Shoreline Management Plan policies – what do they mean?

A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) policy describes how your stretch of shoreline is most likely to be managed to address flood and/or erosion – although this is subject to conditions described below. Stretches of coast are divided into ‘management units’, and for each of these one of four different management policies are agreed, as follows:

  • No active intervention – There is no planned investment in defending against flooding or erosion, whether or not an artificial defence has existed previously.
  • Hold the (existing defence) line – An aspiration to build or maintain artificial defences so that the position of the shoreline remains. Sometimes, the type or method of defence may change to achieve this result.
  • Managed realignment – Allowing the shoreline to move naturally, but managing the process to direct it in certain areas. This is usually done in low-lying areas, but may occasionally apply to cliffs.
  • Advance the line – New defences are built on the seaward side.

All these management options have been selected as part of your Shoreline Management Plan, which has been developed by local authorities and the Environment Agency working together in Coastal Groups. These plans are agreed after having engaged with interested organisations and local communities.

Important things to know about SMP policies

  • Funding: It is important to note that even when an SMP says ‘hold the line’, funding often still has to be secured for this. A policy of ‘hold the line’ may carry a condition that defences will only be built or maintained if some or all of their cost is paid for by those who benefit from them.
  • Conditions: Although SMP management policies are usually chosen from the above list, there are often conditions applied to how – or if – they are put into practice. For example, policies to hold or advance the line may or may not take account of projected sea level rise or maintain the existing standard of protection, and managed realignment may be subject to available land  being identified. In some areas, the management policy is either a variation or combination of the above four options: in such cases, this map shows that policy which most closely aligns to planned management. More detail is contained in your SMP. 
  • Local differences: There may be localised differences to the overall management policy chosen for a stretch of coast – for example, small areas of ‘hold the line’ where the overall policy is labelled ‘no active intervention’ for a stretch of coast.
  • Policy change: Sometimes, a change to the current management policy is planned in the future – this is highlighted in the SMP. For example, the SMP might change ‘Hold the Line’ to ‘No Active Intervention’ after the first 20 years of the SMP’s planning horizon.
  • Localised ‘strategies’ are sometimes drawn up to look again at the management options for smaller stretches of coast in more detail, including how defences will be funded. SMP policies can occasionally change as a result of these strategies. This map will be amended with any new policies at the same time that the SMP is amended, so there may occasionally be temporary discrepancies between a new strategy and this map.