Coastal change

Status: Purely descriptive 

Coastlines are dynamic environments which change over time. Some are worn or washed away and some are purposefully altered, or unintentionally altered. The Solway is a highly changeable estuary with ever changing sandbanks, and so coastal change is a constant consideration. In addition to natural processes, human intervention, such as the construction of coastal defences and the presence of the Solway Viaduct can also cause changes to the coastline. Defending one area with man-made structures, despite protecting one stretch of the coastline, may cause knock-on impacts such as increased erosion elsewhere along the coast. Although coastal change could provide increased tourism opportunities, for example through increased beaches, it also puts our natural and built environment, and heritage at risk.

Soft coastlines are very susceptible to change from natural processes such as waves, sea-level rise and coastal flooding, in addition to coastal erosion, sediment deposition and mobilisation. Coastal change could include accretion as well as erosion. Climate change – sea level rise and coastal flooding has its own section within the review and so this section will focus more on coastal erosion. To limit overlap of information relevant to multiple sections of the review, hyperlinks will be available to redirect the reader to relevant information already provided.

Around both sides of the Solway the coastline is primarily classed as ‘soft’, with a considerable amount of rocks and cliffs, and natural beaches.

As mentioned within the review there is an overlap between terrestrial and marine areas in the intertidal zone. There is an intrinsic link between the marine and terrestrial environment, this overlapping area is important for the topic of coastal change. Marine planning begins at the high water mark, while terrestrial planning ends at the low water mark. This overlap is where coastal defences are, predominantly, built and needed in order to protect the coast from erosion. As such coastal defences need land based planning permission, and coastal change is considered in land based planning documents such as Local Development Plans. The focus of this review, however, is on the Solway Firth, not land based planning and policy, and therefore the land based coastal change discussion will be limited.


Image; © European Commission – European Atlas of the Seas Interactive Mapping with data layer ‘Coastline Changes based on satellite data (2019)’ turned on. The shoreline-migration map is produced by EMODnet Geology and allows the visualisation of the pan-European coastal behaviour for 2007-2017.

Coastal change

Coastal Change over Time

Commissioned by the Scottish government, the National Coastal Change Assessment (NCAA) is an analysis of Scotland’s coastline taking historic maps and comparing them to old and current coastal positions to establish coastal change seen over time. The majority of the Solway coastline from the Mull of Galloway to Gretna formed a complete cell (Cell 7). The Mull of Galloway to Loch Ryan formed part of a sub-cell of another cell (subcell 6d in Cell 6- Mull of Kintyre to the Mull of Galloway). Using the methodology from the NCAA Dumfries and Galloway has 1,028km off coastline including coastal islands according to the Dumfries and Galloway Council (2019). These cells were analysed for historical changes and a vulnerability assessment of the soft coastline. Many inputs were factored in this historical comparison when attempting to project potential future erosion, such as elevation, and wave exposure in addition to socioeconomic factors, to name a few. The assessment is limited in its extent in several ways. It utilised a Coastal Erosion Susceptibility Model ‘whose function is to limit erosion to areas where the hinterland is susceptible to erosion.’ (Scotland’s Dynamic Coast, n.d.) Furthermore, it is only for soft shoreline, 53% of Cell 7 has been categorised as soft, and does not account for the projected sea level rise. The information from the NCCA can be accessed via interactive mapping.

As previously mentioned, coastal change is a natural process, however we are often also naturally protected from the implications of coastal change by natural features above the water level, sand dunes for example. According to the National Overview of the Dynamic Coast project, over £13 billion worth of buildings, roads, and railway lines lie within 50m of the coast in Scotland (Hansom et al, 2017a).

Key findings of the NCAA for the shoreline between the Mull of Galloway and Gretna were:

  • Mean High Water Springs extends to 546km, constituting ~3% of the Scottish coastline. This is made up of 53% (291km) soft coastline45% (247km) hard and mixed and 2% (8km) artificial coastline.
  • Between 1890-1970s (74 years), around 43%of the soft shoreline has not changed significantly. The 57% which has changed includes 31% accretion of soft coasts and 26%erosion.
  • The ‘modern’ period (1970s onwards) spans 37 years, so the historical period data has been normalised to 37 years to allow modern/historical comparisons. Using this adjustment, the extent of erosion increased from 13% historically to 21% in the ‘modern’ period, the extent of stability reduced from 73% to 60% and the extent of accretion increased from 15% to 19%.
  • By 2050, 2ha of coastal areas, which supports various assets (and which include 7 residential properties) is predicted to be lost.
  • There has been a substantial increase in the rate of erosion, with the fastest rates (30m+ over 37 years) now affecting 12% of the retreating shore, up from 6%.
  • Accretion rates increased with the fastest rates (30m+ over 37 years) historically affecting 9% off the advancing shore and now affecting 11%. This could be a reflection off Dumfries and Galloway’s dynamic and extensive sandflats and
  • There is a trend toward erosion (increasing), through a transitional condition of no change (decreasing) with the average rate of erosion increasing from the historical to the recent period
    (Hansom et al, 2017b).

