Shoreline Management Plan

What is a Shoreline Management Plan?

A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is a high-level, non-statutory, policy document planning the future management of the coastline and coastal defences. It promotes management policies into the 22nd century that achieve long-term objectives without committing future generations to unsustainable practices.

Why do we need Shoreline Management Plans?

The Changing Coastline

The coastline is undergoing constant change from the natural processes of waves, tides and winds which move sediment around the coast and estuaries. The amount of change depends on the driving forces, such as storms and sea level rise, and constraints imposed by geology and degree of human intervention.

Alongside these changes, social, economic and environmental pressures are increasing in coastal areas. Development on the coast and within estuaries, creating new homes, industry and businesses results in a greater need to protect land against coastal flooding and erosion. However, building and maintaining coastal defences is increasingly expensive and it is now recognised that artificially defended coasts can sometimes be detrimental to the natural environment. There are also no guarantees that continuously maintaining and building coastal defences will lead to better protection as risk of flooding and erosion could increase as a result of climate change.

Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

Much of the present shoreline of the UK has been shaped by sea level rise following the last ice age. New studies show that sea level rise is rapidly increasing again due to climate change. This will result in significant changes to the coast, such as:

  • Greater frequency of storms
  • Increased wave heights
  • Increased erosion
  • Increasing rainfall; and
  • Increasing fluvial flows

Higher sea levels and more frequent storms will increase erosion and flooding at the coast. In order to provide the current standard of protection coastal defences would have to be improved. Construction of new defences can be expensive and detrimental to the natural environment. Alternative approaches to deal with the risk from flooding and coastal erosion are now considered alongside upgrading and building new coastal defences.

What does this mean?

A long term plan is needed to enable the changing coast and the effects of climate change to be managed. Shoreline Management Plans (SMP) identify the best way to manage the coast over a long period of time, taking into consideration the social, environmental and economic effects of different ways of protecting communities and land against coastal flooding and erosion. SMPs provide evidence and guidance for Local Authorities to manage flood and coastal erosion risk.

Technology and understanding of climate change has changed considerably since the last SMPs were produced in 1999. The existing SMPs are currently being reviewed to take this increase of knowledge and understanding into account.

The coastline is changing and it will not stay as it is. If we continue to defend into the future as we have done in the past, the result will be:

  • Hard defended areas becoming headlands
  • Loss of intertidal areas and beaches in front of defences
  • Increased stress on the shoreline, where beaches are lost and the coastline is more exposed to storms
  • Increased flooding and erosion hazards; and
  • The need for more substantial and expensive defences

This means we need a 100-year plan to co-ordinate how the coast is managed and take the opportunity to get the best out of it.

Shoreline Management Plan 2

Working with others, the North West England and North Wales Coastal Group (made up of coastal Local Authorities, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales and English Heritage) have reviewed the existing Shoreline Management Plan and produced SMP2.

The policies contained within the SMP2 were adopted by Cabinet in September 2010.

The Shoreline Management Plan and supporting documentation can be downloaded from the North West and North Wales Coastline's website.