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What is a Shoreline Management Plan?

A Shoreline Management Plan is a non-statutory document that provides a broad assessment of the long-term risks associated with coastal processes.

It offers guidance to coastal engineers and managers to identify and recommend strategic and sustainable coastal defence policy options for particular lengths of coast to reduce these risks to people, the developed and natural environments.

SMPs are an important part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) strategy for flood and coastal defence.

They must take account of existing planning initiatives and legislative requirements and use the best present knowledge on the possible effects of climate change and sea level rise. The plan should inform, and be supported by, the statutory planning process.

The coastline is sub-divided into Policy Units, based on natural sediment movements and coastal processes, rather than administrative boundaries. The management policies are defined by Defra and are:

  • Hold the line - Maintain or upgrade level of protection provided by defences
  • Advance the line - Build new defences seaward of existing defences
  • Managed realignment - Allowing retreat of shoreline with management to control or limit movement
  • No active intervention - Not to invest in providing or maintaining defences.


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