Your questions answered

Background to the information

1. What does this website show me?

The coastal erosion map shows predictions of the extent to which the shoreline of England and Wales may change over the coming century.

It also shows how local authorities and the Environment Agency plan to manage the shoreline during that time, and how that is likely to affect erosion rates. You can link across to further information about coastal erosion, flooding and management using the links at the side of this page.

2. Is this different from the coastal erosion information in my Shoreline Management Plan?

This information is based upon the same data that has informed your Shoreline Management Plan, and has been thoroughly checked by those involved in developing that plan.

However, we have used a specifically designed model to produce the predictions of erosion, and unlike many Shoreline Management Plans we have used national datasets as a baseline and tested the results against the latest climate change projections. In addition, the erosion map is updated regularly with new information, whereas the Shoreline Management Plan information is based upon the best available information at its time of production in 2010-11.

These factors have in some cases meant that our predictions of erosion differ slightly from those you will see in you Shoreline Management Plan. Any differences are highlighted in the Comparison Report in the Annex to the plan.

3. Who uses this coastal erosion information and why?

This information is designed to increase awareness among the public about coastal erosion risk, and to encourage people living and working in coastal areas to find out more about – and get involved in – coastal management and adaptation to change.

The information can also be used by those involved in planning in coastal areas, such as local authorities, as one of many sources of evidence where coastal erosion, landslides and flooding require particular attention when looking at planning applications for future development.

4. How was the information been produced?

Coastal erosion is generally managed by local authorities, so they usually have the best local information - such as long term monitoring data - about it. The predictions you see combines this detailed local data with information from a national assessment of erosion supplied by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

This is the first time the range of local information has been consistently analysed and presented nationally, using the most advanced methodology available – called the Risk Assessment of Coastal Erosion – to produce the final data.

5. Is the information ever updated?

Yes. As further information becomes available, it is included in updates to the published information. Coasts are dynamic and erosion predictions may increase or decrease in light of experience, so it is important that we keep this information as up to date as possible.

Should a management policy for a stretch of coast change from the original option chosen in your Shoreline Management Plan, this will also be updated at the same time as the Shoreline Management Plan itself.

6. Why do you need to update the information?

We are committed to providing the most up to date information to the public.  Our models are predictive and in the event of erosion ‘events’ such as landslides, we may need to revise the data to take account of the new information received.

As more detailed models are developed and we have access to more information, we update our information with it.

7. How accurate is the data?

Predicting erosion and landslip is an uncertain science, especially well into the future when our understanding of the extent and effects of sea level rise is poorer. This is why the predicted erosion is shown as a range, which shows the upper and lower limits of the erosion we expect by the end of the time period shown.

Erosion has been modelled using the best available science from a range of data sources. Any out-of-date or incorrect data on erosion or coastal defences has been identified and corrected through an extensive validation process with technical specialists in local authorities.

8. How has coastal erosion risk been calculated and how does this take account of climate change?

The predictions shown in the results page have been calculated using a methodology comparable to that which we use to assess flood risk. Using the Risk Assessment of Coastal Erosion (RACE) we use a range of data including historical patterns of erosion, geological information and the condition of any coastal defences to determine the likely extent of erosion and the impacts it may have.

The RACE methodology incorporates the effects of climate change upon sea levels and storm surges that have been measured to date, but extra testing of the results has been needed to include the latest climate change projections for the UK (UKCP 09). This has been done using sensitivity testing of UKCP09 scenarios at a range of locations around the coast to compare erosion predictions with our original results.

Many Shoreline Management Plans do not incorporate UKCP09 into their analysis of coastal erosion. Where there are differences between their data and the information on this website, this is highlighted in the Shoreline Management Plan’s annex.

What this information means for you

9. My Shoreline Management Plan says the coast where I live should be defended but it isn’t – why?

Shoreline Management Plans are crucial strategic planning documents but are not ‘statutory’ documents – meaning their contents do not carry legal weight.

Management policies agreed in them for discrete stretches of coast therefore remain an ‘aspiration’ until full design and appraisal of the costs and benefits of defence works has been undertaken. In some areas there is a clear case for continuing to defend or building a new structure – in others the case is less clear and further detailed studies, and sometimes extra funding, are required. In many cases, this funding will need to be found from outside the Government budget.

10. I know my area of coast is defended – does this mean I am not at any risk?

Not necessarily. Not all coastal defences will be maintained indefinitely, and their ongoing maintenance is dependent upon funding – some of which may well need to be found from outside the Government budget.

You may still be at risk from river flooding – check our Flood Map to find out. Even where defences exist, there is still a ‘residual’ risk of erosion and flooding whereby extreme weather causes waves to overtop or damage defences – especially as sea levels rise.

