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Frequently asked questions

What is a Shoreline Management Plan?

A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is a non statutory, policy document for coastal defence management planning. It takes account of other existing planning initiatives and legislative requirements, and is intended to inform wider strategic planning. It does not set policy for anything other than coastal defence management. SMP's are an important part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair's (Defra) strategy for flood and coastal defence, and should inform, and be supported by, the statutory planning process.

An SMP aims to provide a broad large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal evolution and to balance the management of coastal flooding and erosion risks associated with coastal processes. It then aims to present a policy framework to address the risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment in a sustainable manner over the next 100 years. An SMP considers the objectives, policies and management requirements for 3 time periods;

(a) present day (0-20 years)
(b) medium-term (20-50 years)
(c) long-term (50-100 years)

Long-term monitoring of coastal processes has increased our understanding of how the coastal systems function in conjunction with how defences interact with these natural processes. It is now recognised that the coast is extremely dynamic and continually evolving; the extent and rate of coastal change is due in part to the degree of exposure of the coast to waves and tides, and the local geology. These advances in understanding have resulted in the need for a long-term, strategic approach to coastal defence management.

How is the SMP relevant to me or my organisation?

Identifying areas at risk from tidal flooding and/or coastal erosion is key for managing and preventing inappropriate development in these areas, particularly when considering potential impacts of changes in climate. Increasing pressures on the coastal zone for even more housing, marine trade and industry, and the demand for coast-based recreational activities also affects and influences existing and future coastal defence requirements.

However, due to the current legislative and funding arrangements, climate change and environmental considerations, it may not be possible to protect, or continue to defend land or property from flooding or erosion.

The impacts of coastal defences on existing properties, coastal processes or the environment therefore need to be carefully assessed before construction. For these assessments the coastline is sub-divided into Policy Units: lengths of shoreline based on natural sediment movements and coastal processes, rather than administrative boundaries. A coastal defence policy is applied to each epoch of each Policy Unit. Each individual policy may have implications for the future of coastline and the current activities undertaken there. This may then effect the way you or you organisation interacts with the coastline

The North Solent SMP is therefore not only relevant to everyone who currently has a vested interest in coastal assets but also those who in the future may be influenced or affected by these coastal management decisions.

What is the background to the North Solent SMP?

The North Solent SMP shoreline covers some 386km between Selsey Bill and Hurst Spit, and includes Chichester, Langstone and Portsmouth Harbours, Southampton Water and the tidal extent of the main rivers. Compared to other SMPs being developed around the UK, the North Solent SMP is unique in that:

  • over 60% of the shoreline is privately owned and the majority of which has privately maintained defences
  • 76% of the shoreline is defended with structures and/or beach management activities
  • 80% of shoreline has a European or International nature conservation designation as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and or Ramsar sites
  • the majority of the existing defences have European and International nature conservation designated site(s) landward and seaward of the line of defence
  • the majority of the North Solent is developed with residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural development

What are the key messages of the draft SMP?

1    Understanding the geography of the coast. This includes:

1a    an assessment of natural coastal processes, such as waves, tides, movement of sand, shingle and mud, and sea level rise

1b    an assessment of the performance and condition of existing flood and coastal defences

1c    determining coastal flood and erosion risks to coastal communities, property, heritage features, and the built and natural environment

1d    developing sustainable defence policies for future coastal management over the next 100 years

2    SMPs don't guarantee public funding to implement the proposed policies

3    Each SMP contributes to determining national funding requirement for the management of coastal flood and erosion risks

4    SMPs are not legally enforceable but are taken into account in the planning process to assist in the development and management around the coast

5    This is your opportunity to influence the sustainable management of the North Solent coast for future generations to live and work in and enjoy.

Who is running the project?

The North Solent SMP is being developed and formally adopted or approved by a partnership of local, regional and national authorities and agencies that have various responsibilities and powers for managing the coast, which comprise:

New Forest District Council (Lead Authority); Test Valley Borough Council; Southampton City Council; Eastleigh Borough Council;  Winchester City Council; Fareham Borough Council; Gosport Borough Council; Portsmouth City Council; Havant Borough Council; Chichester District Council; the Environment Agency; Natural England; Hampshire County Council; West Sussex County Council; New Forest National Park Authority; Chichester Harbour Conservancy

What are the policy options?

The SMP will assign one of the policies (defined by Defra) to each section of the coast within the plan area. These policies are:-


Hold the existing
defence Line (HTL)  

Maintain or upgrade standard of protection provided by defences. This policy should cover those situations where work or operations are carried out in front of the existing defences (such as beach recharge, rebuilding the toe of a structure, building offshore breakwaters, etc.) to improve or maintain the standard of protection provided by the existing defence line. This policy also involves operations to the back of existing defences (such as building secondary floodwalls) where they form an essential part of maintaining the current coastal defence system.

A policy of HTL does not mean that public funding is secured or guaranteed. Nor should it be assumed that it is safe to develop behind existing defences or additional defences are promoted.

