Coastal Erosion

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Copeland's beautiful coastline has an importnat role to play. It supports recreation, fishing and farmin as well as tourism with day trippers and holiday makers.

How is erosion affecting Copeland's Coastline?

The shoreline is constantly changing as natural processes move material from one place to another. As cliffs erode beaches build up, formed from eroded material. We monitor these changes and look after defence structures at key places where erosion is undesirable. You can view information about coastal erosion and shoreline management for Copeland on the Environment Agency's coastal change web pages. Go to the coastal erosion map for information specific to Copeland, zoom into the stretch of coastline you are interested in and click on that stretch to see current predictions and plans for it.

Coastal flooding and erosion responsibilities

We work together with the Environment Agency (EA) and other coastal authorities to defend the coastline from flooding and erosion by the sea. Both the EA and the council can carry out sea defence works but this will only take place if there are strong reasons to do so. Defence in one place can lead to unwanted consequences somewhere else so all work has to be planned carefully.

The EA and local authorities are partners to the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) process, and policies and decisions resulting from SMP's are fed into each organisation's plans for its coastal frontage.

What is a Shoreline Management Plan?

Shoreline Management Plans (SMP's) have been produced for the whole coastline of England and Wales to identify long term, sustainable policies for the defence of our shorelines. SMP's study and monitor coastal processes (including tides and sediments) and how the shoreline responds to these processes. SMP's are reviewed and updated to take account of new knowledge and are dynamic or evolving plans for our coastline. The first review has taken place and we are now on the second version (SMP2).

The SMP takes account of the wide range of public interests and land uses and aims to work in partnership with all interested organisations. It gives one of the following action states to areas along the coastline:

  • Hold the line - maintain the existing shoreline.
  • Advance the line - build new defences seaward of the existing shoreline.
  • Managed realignment - allow the shoreline to change with management to control or limit movement.
  • No active intervention - no investment in providing or maintaining defences.

The plan covers three time periods and assesses the best policy for the area in each:

  • 0 - 20 years.
  • 20 - 50 years
  • 50 - 100 years.

North West & North Wales Coastal Group

 Copeland Borough Council is part of the North West and North Wales Coastal Group and a more detailed explanation of the SMP as well as the SMP2 documents are found on their website. The group consists of councils and other interested bodies (such as the environment Agency and Natural England) from within an area that stretches from Great Orme's Head to the Scottish Border. This stretch of coastline is referred to as Cell 11. Cell 11 is further divided into five sections, the Copeland coast is in cells 11c, 11d and 11e.


If you need to contact the Coastal defence Engineer please telephone 0845 054 8600 or email

See also

Flooding to see if you are at risk of flooding and who manages flood risk in the Copeland area.

Flood protection to see how to protect your property and health from the effects of a flood.

Published: 4 July 2012 - 3:57pm