Coastal Management

In the past coastal development has usually been undertaken without full understanding or consideration of natural coastal processes. This had led to significant environmental changes, and the artificial nature of many of the new coastlines and the highly-populated settlements that had developed meant that there was a constant need for maintenance, repair and replacement of natural and engineered defences.  During the late twentieth century the rapidly-escalating costs (both financial and environmental) of this prompted a change of emphasis from coastal defence towards coastal management.  This culminated in the nationally-adopted Shoreline Management Plans, which determine sustainable local coastal defence policies and set objectives for the sustainable management of the shoreline. 

Management of flood risk is important in the Ribble estuary because of the large urban area of Preston and infrastructure along the northern bank, high grade farmland in the flood plain and extensive development for horticulture.  However modern coastal management aims to work with nature rather than against it, allowing coastal habitats and their wildlife to adapt and move offering greater protection, conservation and opportunities for sustainable tourism.


The Ribble Estuary is funnel-shaped with areas of fringing salt marsh and dunes which act as a natural form of defence.  This natural ability has been severely reduced by the reclamation of salt marshes and clearance of dunes along the Ribble and Douglas and the narrowing of the estuary.  There are now opportunities to reverse this process by managed realignment of the coast line, providing a greater 'natural' buffer to the sea before artificial flood banks are reached or required.  One such project is being delivered by the RSPB and the Environment Agency at Hesketh Out Marsh on the southern shores of the Ribble Estuary as part of the Ribble Coast and Wetlands Regional Park vision, and has the added benefit of habitat creation.  Hopefully more opportunities will follow.

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