Playing our part at the coast

We look after 775 miles of coastline in the UK, and part of our job is to manage threats to these areas. Storms in recent years have caused considerable damage, and we can expect more bad weather in the coming years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report makes it clear that we need to support adaptation. This means that rather than trying to simply stop change, such as coastal erosion, we plan ahead for change, protecting wildlife and adapting our own buildings and activities.
The impact on our places

In 2013 and 2014 our coastline was battered by a series of storms and high tides which resulted in levels of erosion and flooding experts would usually expect to see every five to 15 years.  Coastal ‘defence’ as the only response to managing coastal change therefore looks increasingly less plausible  
Formby near Liverpool is our fastest eroding property.  In December 2013 and February 2014 a staggering 10, then a further three metres of coastline disappeared overnight.

At Birling Gap in East Sussex this stretch of chalk cliff has seen erosion, which would normally take over seven years, happen in just a few months.

At Gupton Farm on the Pembrokeshire coast, large parts of the farm are only 50 centimetres above high tides with the wetlands very likely to turn tidal by the end of the century.  

Adaptation is key
Working with nature is really important to us.  By understanding what is happening to the natural environment around our coast we can make well-informed choices about whether and where to continue maintaining hard sea defences, or to adapt and work with nature rather than against it.  
To underline our commitment to this approach we will have 80 coastal adaptation strategies in place at our coastal hotspots across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2020.  

We also want to ensure that there is space and land to help with future changes at our coast.  By ‘rolling back’ we can relocate buildings, infrastructure, shoreline and habitats to ensure coastal access is maintained as well as providing new homes for wildlife.

It’s important to us to view the coast as a whole and to not just consider the areas we care for in isolation.  By working with other land owners, communities, beach users and with local government we can create more joined up and better managed stretches of coastline.  

We want to innovate – to have the courage to try out new ideas; and to be driven by long-term sustainable plans.   

The coming years will be critical to the future wellbeing of our coast and we will play our part.
Shifting Shores - Playing our part at the coast, looks at how far we have come since the original 2005 report and sets out our approach for nurturing a healthy, adaptable coastline for future generations to value and enjoy.