The webmaps show the position of the shoreline (Mean High Water Springs) for the soft (erodible) shoreline in Scotland in the 1890s, 1970s and modern time period. Annual rates of landward erosion and seaward accretion are also shown. Recent erosion has been projected landwards to suggest where the shoreline may be in 2050, if recent rates continue (ie no defences installed or erosion quickens). It also provides links to other information which summarises the coastal changes and links to other information including Local Authorities’ Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs), where they exist.
Coastal erosion is a natural process affected by natural processes (weather and tides) and man-made actions. Local Authorities have duties under the Coast Protection Act 1949 and Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009. These acts establish powers and responsibilities on local authorities and others for coastal erosion and flood risk respectively. Put simply, the Local Authority has responsibilities for implementing actions contained in the Local Flood Risk Management Plan and permissive powers to allow for the undertaking of any other protection works and actions. Landowners and those with an interest in land such as leaseholders have responsibility for protecting their property from coastal erosion and flooding. Local Authorities are not financially responsible for constructing coastal and flood defences.
Four Local Authorities have Shoreline Management Plans (SMP): Angus, Dumfries & Galloway, East Lothian and Fife. North and South Ayrshire Councils are developing a SMP at the moment. The Coastal Erosion Policy Context report provides additional information.
This is the over-arching management approach to each stretch of coastline agreed by local authorities, the local communities and other interested parties: a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). On the SMP map itself, this means the management approach agreed for approximately the first 20 years of your local Shoreline Management Plan, to around 2030. The policy may change after that time, and this information will be updated accordingly. Policies are agreed in Shoreline Management Plans for the next 100 years, but policy decisions may change as new information comes to light during that time.
Note that aspirations to ‘Hold the Line’ are dependent upon funding being secured to maintain or build defences.
DynamicCoast has used similar data to those Local Authorities who have Shoreline Management Plans, though there may be methodological differences that produce minor changes to the mapped shoreline positions. The future projections within our maps are based on recent observed rates and do not consider acceleration due to climate change. Importantly, we only show the evidence base, the Local Authorities remain responsible for developing the policy approach to manage any change.
This information is designed to be used by the public sector to inform national level strategic assessments, which can then target more-detailed investigations if necessary. This informs statutory advice on planning, flood risk, heritage management etc. and supports the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, which aims to make Scotland more resilient to climate change. However, given the precision of the data and the probabilistic nature of storms and erosion, the webmaps should not be used to make detailed property level specific predictions of erosion.
This information is designed to increase awareness among the public about coastal erosion risk, and to encourage people living and working in coastal areas to find out more about – and get involved in – coastal management and adaptation to change.
Planning authorities in Scotland have a duty under the Climate Change Act to deliver the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, which addresses the risks set out in the Climate Change Risk Assessment (Scotland) including erosion and flooding risks to: natural environment, infrastructure, people and built environment and business. The DynamicCoast data and trends are developed to support the implementation of the National Planning Framework 3, Scottish Planning Policy and Flood Risk Management Planning, Local Development Plans, Land Use Strategy, National and Regional Marine Plans.
Yes, at various levels (summarised below) the planning system expects known risk to be accounted for and incorporated within developers plans to account for the risks over the life-time of the development. Nevertheless, DynamicCoast is a national assessment, which cannot be used to support detailed (property level assessments) without supplementary survey, research and expert knowledge.
The National Planning Framework, states that the planning system should have a precautionary approach to flood risk from all sources, taking account of the predicted effects of climate change. Scottish Planning Policy states that new development should generally avoid development in areas at risk (from erosion and flooding), and introduces a presumption in favour of developments that contribute to sustainable development. Policies and decision should support climate change mitigation and adaptation including taking account of flood risk. Many Local Development plans state that built development should avoid areas of coastal erosion.
The Scottish Government wish to make the evidence available for the whole of Scotland, yet currently similar mapping is available or being developed for only six Local Authority areas through their Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs). The DynamicCoast maps show the position of the shoreline extracted from maps surveyed in the 1890s, 1970s and compare this with the modern position. The Local Authority SMPs detail the past and anticipated changes together with the anticipated policy approach (hold the line, advance the line, managed retreat etc.). Local authorities without SMPs rely on generic policies to guide development.
