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Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs)

Short (0-20 years), medium (20-50 years) and long term (50-100 years) planning for flood and coastal risk management.

A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is a high level, non-statutory policy document for coastal defence management planning.

It provides a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal processes (including tidal patterns, wave height, wave direction and the movement of beach and seabed materials) and the consequences of climate change. It addresses the risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment in a sustainable manner, providing a ‘route map’ for local authorities and other decision makers to move towards meeting future needs. It also provides advice to operating authorities and private landowners on the management of their defences.

There are five Shoreline Management Plans within the SCOPAC area of interest:

In 1994 the Coastal Groups and local authorities of England & Wales were encouraged by Government to adopt the concept of Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs), with a view to providing a more strategic and sustainable approach to coastal defence:

  • the first SMPs (SMP1) were completed by 2000;
  • SMP2 was the first review of those documents, completed by 2010;
  • an SMP Refresh is planned for 2019

SMPs divide the 6,000 mile shoreline of England & Wales into a series of cells and sub cells defined by coastal type and processes such as the movement of beach and seabed sediment (sand, shingle, etc) within and between them.

The SMP sediment cells of England & Wales are illustrated on the map (right)

Following broad-brush assessments of the coastal flooding and erosion risks, and taking account of existing defences, people and the developed, historic and natural environments, and adjacent coastal areas, SMPs identify one of four shoreline management policies for sections of coastline (or Policy Units) within a sub-cell.

Shoreline Management Policy options:

  • Hold the Line – maintaining the existing line of defence as it is or changing the standard of protection;
  • Managed Realignment – allowing the shoreline to retreat or advance in a controlled or managed way, either because that is the best approach for a particular stretch of coast, or because the benefits of protection are clearly out of scale with the financial costs;
  • No Active Intervention (do nothing) means that no investment will be made in coastal defences or other operations other than for safety purposes;
  • Advance the Line – involves the building of new defences on the seaward side of existing defences.

The chosen policy must be technically feasible, environmentally acceptable and economically sustainable.

A shoreline management policy is applied per Policy Unit for the short (0-20 years), medium (20-50 years) and long term (50-100 years). Current coastal management objectives are often widely accepted and embedded in local planning policy; any future changes in management and policy need time to be implemented and are often, therefore, set in the later epochs (20-50 and 50-100 years).

Within these short, medium and long term timeframes the SMPs will also include an action plan that prioritises what work is needed to manage coastal processes into the future. This in turn will form the basis for deciding and, subject to available funding, putting in place specific flood and erosion risk management schemes, coastal erosion monitoring and further research on how to best adapt to change.

Consequently the SMPs provide a ‘route map’ assisting local authorities to formulate planning strategies and control future development of the shoreline. In addition, the final plans aid government to determine future national funding requirements for flood and coastal erosion risk management.

Coastal groups such as the Southern Coastal Group and SCOPAC provide a forum for discussion and co-operation and play an important part in the development of Shoreline Management Plans for their area.

SMP Refresh 2019

The Environment Agency write, “Twenty second-generation Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) were developed between 2006 and 2012 in England/cross border with Wales. They were developed inclusively and thoroughly by Coastal Groups – strategic partnership bodies of FCRM Risk Management Authorities (RMAs – principally the Environment Agency and coastal local authorities), government bodies and other stakeholders. SMPs are approved by local councils and finally signed off by the Environment Agency under its Strategic Overview for coastal flood and erosion risk management.

“They are internationally considered a model of strategic planning at the coast. Together they set out the strategic 100-year direction of travel for coastal management for Policy Units covering the entire coast, taking climate change into consideration, and based upon agreed objectives subject to high level economic and environmental assessments. The particulars of delivery of the agreed management approaches (Hold the Line, No Active Intervention, Managed Re-alignment or Advance the Line) are left to more focused Coastal Strategies and scheme design.

“However, nearly a third of management policies contained in them require attention according to a recent review (Environment Agency, 2017), of which about half may be undeliverable as they stand. SMPs require maintenance to be useful, but maintenance activity and effort across the SMPs has been variable. The SMP Refresh will commence in 2019, using a series of review and development activities to make sure the Plans are up to date, reliable and visible, and ensure onward maintenance is easier. The SMP Refresh will ensure SMPs are and remain ‘living’ documents.”

SCOPAC Region SMPs

South Downs SMP2

Beachy Head to Selsey Bill
Lead: Arun District Council

North Solent SMP2

Selsey Bill to Hurst Spit
Lead: New Forest District Council

Bournemouth & Christchurch Bays SMP2

Hurst Spit to Durlston Head
Lead: Bournemouth Borough Council

South Devon & Dorset SMP2

Durlston Head to Rame Head
Lead: Teinbridge District Council

Isle of Wight SMP2

Isle of Wight
Lead: Isle of Wight Council