The Solent Forum is just one of numerous coastal partnerships around the coast of the UK. Coastal partnerships bring together an area's coastal community to address issues of concern, share best practiceand resources, and facilitate communication. Most partnerships have a small staff that are based in the offices of one of the organisations with a coastal remit, they organise regular events and meetings and run partnership projects.
The boundary of each partnership is set by a distinct geographical unit rather than man-made administrative boundaries. This enables the section of coast in question to be managed in a coherent comprehensive way. For example, the Solent Forum encompasses the East and West Solent and all its constituent estuaries, of both the mainland and the Isle of Wight’s coast.
Coastal Partnerships are at the forefront of providing mechanisms to help deliver Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). The experience and value of coastal partnerships should be harnessed in the UK marine planning system by the Marine Management Organisation, under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
Since the early 1990's over 50 Coastal Partnerships have been set up around the UK coast. These partnership initiatives have evolved from a 'bottom-up' approach, with people involved from local communities, clubs and user groups to local authorities, statutory agencies, industries, water companies, port & harbour authorities and NGOs. They have existed on ad-hoc funding contributions from local partners. On this basis they have provided significant value for money, levering in support, in-kind benefits and the goodwill of many partners. Many of the benefits are intangible; improved communication, understanding and awareness of coastal issues; access to information and contacts; new collaboration opportunities and research, advising on policy and planning, mobilising community involvement in decision-making; and providing a neutral platform for debate.
There is huge diversity in their approach, but they all have similar unique selling points which make them well placed to deliver ICZM:
The Coastal Partnerships Network (CPN) exists to encourage the exchange of information and debate between Coastal Partnership Officers and to establish links with other coastal stakeholders. In this way the CPN offers increased opportunities for learning and influence, strengthening and supporting Coastal Partnership Officers and encouraging stronger representation of the value of the work of Coastal Partnerships to their supporting partners and other coastal stakeholders and initiatives. Initially called the Coastal Partnerships Working Group, the CPN was established in 2006 to increase communication and collaboration between Coastal Partnerships, to share good practice, to provide a collective voice for Coastal Partnerships at national level and to seek to influence the development of Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategies and the marine planning process. Over 50 Coastal Partnerships, many with up to 20 years experience exist around the UK coast implementing voluntary coastal and estuary management plans and strategies. CPN is run by a small committee of Coastal Partnership Officers who operate on a voluntary basis and report to the annual Coastal Partnerships Forum. Officers of the committee, including the Chair, are elected at this annual event, with other members volunteering their services on a larger Steering Group. Several meetings are held each year and this ensures that momentum on CPN work is kept up between the annual Coastal Partnerships Forums.