Until relatively recently, coastal defences were constructed on an ad-hoc basis over relatively short lengths of coastline. They did not consider the impact on existing properties, coastal processes or the environment, and often caused erosion and flooding problems down drift. Increasing pressures on the coastal zone for more housing, marine trade and industry, and the demand for coast-based recreational activities also affects and influences existing and future coastal defence requirements. The Flood and Water Management Act, 2010 gave the Environment Agency an overview of all flood and coastal erosion risk management.
The Southeast Strategic Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme provides a consistent regional approach to coastal process monitoring, providing information of the development of strategic shoreline management plans, coastal defence strategies and operational management of coastal protection and flood defence. The programme is managed on behalf of the Coastal Groups and is funded by DEFRA, in partnership with the maritime Local Authorities and the Environment Agency Southeast Region.
In 2012, an agreement was signed between four local authorities to combine forces to form the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership. The initiative consists of a small team of specialist coastal officers and engineers who centrally manage coastal flood and erosion risk across 162km of coastline in the Eastern Solent. Defra and the Environment Agency have recognised this Partnership as an example of best practice.
Defra has overall national responsibility for policy on flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) in England. The department provides funding for flood risk management through grants to the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards. These risk management authorities and others have their own responsibilities and powers that they can use in order to carry out these responsibilities.
There are three basic tiers of management for coastal defence:
A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is a broad assessment of the long-term risks associated with coastal processes. The document identifies and recommends strategic and sustainable coastal defence policy options for particular lengths of coast to reduce these risks to people, the developed and natural environments.The plan informs, and is supported by, the statutory planning process. An SMP considers the objectives, policies and management requirements for 3 epochs;
The aims of an SMP are to identify and recommend technically, economically and environmentally sustainable policies for management of the shoreline in order to balance the management of coastal flooding and erosion risks, with natural processes, and the consequences of climate change.
The Environment Agency considers a wide range of different measures to address the flood and coastal erosion risk to communities and property. The measures needed for each location are considered on a case by case basis. Some of the measures that may be considered include; building flood and coastal defences, flood storage reservoirs, land management and portable defences.
Coast protection schemes are specific capital projects that arise from plans and studies; they typically include a phased programme of works, maintenance and monitoring. Any coastal protection and flood defence scheme must be technically and economically sound and sustainable, environmentally acceptable and conform to the relevant licences and procedures to gain permission and government grant aid funding.