Find out about our changing coastline and how Shoreline Management Plans will manage the risks of flooding and coastal erosion
What is a Shoreline Management Plan?
A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal processes and helps reduce these risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environments. Coastal processes include tidal patterns, wave height, wave direction and the movement of beach and seabed materials.
How has our shoreline changed over the years?
Shorelines constantly change due to waves and tides. The amount of physical change depends on many things, and happens over timescales from seconds to centuries.
The changing coastline has also been influenced by people’s actions throughout the years, particularly in attempts to stop the effect of erosion or flooding. In some cases, this has taken place without an appreciation of the effect these actions could have on other places up and down the coast.
Increasing pressures on our coast
As changes to our coastline continue, social, economic and environmental pressures are increasing in coastal areas.
People enjoy living by and visiting the coast, and the pressure for more housing is increasing. As international trade increases, so does the demand for port space and associated coastal-based industry.
This sort of development places stress on natural coastal habitats that are often unique and of national and international importance.
The first Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs)
The first SMPs were produced in the mid 1990s. Each length of shoreline is currently managed in a particular way, according to the policies set out in them.
However, since then there have been several major studies. These include:
- UK Climate Impacts Programme
- Catchment Flood Management Plans
- Strategic Flood Risk Assessments carried out by local authorities.
All these studies have provided new information, and in light of this the current shoreline management policies may no longer be practical or acceptable in the long term. For example:
- predictions of sea level rise due to climate change have increased dramatically since the first round of SMPs, and need to be incorporated into the second generation;
- the current defences may have a limited life and improvements may not be economically, socially, technically or environmentally practical;
- changes in the shoreline may result in new approaches being necessary to manage future risks.
The second generation of Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs)
The second generation of Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) are currently in production, covering the entire 6000 kilometres of coast in England and Wales.
Current coastal management objectives are often widely accepted and embedded in local planning policy. Therefore, wholesale changes to existing flood and erosion defence management practices may not always be appropriate in the very short term, and communities, businesses and wildlife habitats all need time to adjust.
Consequently, the SMPs will provide a ‘route map’ for local authorities and other decision makers to move from the present situation towards meeting our future needs, and will identify the most sustainable approaches to managing the risks to the coast in the short term (0-20 years), medium term (20-50 years) and long term (50-100 years).
Within these timeframes, the SMPs will also include an action plan that prioritises what work is needed to manage coastal processes into the future, and where it will happen. This in turn will form the basis for deciding and putting in place specific flood and erosion risk management schemes, coastal erosion monitoring and further research on how we can best adapt to change.