Managing the coast in England and Wales

Recent years have seen changes in the approach to managing coastal change in England and Wales. The economic cost and environmental impact of building defences against erosion and tidal flooding mean that society can’t afford to defend everywhere, as we might have done in the past. For some communities, who face a change in how their coast is managed, this approach is controversial.

The risk of tidal flooding and erosion along our coastline today  is managed through a mixture of hard and soft defences. Soft defences include natural features like beaches, sand dunes and saltmarshes, which absorb energy from the waves. Hard defences include embankments, boulders (rock armour), sea walls and rock filled baskets (gabions), which are generally built and maintained by the Environment Agency.

The entire coastline of England and Wales is divided into sections know as “cells” each of which comes under a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). SMPs define management policies for the cells over the next 25, 50 and 100 years, with a view to reducing the exposure of populations, assets and the environment to risks of erosion and tidal flooding.

SMPs identify where to invest in coastal defences, where to allow the coast to evolve naturally and, in some cases they identify areas where defences will no longer be maintained, in order to create new intertidal habitat. This is called managed realignment. SMPs do not detail  how to implement these policies. For example, they don’t specify exactly  how high a sea wall should be, what it should be made of or how it will be funded. These issues are explored in more depth in the next stage of coastal management planning known as Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategies.

Find out more about Shoreline Management Plans

Poole Harbour, and the surrounding coast, is covered by the Poole and Christchurch Bays Shoreline Management Plan which was completed in Autumn 2011.

The Exe Estuary falls within the stretch of coast covered by the South Devon and Dorset (Durlston Head to Rame Head) Shoreline Management Plan.

Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategies for Exe Estuary and Poole Harbour

The Environment Agency, in partnership with local authorities and other bodies, has produced Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategies for the Exe Estuary and Poole Harbour. These strategies aim to identify and assess what various options there are when it comes to implementing the management policies described in the Shoreline Management Plans.

Powderham banks on the Exe Estuary protects the mainline railway from flooding

Find out more:

You can find out more about the Exe Estuary Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy here  series of LiCCo factsheets are available which give more details about the issues being considered and the process of developing a strategy.  A formal public consulation took place  from January to March 2013 and the draft Strategy was amended as a result, before submisison to the UK Government for approval.The Strategy sets out the short term priorities for managing flood risk around the Exe Estuary and also identifies work that will be needed over the next 100 years to keep pace with sea level rise.

Poole Harbour (and the surrounding coast between Durslton and Hengisbury head is covered  by the Poole Bay, Poole Harbour and Wareham Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy.