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 requirements, 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 short term. 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.