Shoreline Management Plans, UK

From Coastal Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This short article presents an overview of UK practice for coastal management. It introduces the concept of shoreline management plans, their key components and the history of their development.


Figure 1: Coastal cells as defined for the English coast.

Within the UK, the planning of new coastal defence schemes is now carried out within the context of a shoreline management plan (SMP). The coastline of England has been divided into 11 primary coastal cells and a series of sub cells defined within each primary cell. Despite the inherent fuzziness of the boundaries of a coastal cell, it is nevertheless a very useful concept for coastal zone management. The concept of SMPs was developed by the UK government Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Many other coastal authorities throughout the world have adopted or are beginning to adopt a similar policy.


The aim of a shoreline management plan is to provide the basis for sustainable coastal defence policies within a coastal cell and to set objectives for the future management of the shoreline.

Key components

To fulfil this aim four key components and their interrelationships need to be considered. These are:

• the coastal processes,

• the coastal defences,

• land use and the human and built environment,

• the natural environment.

Developing a sustainable defence policy

An understanding of the interrelationships between coastal processes and coastal defence is fundamental to developing a sustainable defence policy. The need for coastal defence schemes arises from effects on land use and the funding of such schemes relies on an economic assessment of whether the benefits of defence outweigh the costs of construction. Finally, the effects of defence schemes on the natural environment must be very carefully considered and an environmental assessment carried out. Environmental hazards and opportunities should be identified and schemes should be designed to conserve or enhance the natural environment. Where conflicts arise between the needs for defence and conservation, these must be resolved by the environmental assessment.

History of SMPs

• DEFRA guidance 1993/1995

• 39 SMPs completed in 1999

• SMP1 Review for DEFRA published in 2000

• DEFRA/WAG guidance published 2001

• FUTURECOAST research published 2002

• Updated SMP Procedural Guidance 2011

• 2019 round of SMPs

Related articles

Shoreline management
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

The main author of this article is Prof. Chadwick, Andrew John
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Prof. Chadwick, Andrew John (2020): Shoreline Management Plans, UK. Available from,_UK [accessed on 25-05-2024]