The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Coastal Plans and Strategies

There are over numerous management plans and initiatives covering all or part of the Solent that address issues such as nature conservation, coastal defence and emergency planning. They operate at a range of scales from the European level down to site specific.  The main types of plans are detailed below; they are split into statutory and non-statutory plans.

Statutory Plans


European Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to achieve Good Environmental Status in Europe’s seas by 2020. Member States are required to produce a Marine Strategy for their waters, in collaboration with other Member States in their marine region.  On 20 April 2009, the UK Government, Welsh Assembly Government, Northern Ireland Executive and Scottish Government published their joint High Level Objectives for the UK marine area.  They set out the vision and outcomes that all UK Administrations are seeking to achieve in the UK marine area.

European Marine Management Schemes

The European Community has adopted two Directives in response to its obligations under the Bern Convention: Council Directive 79/409/EEC (the Birds Directive), and Council Directive 92/43/EEC (the Species and Habitats Directive). These Directives provide for the protection of animal and plant species of European importance and the habitats which support them, particularly through the establishment of a network of protected sites. This network and its associated management schemes are commonly referred to as European Marine Management Schemes.

Schemes covering the Solent are:


Defra 25 Year Plan

The UK Government’s 25 year Environment Plan was published early in 2018. Chapter 5 of the Plan sets out some commitments to secure clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans. The headlines are to achieve a sustainable fisheries policy and achieve good environmental status. Key commitments that are relevant to the coast include:
  1. Setting gold standards in protecting and growing natural capital – leading the world in using this approach as a tool in decision-making.
  2. Seeking to embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle for development to deliver environmental improvements locally and nationally.
  3. Expanding the net gain approaches used for biodiversity to include wider natural capital benefits, such as flood protection, recreation and improved water and air quality.

River Basin Management Planning

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) sets out a detailed framework for the improved protection and management of water, from source to sea, and requires all inland and coastal waters to reach 'good ecological status or potential' by 2015. It aims to do this by establishing river basin districts within which environmental standards and objectives will be set, including ecological targets for surface waters.  Developing the plans is the responsibility of the Environment Agency.

The WFD requires the identification of river basin districts (RBD). River basin districts are made up of groups of catchments (rivers, streams, lakes and the land that drain into them). Groundwaters, rivers, estuaries (transitional waters), coastal waters and artificial waters (such as canals) are assigned to the most appropriate districts. For each RBD the water bodies have been identified according to the biology, hydrology and physio-chemical characteristics, following guidelines from the Directive. Environmental standards and objectives will be defined for these water bodies. The Solent lies within the South East River Basin District.

Marine Plans

Marine plans guide those who use and regulate the marine area to encourage sustainable development while considering the environment, economy and society. They provide guidance on things to promote or avoid for some locations. the Solent lies within the South Marine Plan area.

National Policy Statements

National Policy Statements (NPSs) are provided for by the Planning Act 2008.  The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), also created under that Act, will be required (subject to certain statutory exceptions) to determine planning cases in accordance with the relevant NPS, once it has been ratified after consultation.  Under the present system, harbour developments are subject to harbour revision or empowerment orders under the Harbours Act 1964.  In some cases additional planning consents under Town and Country Planning legislation, and/or the Transport and Works Act, are required in parallel.  The new system will simplify applications by providing for these consents to be combined in one Development Consent Order.

Local Nature Recovery Strategies

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are a flagship measure in the Environment Bill. They will consist of:

The strategies will be a statutory requirement of the upcoming Environment Bill. This means that local councils will be required to develop one when the Bill becomes law. Councils will then have to report on progress on the LNRS every five years.


Local Planning

Local plans are prepared by the Local Planning Authority (LPA), usually the Council or the national park authority for the area. They must be prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and the National Planning Policy Framework. Coastal Change Management Areas are areas identified in Local Plans as likely to be affected by coastal change (physical change to the shoreline through erosion, coastal landslip, permanent inundation or coastal accretion). Defra encourages all coastal local planning authorities to sign up to the coastal concordat to help streamline the consenting process for coastal development.

Local authorities will have a specific regard to the Marine Policy Statement and adjacent Marine Plans in their coastal planning and decision making. Use our members directory to find the contact details of local authorities in the Solent, our planning pages provide links to local plans in the Solent.

Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs)

SMPs provide a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal processes and present a long term policy framework to reduce these risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment in a sustainable manner. An SMP is a high level document that forms an important element of the strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management.  Many operating authorities adopt the recommendations of their SMP as a basis for the production of individual strategic plans, monitoring programmes and studies for all or part of their coastline.

The Environment Agency has the strategic overview role for managing all sea flooding and coastal erosion risk on the coast. The Solent lies within the Southern Coastal Group, which is the body that gives advice on coastal issues and influences strategic and sustainable policies, plans and programmes to best manage coastal risks.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Management Plans

The primary purpose of the AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, with two secondary aims: meeting the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside; and having regard for the interests of those who live and work there. To achieve these aims, AONBs rely on planning controls and practical countryside management. There are two AONB plans covering the Solent:

Non-Statutory Plans

Coastal Management Plans

Coastal management plans cover a distinct geographical area of coast and review a diverse range of issues occurring within that location, identify management measures and strategies. Plans around the Solent include:

Estuary and Harbour Management Plans

Estuary and Harbour Management Plans review the uses and issues that take place within that harbour or estuary and seek to promote good practice and resolve any conflicts. They also facilitiate partnership working for all the relevant stakeholders and develop partnership based projects.

Plans within the Solent include:


The SOLFIRE plan is the voluntary emergency plan covering maritime incidents in the Solent. The Solent is dividied into SOLFIRE West, SOLFIRE East and SOLFIRE South with command centres at Southampton, Portsmouth and Lee-on-the-Solent respectively. This plan includes SOLSPILL, the reporting system for oil spillages.

The Marine Coastguard Agency takes the lead role in all maritime pollution and search and rescue incidents. Local authorities have responsibilities for marine emergencies (such as oil pollution or stranded passengers) once they come ashore or above the mean low water mark.

Marine non-Licensable Activities

There is a statutory duty for individual Relevant Authorities to monitor marine and coastal non-licensable activities on the condition of designated sites. These activities do not require a marine licence under section 66 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The MMO is responsible for the management of marine non-licensable activities which take place within its jurisdiction (0 to 12 nautical miles). Marine non-licensable activities include activities like sailing, powerboating and diving.

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