offence, without reasonable excuse, not comply with the terms of the Restoration Order.
Note that the provisions only relate to SSSI designated areas. It is expected that the transposition of the Environmental Liability Directive in 4/07 and, possilby, the proposed Marine Act (2008?) will advance the position somewhat.
See here for details of the first case to be heard
Information by Genewatch on GMO liability can be found here