Yes, the modern shoreline was based on the Ordnance Survey’s most detailed tide line (Mean High Water Springs) and checked and updated against recent air photography and LiDAR imagery where available. In some areas, where no new data exists, the Ordnance Survey are in the process of updating this too. This is a collaborative project which has incorporated survey data gathered from across the public sector and will be updated whenever new data becomes available.
Whilst large parts of our coastline have always changed, there has been an increase in the extent and rate of erosion since the 1970s above the historical baseline, consistent with our expectations of climate change. Since erosion is likely to increase further, it is important for government, businesses and the public to be able to plan with the most up to date information available.
The 1890s and 1970s mapped shore line translates to 10m wide on the ground with the modern shoreline about 2.5m wide on the ground. In addition, predicting erosion is an uncertain science, especially when projected well into the future when our understanding of the extent and effects of sea level rise is poorer. Thus, the DynamicCoast maps show what may happen if past rates continue unchecked, as an indicative starting point and not as a firm prediction. The presence of coastal defences has not been collated nationally before now and whilst we have compiled and checked data to the best of our knowledge, errors and omissions may remain. The defence dataset is expected to be improved by SEPA in the coming years.
The projections simply reflect the continuation of recent erosion and do not account for climate change (which is expected to speed up and expand erosion into new areas) nor do they include future management including feeding the beach with sediment or building sea walls (which would slow or stop erosion). However, they do take account of geological information that may limit the inland extent of future erosion. The implications of climate change on these data are being considered by a follow-on research project.
Shoreline Management Plans are crucial strategic planning documents but are not ‘statutory’ documents – meaning their contents do not carry legal weight.
Management policies agreed in them for discrete stretches of coast therefore remain an ‘aspiration’ until full design and appraisal of the costs and benefits of defence works has been undertaken. In some areas, there is a clear case for continuing to defend or building a new structure – in others the case is less clear and further detailed studies, and sometimes extra funding, are required. In many cases, this funding will need to be found from outside the Government budget.
Possibly – in some places where land is low lying, risk of flooding from the sea may be related to coastal erosion. You may also be at risk from river flooding. Check SEPA’s Flood Map to find out.
Not necessarily. Not all coastal defences will be maintained indefinitely, and their ongoing maintenance is dependent upon funding – some of which may well need to be found from outside the Government budget. You may still be at risk from river and coastal flooding – check the SEPA Flood Maps to find out. Even where defences exist, there is still a ‘residual’ risk of erosion and flooding whereby extreme weather causes waves to overtop or damage defences – especially as sea levels rise. In Scotland, a few coastal areas may be prone to landslides caused by the interactions between groundwater, soils and bedrock. These processes can continue regardless of defences against erosion from the sea and are not assessed here.
This information may be held by the insurance industry but is unlikely to be used in calculating premiums because it is not normally possible to include insurance against coastal erosion from the sea in domestic buildings and contents insurance policies.
As it is a national assessment intended for guidance, this information does not provide details for individual properties.
The Statement of Principles on flooding and insurance drafted by the Government and the Association of British Insurers does not cover coastal erosion.
It is not normally possible to include insurance against coastal erosion from the sea in domestic buildings and contents insurance policies, and therefore insurance premiums should not be affected by either the release or accuracy of this data.
Landslides, subsidence and heave are usually covered in domestic policies. The information on this website shows predictions of recession caused by ‘simple’ erosion by the sea alone, and combined forces of gradual erosion and episodic landslides where the relative effect of each process upon recession may be difficult to differentiate. In these composite’ cases, property owners and insurance companies may undertake specific surveys to arrive at a suitable policy provision. You should talk to your insurance provider if you are in any doubt about how land instability may affect your policy.
Not all stretches of the coast experience coastal erosion - in these cases, you may also want to confirm you are not thought to be at risk from flooding. Please consult SEPA’s Flood Maps.
The Local Authority and Shoreline Management Plan websites may provide you with local erosion information. We continue to work in partnership with Local Authorities on publishing erosion further information on this website in the future.
If you believe that a particular location is not at risk from coastal erosion, or if you have information that you believe we may not have taken into account, please contact us via the contacts page. We will consider your comments and advise on the appropriate procedure. However, we would be unlikely to be able to consider an amendment to this information based on anecdotal evidence alone.
The www.DynamicCoast.com website has a series of report which can be downloaded.