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Coastal OLD

The coastline changes shape over time through natural processes, however climate change, human activity and existing flood defences also have an effect too. The shape of our coastlines is changing rapidly, putting many homes, businesses and coastal communities at risk of flooding and abandonment.

Coastal Flood Management

Coastlines naturally erode over time causing them to retreat inland, and climate change is causing sea level rise and larger, more frequent storm surges. This all increases the risk of coastal flooding which affects coastal communities and infrastructure. Coastal flood management techniques include hard defences such as sea walls, and soft defences such as dune planting and managed realignment.

To find out more about how coastal flooding and erosion is being managed across the North West, visit our North West Coastline page below.

North West Coastline



Hard Engineering

Hard engineered coastal defences generally involve the placement of artificial structures which are used stop or slow the natural processes of erosion, flooding and sea level rise. They are highly visible solutions which help to reassure coastal communities. However, they are expensive to construct, require expensive ongoing maintenance programmes, and by installing hard engineering solutions in one place there could be detrimental effects further along the coast.

The methods used to manage the effects of coastal erosion and flood risk have typically involved building defences which deflect the power of waves and high tides. Hard engineered coastal protection may seem like the best option to protect seaside towns, cities and popular tourist destinations, but;

  • they are constantly subjected to impacts from the sea and are costly to install and monitor.
  • they may be quickly outdated and require costly maintenance.
  • they protect land which is now of little value.

Rising sea levels, along with the high cost of maintaining sea defences, call for more cost effective and sustainable methods of coastal protection.

Sea wall at Anchorsholme, Blackpool



Soft Engineering

Soft engineering techniques involve working with nature to manage the coastline. Natural flood management (NFM) is used to manage coastal flood risk and erosion using natural methods and measures. This can be done by improving the number of natural buffers which help to absorb tidal and wave energy through the replacement of eroded material, replanting beach plants and grasses which trap sand, or breaching or removing previously built management schemes to allow the shoreline to roll back naturally. NFM measures can be placed on the coast, in intertidal areas or both. Some coastal NFM schemes, such as those where eroded material is replaced, will require ongoing maintenance programmes as they may have a relatively short lifespan.

KA / Sand Dune Restoration / CC BY-SA 2.0




Hover over this graphic to explore the multiple benefits of coastal management. Download a labelled version of this graphic here.