This project will provide guidance to local planning authorities who need to consider how vulnerable our coastline is to a changing environment.
The UK’s coastal regions are some of the most beautiful and environmentally diverse parts of our landscape. They are also some of the most vulnerable, with factors like erosion, landslip, flooding, and shifting sediment causing lasting damage.
Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) with a coastline or estuary margin have the difficult task of balancing the need to build more homes, with the increasing risk of coastal erosion and flooding. So, as part of the National Planning Policy Framework, councils are required to identify the areas where the shoreline is likely to change significantly over the next 100 years. These specially designated areas, or ‘Coastal Change Management Areas (CCMAs)‘, will inform planning and management decisions, and demonstrate that authorities fully understand the threats that these areas are at risk of.
Prof. Gerd Masselink, Dr Tim Poate, and Dr Kit Stokes from the SWEEP team are leading this project. Based at the University of Plymouth Coastal Processes Research Group, they will bring their experience of coastal management, wave forecasting, and the effects of climate change on our shoreline. Previous work as part of the NERC-funded BLUECoast project is an early example of the group’s expertise in making coastal research relevant to policy and planning.
Natural England is the principal project partner. CCMAs support Natural England’s work to protect landscapes and biodiversity, whilst still allowing people to have access to our natural environment.
The Environment Agency, as contributors to the design of the CCMAs, are also joining the team. The Environment Agency already work with local planning authorities to map coastal erosion, so can provide valuable insight and data.
Three local authorities will be closely involved in the project – North Devon District Council and Torridge District Council offer an ideal case study area in the Taw Torridge estuary, as does East Devon District Council around Sidmouth.
Working together, the partners aim to produce three key outputs from this project:
- A robust and scientifically supported CCMA designation for the Taw Torridge Estuary and Sidmouth regions.
- A process that could be adopted by other Local Planning Authorities across the region and wider England to support them in designating their own CCMAs.
- A strategic plan produced in partnership with our partner Local Planning Authorities to improve the existing National Planning Policy Framework and guidance.
Tim is delivering an operational wave forecasting tool to better inform local authorities and coastal managers about storm impacts on the South West coastline. Tim is a coastal scientist who has studied the impacts of offshore renewables, the response of storm events on gravel beaches and the role of intertidal rocky platforms on wave attenuation. In Plymouth since 2008, Tim previously worked for the Channel Coastal Observatory where he was surrounded by coastal data!
Kit is delivering project 001 – an operational wave forecasting tool to better inform local authorities and coastal managers about storm impacts on the South West coastline. Kit is a coastal scientist who has studied the impacts of offshore renewables on beaches and water users, bathing risks on UK beaches, and drivers of coastal flooding in the UK. When he’s not studying waves and beaches in the office, he’s studying them on a surfboard in the sea.
Gerd’s activities on the SWEEP project are concerned with generating impact in the coastal zone, specifically in relation to coastal hazards, including coastal flood risk, sea-level rise and beach safety. He is a physical geographer with a strong track record of publication and funding in anything to do with coastal processes and geomorphology. Gerd has worked for the University of Plymouth since 2006, and arrived in Plymouth via Utrecht, Sydney, Perth and Loughborough.
Over the course of six months, the team will tackle three packages of work.
Work package 1: CCMA review
The team will undertake a strategic review of existing CCMAs (both in the UK and any similar schemes internationally) and look into the processes and criteria used to date. They will also gather feedback from Local Planning Authorities to establish if there could be improvements made to the process, or if there were any difficulties.
There will be a particular focus in helping planners to implement CCMAs quickly, and with greater consideration for existing coastal engineering works and other planning policies. A key component of the review will focus on how CCMAs could take the future effects of climate change into account.
Work Package 2: CCMA Methodology
This part of the project will aim to establish a clear set of guidelines and a logical work-flow for the development of new CCMAs. The guidelines will be designed to be relevant and applicable to any Local Planning Authority needing to consider coastal management. It is hoped that as a result of these guidelines, new CCMAs will be created in addition to the initial sites covered by this project.
Using existing coastal erosion data, the team will generate coastal change maps that can be used to identify areas where significant coastal change is likely to be expected within the next 100 years. Particular focus will be given to areas where risks have already been identified – either through coastal flooding/sea level rise, or potential loss of habitats.
Work Package 3: Case study CCMAs
This part of the project will focus on the generation, delivery, and integration of CCMAs into planning policy and planning decisions for the two case study sites – namely the Taw Torridge estuary and Sidmouth coastline. Working closely with Local Planning Authorities, the team will follow the guidance created in Work Package 2 to develop new CCMAs that will provide protection for the coastline and complement local council priorities.
...and beyond: National Policy Revision
A long term ambition, outside of the scope of this SWEEP project, is to work with the Local Planning Authorities to help them approach the Department of Housing Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) to improve the current practices and poor uptake of adopting CCMAs nationally. There is a strong appetite to improve existing national policy to ensure councils are better supported throughout the CCMA process, which will also ensure the impact of the project extends beyond the South West region.