The Championing Coastal Coordination (3Cs) project was an Environment Agency funded initiative with support from Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation and the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities. It sought to explore how to enhance and progress coordination for coastal sustainability and resilience in England. It ran from September 2021 to March 2022.
The national Coastal Partnerships Network (CPN) was awarded 3Cs funding to showcase how coastal partnerships can connect national and regional coastal, catchment and marine networks and stakeholders. As part of this overall bid a number of regional submissions were included; the 3Cs south was one of these encompassing the Solent Forum, Dorset Coast Forum and the Isle of Wight Estuaries Partnership.
Three coastal partnerships in the south, Solent Forum, Dorset Coast Forum and Isle of Wight Estuaries Partnership, worked together to produce a Handbook to showcase their work to government agencies and wider coastal stakeholders. We identified areas for improvement and made recommendations for improved coastal integration, funding, and governance. We include a complete set of recommendations.
This handbook can be used at both a local and national level. Locally to demonstrate to coastal partnership stakeholders the value of being part of a partnership, and nationally to show how local partnership working can help deliver improved coastal and marine management.
On the south coast three coastal partnerships, Solent Forum, Dorset Coast Forum and Isle of Wight Estuaries Partnership, worked together to produce this Handbook for the Environment Agency funded Coordinating Coastal Communities Project (3Cs). It is a component of a larger project bid from the national Coastal Partnership Network (CPN). It aims to showcase the work of these coastal partnerships to government agencies and wider coastal stakeholders. It identifies areas for improvement and makes recommendations for improved coastal integration, funding, and governance. It includes a complete set of recommendations.
Coastal partnerships reflect the geographical and human aspects of the area in which they sit. Their core services promote and share multi-sector information to encourage collaboration, avoid duplication and provide an effective mechanism for improving access to evidence. They can host material on their independent websites to share information via hubs to stakeholders and can be commissioned to deliver projects. Where there are partnership gaps, they can help by using their knowledge and expertise to identify relevant people and organisations.
Examples of how the 3Cs south partnerships deliver improved outcomes are explored within the handbook under the following headings.
There is no standard model for a coastal partnership, and this should be seen as a strength. Being flexible and politically independent allows open sharing of ideas and mutual support across a wide range of coastal stakeholders. Successful partnerships reflect a local need and can help their statutory members deliver their functions and duties.
The partnerships in 3Cs south are successful and they play a key role in facilitating the integration of coastal and marine management. They do this through their core services by transferring knowledge and bringing about opportunities for networking between coastal and marine sectors. Coastal Partnerships do need more engagement and support from national government; the 3Cs south already have good support from local government bodies. More support from the Marine Management Organisation would be welcome both in terms of funding provision and allowing local staff time to assist with coastal partnership work. Government should also formally recognise that coastal partnerships can provide an effective vehicle to bring stakeholders together to collaborate and deliver key policy, particularly environmental policy such as Local Nature Recovery Strategies.
Coastal and marine management in England is characterised by complex statutory and non-statutory governance. It is well documented that there is a need for improved integration in England and across devolved administrations’ borders. This is better achieved by partnership working and delivery rather than strategic aspiration. There are real opportunities for better integration of environmental governance and policy. A government framework and guidelines for an integrated ecosystems approach, based on natural capital understanding and the stacking of benefits, would be welcome at the coast. The development of effective Nature Recovery Strategies is important, and it is hoped that the government will set ambitious strategic coast and marine net gain targets. There is also a need to solve the barrier of additionality at designated sites. Coastal partnerships can help bring together a range of stakeholders including the Defra family to support consensus building. It is hoped that we can build an improved system of streamlined consents as currently this is a significant barrier to restoration projects in terms of complexity and funding. Defra’s 25 Year plan and the Marine Management Organisations high level objectives provide a direction of travel, but there are no detailed costed actions for delivery.
The national Coastal Partnership Network (CPN) already provides a valuable service to coastal partnerships in England, as well as cross border partnerships. Its annual Coastal Partnership Network meeting and its facilitation of colleague discussions is highly valued. The network has evolved over many years and is largely run voluntarily. Now is the time for it to be set on a more formal footing to deliver additional services and increase partnership working and collaboration.
To help the national CPN evolve, government funding is required for at least five years for paid staff to build a national framework for coastal integration and develop an improved service to support the numerous local coastal partnerships. The CPN could also administer a national funding pot that local coastal partnerships can access to support their work. Should a model like the Catchment Based Approach (CaBa) be considered for the coast, with an associated national funding stream, any monitoring and evaluation criteria should be kept simple and be based around current outputs of business plans, annual reports, and work programmes. Joint national evaluation would enable smaller partnerships to contribute their outputs without having to meet all the criteria.
For existing successful locally funded Coastal Partnerships the national CPN should work with them, supplementing their strengths and recognising that a centralised national model may not be the best approach for them given their strong independence and neutrality. The Solent Forum and Dorset Coast Forum should be recognised as separate regional hubs, although it may be of benefit for one to be a single point of contact for the region.
It would be of benefit to Coastal Partnerships if the government could recognise (and remedy) that the structure and hosting arrangements for existing local coastal partnerships can place barriers to them from bidding for national funding streams; and that national government funding should not preclude coastal partnerships from receiving funding from local offices and vice versa.