The Standing Conference on Problems Associated with the Coastline (SCOPAC) is an influential network of local authorities and other key organisations that share an interest in the sustainable management of the shoreline of central southern England.
The group came together in 1986 following a two day conference held on the Isle of Wight (‘Problems Associated with the Coastline’ April 1985), in order to help resolve a number of issues:
- The complexity of the natural processes at work along the coastline;
- The many issues and conflicting interests affecting the coastal zone;
- The roles and responsibilities of the multitude of local and government authorities, agencies and other bodies with an interest in shoreline management;
- The degree of isolation in which these authorities were obliged to take decisions at that time, which so frequently have knock-on effects on the interests of others.
The SCOPAC inaugural meeting in October 1986 established a two-tier system comprising:
- A Full Conference comprising a forum for elected members (mainly local authority politicians), interest groups and technical officers. The aim of the Full Conference was to meet and exchange information, and to approve a sub-regional research programme.
- A separate Officers’ Working Group, comprising technical officers, was established to investigate coastal issues, carry out research and provide feedback to the Full Conference.
In April 2008 the Environment Agency was given a ‘strategic overview for sea flooding and coastal erosion risk management’ (Coastal Strategic Overview) by Defra; as part of that overview the existing sixteen regional coastal defence groups for England and Wales were restructured with the aim of providing a streamlined and focused delivery of coastal erosion risk management for the future.
In response to these changes:
- The SCOPAC Full Conference re-established itself as an important political voice for the coast of southern central England, whilst
- The Officers’ Working Group became the Southern Coastal Group.
The EA Coastal Strategic Overview
The 2008 Coastal Strategic Overview for the Environment Agency (EA) was an important development; it meant that the EA took responsibility for much of what had been Defra’s Coast Protection function and for the first time one organisation had overall responsibility for the management of all coastal risks. It also created fewer, bigger and more strategic regional Coastal Groups, with sixteen becoming the seven Coastal Groups of England that exist today.
Whilst the Environment Agency and local coast protection authorities had been working together effectively in many ways for a number of years, the Strategic Overview provided the opportunity for closer collaboration on coastal risk management, particularly in the context of climate change.