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Flooding 9: The role of the Environment Agency in coastal management and the development of shoreline management plans

sea at shoreline with dilapidated sea defences

Suitable for A Level

These resources examine the issues that surround coastal management. Student sheet 9.5 is a one-hour decision-making exercise (DME), and has been provided as a stand-alone exercise to be completed after the centre’s programme of study is complete. The DME enables students to explore and rank the principles used when shoreline management plans are being developed. For students who want to reinforce the learning programme provided within the centre, the notes below suggest a parallel, independent route of enquiry, which could be used to lead up to the DME itself.

Through the route of enquiry students will explore how long-term planning for coastal management is shaped. Using the Environment Agency’s (EA) interactive map and associated web pages, different strategies are considered, such as hold the line (Shoreham-by-Sea) and managed realignment (Medmerry). Also considered is how strategies are formulated through Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs). These plans need to be dynamic to in order to cope with events stemming from climate change and sea level rise. The DME requires students to rank and justify (through diamond sorting), the key principles that are used to underpin all SMPs.

Specification requirements

Key ideas specifically relating to coastal management feature in all A level specifications. Most require students to study the different approaches to management; the need for holistic management along a defined stretch of coast; and the role played by key stakeholders (players) in shaping management plans.

Download the A level specification audit.

Learning objectives

These resources can be used to meet one or more of the following objectives:

  • consolidate prior learning about coastal management strategies
  • widen and deepen case study knowledge with reference to hold the line and managed realignment schemes
  • develop the ability to think independently by applying geographical knowledge and understanding and utilising skills to make a reasoned judgement about the relative importance of the principles used to produce SMPs
  • develop a greater appreciation of the role and influence of a range of stakeholders (players) with vested interest in coastal management schemes.

Download the Assessment Objectives.

Activities – the route of enquiry

The task (Student sheet 9.5) is designed to be a stand-alone activity lasting one hour. However, the list of activities below, provides a simple route of enquiry that could be used to lead up to the DME itself. These guidance notes provide students with more detail on how to progress through the route of enquiry. They include helpful short cuts and navigation tips to make best use of the web-based materials. Extension exercises are also provided to introduce students to linked issues. The route of enquiry might be suited to students who:

  • need to revisit and refresh prior learning stemming from their GCSE course as a prelude to beginning their A level study of coastal management issues
  • want to independently make use of enrichment materials to deepen their understanding to run parallel to the programme of study being offered within the centre
  • want to explore the rich array of materials available from the Environment Agency that might be used to shape and support an independent investigation relating to coastal management.

9.1 Technical terms and shoreline management plans

Use the EA website here to deepen understanding of coastal erosion zones and how these are estimated in the short, medium and long term.

Use the EA website here to widen knowledge of the technical terms used within shoreline management plans and gain a deeper understanding of the important features that underpin such plans.

9.2 The Medmerry managed realignment scheme

The EA web materials relating to the Medmerry scheme provide a detailed account of the need for realignment at this location. The materials (including 126 photographs) provide information to explain how the realignment was achieved along with the benefits resulting from the scheme.

Watch the six-minute video clip for a summary.

Select six photographs and six ‘stills’ from the video to support a concise report outlining the:

  • need for the scheme
  • method used to create the realignment
  • stakeholders (players) involved
  • benefits of the scheme.

9.3 The Shoreham-by-Sea Hold the Line scheme

For a detailed review of this scheme there are a wide range of EA materials available. These include how the EA uses Twitter to provide stakeholders (players) with up-to-date information. The full shoreline management plan provides extensive information to support field investigations. Web links to these can be found on the guidance notes. For a concise summary read the main contractor’s update.

Use visual evidence to list ten reasons why a policy of hold the line has been recommended for this site. Use the contractor’s report alongside Ordnance Survey maps accessed through Bing Maps. Use the postcode BN43 5RG.  Make use of the aerial images available via the drop-down menu (top right). Oblique photo views (available through Google Earth) provide a further insight.

9.4 A decision-making exercise

After following the route of enquiry suggested above, or at the end of a programme of study focussed on coastal management, use the DME to formulate a view on the key principles that should be used when shaping shoreline management plans. Use the diamond sorting technique to produce a hierarchy. In small groups compare chosen hierarchies and justify in relation to named places.


Other lessons in this series:

Flood risk and flood management: Introduction
Flooding 1: Causes of river floods
Flooding 2: Investigating the effects of river floods
Flooding 3: Response to floods: Oxford Case Study
Flooding 4: Managing the upper drainage basin
Flooding 5: Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)
Flooding 6: Managing river floods – exploring the role of the Environment Agency
Flooding 7: Coastal flooding at Chiswell
Flooding 8: Managed realignment

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