Important: some coastal areas are prone to landslides caused by the interactions between groundwater, soils and bedrock. These processes can continue regardless of defences against erosion from the sea. For more information, check in the Shoreline Management Plan or with the local authority shown in the results table.

11. Will my insurer use the coastal erosion information?

This information may be held by the insurance industry but is unlikely to be used in calculating premiums because it is not normally possible to include insurance against coastal erosion from the sea in domestic buildings and contents insurance policies.

As it is a national assessment intended for guidance, this information does not provide details for individual properties.

The Statement of Principles on flooding and insurance drafted by the Government and the Association of British Insurers does not cover coastal erosion.

12. What if there are any errors in the data – will this affect my house insurance?

It is not normally possible to include insurance against coastal erosion from the sea in domestic buildings and contents insurance policies, and therefore insurance premiums should not be affected by either the release or accuracy of this data.

Landslides, subsidence and heave are usually covered in domestic policies. The information on this website shows predictions of recession caused by ‘simple’ erosion by the sea alone, and combined forces of gradual erosion and episodic landslides where the relative effect of each process upon recession may be difficult to differentiate. In these composite’ cases, property owners and insurance companies may undertake specific surveys in order to arrive at a suitable policy provision. You should talk to your insurance provider if you are in any doubt about how land instability may affect your policy.

13. Why is there no information on coastal erosion risk for my area?

Not all stretches of the coast experience coastal erosion - in these cases, this is highlighted and you are advised to consult the Environment Agency flood maps to check if you are at risk from flooding.

In some areas, we have discussed publication with local authorities and decided not to publish erosion information online in a particular area, or to delay publication for the moment. This may be because the data has only recently been finalised or requires updating, or because the Shoreline Management Plan policies have not yet been agreed.

The local authority and Shoreline Management Plan websites should provide you with local erosion information. We continue to work in partnership with local authorities on publishing erosion further information on this website in the future.

Note that these maps do not include some estuary areas.

14. I don’t agree with the map for my area – I want to challenge your information.

If you believe that a particular location is not at risk from coastal erosion, or if you have information that you believe we may not have taken into account, please contact us on 03706 506 506. We will consider your comments and advise on the appropriate procedure. However we would be unlikely to be able to consider an amendment to this information based only on anecdotal evidence.

15. How do I get a hard copy of the information?

You can receive this information in a ‘fixed format’ either by e-mail or post by calling us on 03706 506 506.

16. How can I access the data used to develop this website?

Please contact us on 03706 506 506 to discuss data requirements and licensing, and terms and conditions of use.

How to interpret the information

17. What do you mean by ‘Shoreline Management Plan policy’?

This is the over-arching management approach to each stretch of coastline agreed by local authorities, the Environment Agency, the local communities and other interested parties.

On the map itself, this means the management approach agreed for approximately the first 20 years of your local Shoreline Management Plan, to around 2030. The policy may change after that time, and this information will be updated accordingly. Policies are agreed in Shoreline Management Plans for the next 100 years, but policy decisions may change as new information comes to light during that time.

Note that aspirations to ‘Hold the Line’ are dependent upon funding being secured to maintain or build defences.

18. Where do you start measuring erosion from?

From the back of the shore – in other words beaches, mudflats and other foreshore features are not included in the assessment. Where there are cliffs, the erosion measurement is from the top of the cliff face.

19. Does your measurement of erosion risk include risk from landslides?

Yes. The information on this website shows predictions of recession caused by ‘simple’ erosion by the sea alone, and combined forces of gradual erosion and episodic landslides where the relative effect of each process upon recession may be difficult to differentiate.

Where no erosion predictions are shown because there is an aspiration to build or maintain defences, there may still be risks from landslides occurring behind those defences. Check in the Shoreline Management Plan or with the local authority shown in the results table.

20. The information for my area says coastal erosion is ‘not applicable’ – what does that mean?

Where it has been agreed in your Shoreline Management Plan that the position of the shoreline will be artificially set back or moved seaward in a controlled way, natural erosion is not considered applicable to that shoreline until the works are completed. At this point, this website will be updated to reflect the new shoreline position, management policy and any erosion predictions that may apply.

21. The information for my area tells me ‘the causes of cliff instability are complex’ – what does this mean and where can I find out more information?

It means that in the place you have selected, the structure of underlying rock formations and groundwater interactions are very complicated, making reliable prediction of risk almost impossible. This does not necessarily mean there is a high risk.

You should consult the Shoreline Management Plan for more information on erosion in this area. If you want to discuss erosion or landslides issues in this locality further, you should contact your local authority.

22. If I am at risk from erosion might I also be at risk from flooding?

Possibly – in some places where land is low lying, risk of flooding from the sea may be related to coastal erosion. You may also be at risk from river flooding. Check our Flood Map to find out.

23. What do you mean by ‘defence type’?

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.