Advance the existing
defence Line (ATL)

Construct new defences seaward of existing defences. Use of this policy should be limited to those policy units where significant land reclamation is considered.

Managed Realignment (MR)

Allowing the shoreline to move backwards or forwards, with management to control or limit movement (such as reducing erosion or building new defences on the landward side of the original defences).
A policy of MR does not mean that public funding is secured or guaranteed.

No Active Intervention (NAI)

A decision not to invest in providing or maintaining defences.
A policy of NAI does not prevent the continued maintenance of existing defences to enable continued use of existing structures while they are structurally sound

These policies relate to the provision of tidal flood and erosion defences; however plan development and implementation is jointly undertaken by engineering and planning officers from the Maritime Local Authorities and the Environment Agency (termed Operating Authorities).

How are Policy options determined?

The SMP identified the main features and issues of concern relating to erosion and tidal flood risk, and the management of these natural coastal processes. These features were obtained from those with an interest in the coast, such as residents, businesses or those with a concern for the natural environment, or built heritage. The features and issues were then collectively appraised to determine the policies which should be applied to allow society's objectives to be achieved, in full acknowledgement of the potential impact on the natural environment and likely environmental, financial and social costs involved.

What are features and issues?

A feature is defined as something tangible that provides a benefit or service to society in one form or another. Examples of a feature include residential or commercial properties, a heritage site, footpaths, nature conservation designated site, etc.

Issues are concerns or perceptions of risk that an individual, group or agency have, relating to the coast. Issues may occur where either a feature is at risk from tidal flooding or erosion or where management intervention could impact upon a feature. Examples include:

  • Potential loss of housing through erosion;
  • Potential for coastal works to impact upon asset;
  • Potential for loss or damage to designated habitats, or creation of replacement habitats;
  • Potential loss of or damage to services and roads through erosion.

It is important that all features and issues raised are defined and recorded along with why they are important considerations and who benefits from them, to formalize and ensure consistency of assessment, and for clarity in the decision making process. Those identified relate to the key themes of:

Natural Environment(Opens in a new window)
e.g. International, European, National and Local Nature, Conservation Designations, Biodiversity Action Plans, Fisheries, Earth Heritage, etc.

Landscape(Opens in a new window) Character
e.g. National, County and Local Character Areas, Designated Landscapes and Visual features

Historic Environment(Opens in a new window)
e.g. Listed Buildings, Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Conservation Areas, Sites of Archaeological Interest and Potential, Protected Wreck Sites, Wrecks, Submerged Landscapes, etc.

Current and Future Land Use and Planning(Opens in a new window)
The information from this review will be used as a basis for developing policy options and assessing the implications and thus the suitability of these options.

Do any features and issues have more weight as policy drivers than others i.e. My house vs. wetland habitat? Or Infrastructure vs. Agricultural land? If so how have you made those decisions?

The features identified within each theme are ranked, but it is not possible to directly compare the rankings between different themes, i.e. one town can be compared to another town, but the importance of a town can not be directly compared to that of a designated conservation site.

Will my views, opinions, concerns and ideas have any influence on the policy appraisal process and the final policies that are set?

Engaging with key stakeholders and the public during the SMP development process is a central component of integrated coastal management. It is essential that the SMP adequately deals with the issues and concerns of the communities, businesses and organisations that have an interest in this part of the coast and that the best information is available for the decision making process.

It is only once we have gathered all the relevant information and have a full understanding of the needs and requirements of Key Stakeholders that we can make informed decisions about coastal management therefore your input is of the utmost importance to the SMP process.

How can I comment on the proposed North Solent SMP?

Your views and comments will play an important part in the development of the final North Solent SMP. All the personal information you give us will be kept strictly confidential. We will gather and analyse all of the feedback provided and consider all of the responses before making the final SMP policy decisions. We will keep you informed of our progress and share the outcomes of this consultation with you. A consultation report will be available as part of the final SMP documentation which will all be publicly available.

How will I have any way of knowing that my input has had any effect on the final policy that is set?

A consultation report will be produced that will summarise the issues raised, and the proposed outcomes and justifications following discussions between the relevant parties. This report will be publicly available via the North Solent SMP website in a form to enable effective feedback to all parties.

Once the SMP reaches its conclusion it will be freely available for reference and full details of the entire decision making process will be included. All the information used throughout the whole project has been recorded meticulously to ensure clarity and transparency.

When will the SMP be finished?

The final SMP will be produced once the comments received during public consultation have been considered and necessary revisions/amendments made. The final SMP will then need to be adopted by each maritime local authority in advance of submission to the Environment Agency for approval, on behalf of Defra.

Can I contact you with any further queries, concerns and questions that I may have?

If you have any further concerns or questions please contact us as detailed below:

By email:

Or by writing to: North Solent SMP, Lymington Town Hall, Lymington, Hants, SO41 9ZG

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