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SMP Explorer: Digital shoreline management tool launched

  • Online digital tool for coastal practitioners launched to make Shoreline Management Plans easier to access, understand and use
  • The Environment Agency and coastal protection authorities have developed the Shoreline Management Plan Explorer in partnership, working together through Coastal Groups
  • SMP Explorer forms part of broader work to ensure Shoreline Management Plans are fit to 2100 and beyond

A new map-based digital tool will make plans for shoreline management easier to access, understand and use for coastal practitioners and the public alike, the Environment Agency announced today (Tuesday 30 January).

The Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) Explorer will enable coastal practitioners and local planners to find the information they need more easily. It will also improve the Environment Agency’s ability to monitor the risks of flooding and erosion around England’s coasts throughout this century. 

New content will regularly be added to the tool to keep it up to date, starting with improved National Coastal Erosion Risk Mapping later in 2024. 

While aimed at coastal practitioners, the SMP Explorer is also available to the public, helping to promote understanding of the risks of coastal flooding and erosion, alongside the management approaches and actions being taken along the coast.  

Julie Foley, Director of Flood Risk Strategy & National Adaptation at the Environment Agency, said: 

“1.9 million homes in England are currently at risk of coastal flooding and erosion. In all future climate scenarios, we’ll experience a continued rise in sea level well into the next century, so it is vital that we help policy makers and practitioners to plan and adapt to a changing climate.  

‚ÄúBringing the world-leading Shoreline Management Plans to life via the SMP Explorer will make their use plain sailing and enable well-informed decisions about the future management of our treasured coastline.‚Ä̬†¬†

Stewart Rowe, Chair of the Coastal Group Network, said:  

“It is great to see the SMP Explorer go live. Shoreline Management Plans have changed format considerably from the hand-drawn versions of the 1990s to the more modern but not interactive noughties versions to the current refreshed and updated SMP Explorer digital versions. It’s been quite a journey and an amazing transformation.   

‚ÄúThe new SMP Explorer presents the information in an easily accessible, digitised online format, which will greatly assist all users of coastal information helping to manage our constantly changing coastline now and into the future.‚Ä̬†¬†

Launching the SMP Explorer fulfils a commitment set out in the Environment Agency’s FCERM Strategy Roadmap.  

Shoreline Management Plans were developed in partnership by the Environment Agency, local authorities and other coastal partners working through Coastal Groups between 2006 and 2012. The Environment Agency has worked closely with coastal protection authorities through Coastal Groups on a three-year refresh of Shoreline Management Plans to ensure they remain up to date and use the best evidence. 

SMP Explorer will support discussions and decisions about the future of the coast by increasing the use of plans for:  

  • Coastal strategies and adaptation plans¬†¬†
  • Local plans and the designation of Coastal Change Management Areas¬†¬†
  • Flood prevention investment decisions¬†¬†
  • Habitat creation and restoration¬†¬†
  • Local engagement, consultation, and political acceptance about how to live with and manage coastal change to build resilient and thriving coastal places.

The 20 plans covering England and the two cross-border plans with Wales are based on the best available evidence and cover the whole of England’s coastline.

Alongside the SMP Explorer, the Environment Agency has also published an independent peer review of the state of Shoreline Management Plans to encourage their continuous improvement over future years.  

Further information on Flood and Coastal Risk Management 

From 2015 to 2021, the UK government invested £2.6 billion to better protect the country from flooding and coastal erosion. Of this, £1.2 billion was invested to protect around 200,000 homes better from coastal erosion and sea flooding. 

In March 2020, the government announced it would double its investment in flooding to a record £5.2 billion, better protecting many hundreds of thousands more properties.  

As part of the £200 million flood and coastal innovation programme, the Environment Agency is currently running a £36 million joint programme with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to explore innovative approaches to adapting to the effects of coastal erosion. Known as the Coastal Transition Accelerator Programme, the initial areas of focus were the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Norfolk. In September last year, it was announced that the communities of Charmouth and Swanage on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and Bude in north-east Cornwall had been selected as the next recipients for funding.

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