Coastal Environments: SMPs (With Examples)

Information on SMPs (Shoreline Management Plans) and their policies, with examples. Please let me know if these helped you, and also if you have any suggestions for improvements.


SMPs: What are they?

SMPs (Shoreline Management Plans).

SMPs aim to help manage the coastline sustainably, and they involve splitting the coast into sections so that the councils in those areas are responsible for that section of coast. For example, there are 22 SMPs in England and Wales.

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) oversees the coastal management of the UK, and it was this organisation that introduced SMPs.

There are four policies that SMPs have to decide how a section of coastline is managed. These are as follows:

- No active intervention

- Hold the line

- Managed retreat

- Advance the line.

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SMPs: No Active Intervention

No active intervention

- This means that no money is invested in protecting an area of coastline against flooding, erosion and weathering.

- This includes areas that have been protected previously.

- No active intervention just means that nothing is done, and so the coast is allowed to erode naturally.

- This option is chosen when the cost of aid is higher than the economic benefit.

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SMPs: Hold The Line

Hold the line

- This is where coastal defences are put in place to reduce erosion.

- The aim of this is to stop (or reduce) the retreat of the coastline in this area, and is only introduced if the economic benefit is higher than the cost of the defences.

- Often, the places that this option is chosen for have high commercial value.

- For example, they have amusement arcades/parks, hotels, or another form of tourist attraction that bring the area money.

- Holding the line can include both hard and soft engineering techniques.

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SMPs: Managed Realignment

Managed realignment

- This is where the coastline is allowed to retreat in a managed way.

- For example, this could be directing the retreat in certain areas.

- Often, it can be building a natural defence further inland and letting the coastline retreat up until this point.

- Managed realignment can sometimes result in the formation of salt marshes, which are in themselves a coastal defence, as they absorb the force of waves before they hit the shore.

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SMPs: Advance The Line

Advance the line

- This is where new coastal defences are built further seaward than the existing coastline.

- It usually involves land reclamation.

- This could also include: if there was already a sea wall in place, but it was crumbled and inaffective, then another sea wall would be built in front of it.

- It usually includes building defences out to sea, so things like offshore breakwaters.

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SMPs: How is it decided what policy should be used

  • the economic value of the coastline that could be protected;
    • is it a site of tourist interest?
    • is it a site that benefits the area's economy?
    • does the area have a gas terminal?
  • the technical feasability of engineering solutions;
    • is the physical geography going to cause problems with defending the area?
    • is the coastline suitable for the required defence techniques?
    • are the cliffs too unstable for supports to be added?
  • other values, such as cultural and ecological values;
    • is it a site of historic interest?
    • is it a site of scientific interest?
    • is there unusual bidiversity in the area?
  • pressure from the local communities;
    • is there heavy campaigning supporting the area's protection?
    • is there pressure from the locals to help the area?
    • is it easier to just listen to the locals and provide the support?
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SMPs: Examples


Mappleton is a good example of the pressure from the local community resulting in eventual support.

Mappleton was only worth £650,000 but was given £2,000,000 worth of help.

It was thanks to the locals' persistant campaigning that the area was helped at all.


At Hornsea, it was decided that the policy should be to hold the line.

This was a result of things such as the regional economic centre, the important historical sites, and a lake of great importance as a habitat for birds (also a SSSI).

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