What is an SMP?

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West of Wales SMP

What is an SMP?

A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) provides a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal evolution and presents a policy framework to address these risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment in a sustainable manner. In doing so, an SMP is a high-level document that forms an important part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) strategy for flood and coastal defence (Defra, 2001). The plan provides broad scale assessment of these risks, as well as quite specific advice to operating authorities in their management of defences. Through this, and through the identification of issues covering a wide spectrum of coastal interests, the SMP supports the Government's aims, as set out in Defra's strategy "Making Space for Water" (Defra, 2005):

  • To reduce the threat to people and their property; and
  • To deliver the greatest environmental, social and economic benefit, consistent with the Government's sustainable development principles.

The SMP is a non-statutory policy document for coastal defence management planning. It takes account of other existing planning initiatives and legislative  equirements, and is intended to inform wider strategic planning. It does not set policy for anything other than coastal defence management. However, from this perspective, it aims to provide the context to, and the consequences of, management decisions made in other sectors of coastal management. 

The SMP2 promotes management policies for a coastline into the 22nd Century that achieve long-term objectives without committing to unsustainable defence. It is, however, recognised that due to present day objectives and acceptance, wholesale changes to existing management practices may not be appropriate in the very shortterm. Consequently, the SMP2 provides a timeline for objectives, policy and management changes; i.e. a ‘route map' for decision makers to move from the present situation towards the future.

The original SMPs for this area (known as SMP1) were completed in the early 2000's. Since that time, over some sections of the coastline, more detailed strategy studies have been undertaken and these, together with monitoring of the whole frontage by the coastal Local Authorities, have improved our understanding of how the coast behaves. In addition, many lessons have been learnt with respect to how the SMP process should be conducted, and indeed how we should be viewing the management of the shoreline. Defra (2001, 2003) undertook a review of the results from SMP1 documents around England and Wales, considering their strengths and weaknesses, and leading to revised SMP guidance. Some of this guidance is targeted at achieving greater consistency in the assessments and improved presentation of the information in the plans, but there are also more fundamental issues that have been identified, which this and other SMP2s must address

One significant issue is the inappropriateness of certain policies which, when tested in more detail with a view to being implemented, may be found to be unacceptable or impossible to justify; either in terms of economics, the environment, or from a perspective of what communities need from the coast. It is, therefore, important that the SMP2 must be realistic given known legislation and constraints; neither promising what cannot be delivered nor delivering in the broader perspective that which fails against the values of the coastal zone. There will be no value in a long-term plan which has policies that are driven by short-term politics or works which prove to be to the detriment of the area when considered several years in the future.  

Equally, the plan must also remain flexible enough to adapt to changes in legislation, politics and social attitudes. The plan, therefore, considers objectives, policy setting and management requirements for three main epochs; from the present day, looking ahead to the medium-term, and looking ahead to the long-term, corresponding broadly to time periods of 0 to 20 years, 20 to 50 years and 50 to 100 years respectively. There is a need to have a long-term sustainable vision, which may change with time, but should be used to demonstrate that defence decisions made today are not detrimental to achievement of that vision.

The plan covers an area both of significant environmental value, but also having a strong history of human settlement and present use. These uses and interests are not inherently opposed. In reality it is the natural attraction combined with the historical coastal use which gives this area of the coast its distinct character and considerable value to man in the present day. While individual core objectives or aims may therefore be set, and indeed are set, with respect to each specific aspect of the area, the aim of the SMP2 must be to develop policy where, as far as possible, these specific objectives are not set in conflict. The underlying principle for the development of the SMP2 has been to consider the specific circumstance of the differing sections of the coast and through this understanding, attempt to deliver greatest benefit to the totality of coastal communities in an area. 

The objectives of the SMP2 process (as distinct from the objectives for management of the coast) are as follows:

  • To provide an understanding of the coast, its behaviour and its values.
  • To define, in general terms, the risks to people and the developed, natural and historic environment within the SMP2 area over the next century.
  • To appraise different policy approaches and identify the preferred policies for managing those risks or creating opportunity for sustainable management.
  • To examine the consequences of implementing the preferred policies in terms of the objectives for management.
  • To set out procedures for monitoring the effectiveness of the SMP policies.
  • To inform others so that future land use and development of the shoreline can take due account of the risks and preferred SMP2 policies.
  • To comply with international and national nature conservation legislation and biodiversity obligations.

The main activities in producing the SMP will be:

  • Development and analysis of issues and objectives for various locations, assets and themes.
  • Thematic reviews, reporting upon human, historic and natural environmental features and issues, evaluating these to determine relative values of the coast.
  • Analysis of coastal processes and coastal evolution for baseline cases of not defending and continuing to defend as at present.
  • Agreement of objectives with the Coastal Authorities Group and through public consultation, and from this determining the possible policy scenarios.
  • Development of policy scenarios which consider different approaches to future shoreline management.
  • Examination of the coastal evolution in response to these scenarios and assessment of the implications for the human, historic and natural environment.
  • Determination of the preferred plan and policies through review with the Coastal Authorities Group and through public consultation, prior to compiling the draft SMP2 document.
  • Consultation on the proposed plan and policies.

The final stage of development involves consideration of the various responses obtained from the consultation on the preferred plan and revision, where appropriate, of the document before its finalisation and formal acceptance.



ID: 41 Revised: 15/10/2012

Member Organisations

Pembrokeshire County Council Gwynedd Council Conwy County Council
Environment Agency Anglesey Network Rail
Cardigan Welsh Assembly Government Countryside Council for Wales
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