Coastal Erosion and Shoreline Management

Understanding the Coastal Erosion and Shoreline Management map and data

The erosion information shown on this website is intended for guidance, and cannot provide details for individual properties.

Erosion zone

The ‘erosion zone’ is the area of land predicted to be at risk from coastal erosion over a defined period of time – not the area that will definitely be lost. The predicted extent of this zone is shown under ‘erosion predicted’ in the results table.

Where we know coastal erosion is occurring, we can make predictions based upon historical evidence, ongoing monitoring and other data to estimate where the shoreline position will be at a certain time.

The annual rate of erosion at a point along the shoreline is often unpredictable; erosion often happens in single events at particular places rather than in a steady, uniform manner.

Instead of showing erosion rates, this website provides the erosion zone  we expect over three timescales - from 2010 (when this data was developed) up to about 2030, up to about 2060 and up to about 2110. It is shown as a range (e.g. ‘0.5 - 3.2 metres’) that represents the upper and lower limits of the erosion we should reasonably expect to that time.   Predicting coastal erosion is an uncertain science, and providing an exact position of the shoreline in the future would provide a misleading impression of precision and certainty.

Coastal planning documents, such as Shoreline Management Plans, also show this information. Long term predictions are required for planning coastal management policies into the future, which requires evidence upon which to base planning decisions. 

Shoreline Management Plan policies

The  coloured lines that follow the shoreline refer to the management policy agreed for that area within the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP).

These plans, published in 2010-11, cover the whole coast of England and Wales and set the ‘direction of travel’ for coastal management into the long-term future. The SMP relating to your selected area is shown in the results table. 

There are four main management policies for each stretch of coast, and options have been rigorously appraised and publicly consulted upon. In any location, the agreed policy can change in reality if it proves financially or technically unfeasible, or environmentally damaging, over time.

Type of defence

Management policies to hold or advance the existing shoreline position usually involve using an artificial defence, such as a sea wall or rock groyne. The National Flood and Coastal Defence Database developed by the Environment Agency and local authorities has been used to indicate the type of defences used, and where required this has been supplemented with locally sourced information. 

Where the policy is ‘no active intervention’, there are usually no defences in place. In this case, cliffs, dunes, and other features may delay but not necessarily halt coastal erosion. Where a policy changes from ‘hold the line’ to ‘no active intervention’ during the SMP’s lifetime, defences may remain in place and provide a decreasing standard of protection against erosion as they deteriorate over time.

Coastal erosion and land instability

Recession of coastal land is often caused by erosion from the sea acting together with landslides caused by interactions between groundwater and the soil or rock. On this website the predicted erosion zone takes into account the impact and likelihood of landslides.

Where no erosion predictions are shown because there is an aspiration to build or maintain defences (in other words where the policy is to hold existing defence line), there may still be risks from landslides occurring behind those defences. If so, this will be highlighted in the Shoreline Management Plan.