The topic of coastal change often focuses on erosion, however, looking at the output Dynamic Coast maps it can be seen that there are areas of accretion along the Scottish Solway coast, as well as extensive erosion. Looking at, for example, the coastline between Gretna and Annan which has experienced both extremes of coastal change within the past ~50 years (1970 to modern), with some areas indicating over 30m of accretion, but similarly areas which have seen over 30m of erosion. The Dynamic Coast maps also provide a future look at what our coastline may look like in 2050 and 2100. Erosion will continue to be an issue with large portions of the Dumfries and Galloway coastline being lost over the next ~80 years according to the projected maps, with the inner Solway in particular badly effected by ongoing erosion.

It is strongly advised for readers to explore the invaluable Dynamic Coast maps tool and explore coastal change around the Scottish Solway Coast.

Any reader wishing to look further back in time at historic coastal change for both England and Scotland can explore the National Library of Scotland online georeferenced maps. Overlaying historic maps over a recent satellite image of the Solway the reader can adjust the transparency and explore the mapped historical coastline with the modern Solway coast.

There is no English alternative for the NCCA, which only covers Scotland, but this does not mean the English Solway coast doesn’t change over time. Comparing maps in the National Library of Scotland Maps website gives an overall impression that the English coast is less susceptible to change than the Scottish counterpart. Much of the changes seen in comparing a current world map with an Ordinance Survey 1:25,000 maps between 1937-1961 will show the erosion of several saltmarshes such as Burgh Marsh, and coastal erosion in places like Allonby Bay and Dubmill Point, although will also show some expansion of saltmarsh, for example between Cardurnock and North Plain and Rockcliffe Marsh. There is a coastal railway from Whitehaven to Maryport, a  promenade along the Maryport coast, a promenade and hard defences between Silloth and Skinburness, and coastal roads such as the B5300 have helped maintain the coastline, although coastal erosion on the seaward side of these defences has begun to impact their integrity. Dubmill Point, for example, along the B5300 road was closed in 2019 due wave overtopping and flooding the road, causing danger to cars from the waves, and rocks which can be thrown over with them. Emergency repairs were required to repair damage caused. These works included road resurfacing, the removal of a failing coastal defence and the building of new coastal defence.

The Solway coast in England is also at risk of coastal change. In 2018 it was reported that 8,900 properties in England were located in areas at risk of being lost through coastal erosion (Committee on Climate Change, 2018).

A summary of all coastal defences along the Cumbrian Solway Coast are available within the Cumbria Coastal Strategy Technical Appraisal documents. For each policy unit the location, type, EA asset reference and condition and residual life of coastal defences along the English side of the Solway coast are listed;

Cumbria Coastal Strategy – Technical Appraisal for Policy Area;

11e1 – St. Bees Head to Whitehaven

11e2 – Whitehaven to Workington

11e3 – Workington to Maryport

11e4 – Maryport to Dubmill Point

11e5 – Dubmill Point to Silloth

11e6 – Silloth to The Grune

11e7 – Moricambe Bay

11e8 – Cardurnock to Scottish Border

With changes brought about through climate change, along with uses of the coastal and marine environment, natural process, and other factors, the coastline around the Solway Firth will continue to change in the future. Planning and management of the coastline is key to ensuring the protection of assets and maintaining or conserving habitats and species.


Image; Mouth of the River Annan. © Solway Firth Partnership. Photographer; K. Kirk

Coastal change

Management planning

A recent paper (Masselink et al, 2016) looked at the effects of the stormy Atlantic conditions in the winter of 2013-14. It concluded that they caused significant coastal erosion along Europe’s Atlantic coast (France, Northern Ireland, and the UK). The Solway Firth itself is protected to some extent by the presence of the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. Despite this protection, the Solway remains susceptible to coastal change and flooding, and therefore there are many mechanisms in place to attempt to manage the risks posed.

Much of the information on management planning is available within the Climate change – Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding section in detail due to the extensive planning which takes place to manage flooding.

Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) have been produced for both sides of the Solway. In England the North West England and North Wales Shoreline Management Plan region is split into 5 separate sub-cells, one being sub-cell 11e, covering St Bees Head to the Scottish Border, the entirety of the English side of the Solway Firth coast. The SMP for the Dumfries and Galloway coast is produced by Dumfries and Galloway Council. The Dumfries and Galloway Shoreline Management Plan is currently being updated (ongoing updates available here), with the last plan having been published in 2005. It should be noted that these plans are not legally-binding.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA’s) flood risk mapping also indicates areas where there is more or less susceptibility to coastal erosion.

