What is a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP)?

The information below includes useful extracts from Defra SMP Guidance Volumes 1 & 2 published March 2006.

A shoreline management plan (SMP) is a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal processes and helps to reduce these risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment. In doing so, it is an important part of the Government’s strategy for managing flooding and coastal erosion.

The strategy aims to manage risks by using a range of methods which reflect both national and local priorities, to:

• reduce the threat of flooding and erosion to people and their property; and
• benefit the environment, society and the economy as far as possible, in line with the Government’s ‘sustainable development principles.’

In 1995, the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the Welsh Office published guidance for operating authorities (such as maritime local authorities, the Environment Agency) on preparing SMPs. It was often necessary for these operating authorities to work with neighbouring authorities, as voluntary coastal groups, to produce an SMP which covered a number of administrative boundaries. In all cases, one operating authority was named as a lead authority to have overall responsibility for producing the SMP).


The first round of SMPs (now known as SMP1) around the coastline of England and Wales (see figure below), was completed by the year 2000.  These SMPs were based on sediment cells, lengths of coastline within which the movement of sand and shingle along the coast is largely self-contained.  The boundaries of these cells were originally set at locations where the movement of sand and shingle changes direction. At some places, however, the area covered by an SMP differed from these sediment cell boundaries, due to different requirements, such as the area covered by a coastal authority.

UK  Sediment Cell Boundaries


SMP2 (Review)

Defra has published a set of High Level Targets (HLTs), which it has asked operating authorities to work with Defra to achieve.  One of these targets, HLT3, is for the SMPs to be reviewed such that the second generation plans (SMP2) for the English coastline will be complete by March 2010.

For the SMP2 reviews, the recommended approach is to now look at how and why the coast changes, known as a behavioural systems approach. This approach was developed as part of the Futurecoast project (author: Halcrow 2002) and can be described as focusing on understanding the interactions and linkages that exist within a coastal system and then using that understanding to develop the overall framework of how that system functions. (See appendix D (volume 2) of Defra Guidance, for a more detailed description).

A requirement of the reviews to consider the appropriateness of existing SMP boundaries and recommendations (not binding) are included within appendix E (volume 2) of Defra Guidance.

Since the completion of SMP1, many operating authorities have followed the recommendations of their SMP as a basis for producing (where necessary) individual strategy plans, monitoring programmes, carrying out studies for all or parts of their coastline, and for putting appropriate schemes into practice