Cost of Living Support Icon

Coast Protection

DEFRA is responsible for the protection of the coastline from flooding and erosion.


However, responsibility for the coastline is divided between various maritime authorities in accordance with legislation; these are empowered under the Coast Protection Act 1949 to carry out works in their area to protect the coast from erosion.


The construction and maintenance of works to resist coastal flooding is carried out by the Natural Resources Wales in accordance with the Water Resources Act 1991.


We have powers to protect the land against coastal erosion under the Coast Protection Act 1949. These powers are permissive, which means that they provide powers to carry out flood defence and coast protection activities but do not require the operating authorities to carry out those activities.


Shoreline Management Plan

Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is a non-statutory, policy document for coastal defence management planning that advises on how the coastline should change in the long term. It is developed in partnership by local authorities, regulators and other stakeholders.


It enables planners and regulators to plan for and manage the way that the coast will change. This could be by maintaining or improving defences, by enabling the natural processes to play a greater role, creating new natural habitat or by helping areas that are at risk of flooding at some point in the future to cope with and limit the impact of flooding events.


Shoreline Management map

  • Identifying risks to the developed, historic and natural environments as the coast changes
  • Policy framework to manage the risks in a sustainable manner
  • Large-scale assessment of the coastline - identifying the natural forces sculpting the shoreline and predicting, as far as possible, how the coast will change over time with erosion, sea level rise and climate change (in three 'epochs' of 20, 50 and 100 years time)


An SMP only sets out policy for coastal defence management. It doesn't set policy for any other ways of managing flood risk (such as land drainage) or for the management of coastal resources. 


The coastline is divided up into sections called 'Policy Units'. For each section, the SMP will recommend one of the following four policy options:

  1. No active intervention - no construction of new defences or maintenance or upgrade of existing defences
  2. Hold the existing line of defence - maintenance of existing defences in their current position, with upgrades to counter climate change and sea level rise
  3. Managed realignment - landward retreat of defences, giving up some land to the sea to form a more sustainable defence in the long-term
  4. Advance the existing line of defence - seawards movement of the defences

Local Authorities and regulators with responsibilities for managing the shoreline will be asked to adopt the SMP and to make their decisions based on the policy options in the plan. This will help ensure that, for example, future developments are not put at higher risk of flood or coastal erosion.


Severn Estuary Coastal Group

We participates in the Severn Estuary Coastal Group to disseminate best practice and to oversee the preparation of the new generation of Shoreline Management Plans (SMP2). 


Similarly with the Swansea and Carmarthen Bay Coastal Engineering Group,  covering the coastal cells from Lavernock Point through Worms Head (Swansea) to St. Govan's Head (Milford) and working along with:

  • Environment Agency
  • Welsh Assembly Government
  • Countryside Council for Wales


Severn Estuary Coastal Group aims:

  • Foster a strategic approach to shoreline management in accordance with Welsh Government guidelines
  • Provide a vehicle for joint funding of strategic studies, monitoring and high level target compliance
  • Facilitate an exchange of information amongst its members and the public
  • Produce sustainable policies for coastal defences taking into account natural coastal processes
  • Provide strategic coastal management duties for over 200km of coastline (asset value of approximately £100m)