Cumbria County Council are producing the Cumbria Coastal StrategyThis will be a plan to evaluate and manage the risks related to coastal flooding and erosion along the Cumbrian coastline on a long-term scale. The Environment Agency (EA) in England is under a statutory duty to create the National flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy for England (NFCERMSE). The most recent strategy was published in 2020 and builds on the existing flood risk management in England, explaining what needs to be done by all risk management authorities connected to flooding and erosion. It is a collaborative document, formed with the assistance of practitioners from over 90 organisations. The EA will also provide an annual report on progress or risk management authorities to Ministers, an action plan for taking the strategy forward to be developed in 2021, with the next review of the NFCERMSE in 2026. The new NFCERMSE also provides some figures on positive progress which occurred between the 2011 strategy and the new 2020 strategy, but also provides the contrast of some costs and damage flooding caused in these years. For example, in 2015/16, 23,400 properties were protected from flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire, however 20,925 properties were flooded in this time, estimating economic damages from flooding for this region in 2015/16 are £1,697 million (Environment Agency, 2020).
The EA is also required to produce an annual report; Managing flood and coastal erosion risks in England (as per the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and the NFCERMSE). This report details the work conducted by all risk management authorities in the previous year related to managing coastal erosion and flooding risks, progress towards achieving the NFCERMSE, progress towards local strategies, and future risk management.


Video; Waves at Dubmill Point during stormy weather. © Solway Firth Partnership.

Coastal change

Shoreline Management Plans

Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) are non-statutory, and seek to assess the long-term, large scale, risks which result from coastal change such as erosion. These plans are policy documents which attempt to guide coastal defence management planning to preserve developed, historical, and natural environments.

In England, the EA is the body which is responsible for sea defences and related issues, with DEFRA as the financial enabler of SMP compliant actions. Scotland, on the other hand, does not have one specific body in charge of either of these aspects of coastal defence. Permissive powers are granted to local authorities by virtue of the Coast Protection Act 1949, however the landowner ultimately has the responsibility. Overall, ‘no one organization provides coordination for coastal management and flood defence in Scotland.’ (Hansom et al, 2004)

The SMP is important to Defra’s strategy for flood and coastal defence in England, and ‘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.’ (Defra, 2006)

Catchment Flood Management Plans are similar policy-level documents to SMPs for sustainable management of river catchments. Catchment Plans generally consider more the effects of fluvial flood risks rather than tidal flooding. However, it is important to consider both for Integrated Coastal Zone Management.


Image; Carsethorn boulder defence. © E. Baruah

Coastal change

Shoreline Management Plan - Scottish Shore

The Dumfries and Galloway coastline extends from the mouth of the River Sark in the Solway Firth to Galloway Burn (just north of Cairnryan in Loch Ryan). The Dumfries and Galloway Shoreline Management Plan discusses many processes, effects, and options for future risk management. As such, climate change and effects including erosion and flooding are discussed in addition to the current state of the Solway Firth in terms of waves, tides, buildings, and habitats, along with other information pertinent to shoreline management.

Only a small percentage of the coastline has or is likely to need coastal protection or flood defences in the next 50 years. Nonetheless, it is important to have a strategy for setting such schemes.

The coastline is divided into Coastal Process Units (CPUs), within the Dumfries and Galloway SMP, within which coastal process are broadly similar and beach sediment movement is largely contained.

There are 6 CPUs in Dumfries and Galloway

  1. Inner Solway –River Sark to Borron Point
  2. Outer Solway Coast – Borron Point to Torrs Point, Abbey Head
  3. Wigtown/Kirkcudbright Bays – Torrs Point, Abbey Head to Burrow Head
  4. Luce Bay – Burrow Head to Mull of Galloway
  5. Rhins of Galloway (west) – Mull of Galloway to Milleur Point
  6. Loch Ryan – Milleur Point to Finnarts Point

Each CPU is then subdivided into 37 Management Units (MU), each of which is given a suggested defence policy option based on their requirements as illustrated in the table below.


Suggested MU defence policies

H – Hold the line

Hi – No active intervention For the most part but hold the line in individual areas

Li – No active intervention for the most part but limited intervention in individual areas

Mr – No active intervention for the most part but managed realignment in individual areas

Ni – No active intervention

A – Advance the line

MU No. MU boundaries Short term Medium term Long term
1 A74(T) – Mouth of Sark Hi Hi Hi
2 Mouth of Sark – Waterfoot Hi Hi Hi
3 Waterfoot – Barnkirk Point Hi Hi Hi
4 Barnkirk Point – Pow Water Hi Hi Hi
5 Pow Water – Scar Point Li Li Mr
6 Scar Point – Airds Point Hi Hi Hi
7 Airds Point – Borron Point Hi Hi Hi
8 Borron Point – Castlehill Point Li/Hi Li/Hi Li/Hi
9 The Port, Dalbeattie – Kippford Ni Ni Hi
10 Castlehill Point – Balcary Point Hi Hi Hi
11 Balcary Point – Torrs Point Ni Ni Ni
12 Torrs Point – Bar Point Hi Hi Hi
13 Seaward – Low Bridge of Tarff Hi Hi Hi
14 Bar Point – Carrick Point Li Li Li/Hi
15 Carrick Point – Ringdoo Point Hi Hi Hi
16 Rough Point – Fleet Bridge Hi Hi Mr
17 Ringdoo Point – Point Fishery Hi Hi Hi
18 Point Fishery – Eggerness Point Hi Hi Hi/Mr
19 Eggerness Point – Ringan Hi Hi Hi
20 Ringan – Isle Head, Isle of Whithorn Hi Hi Hi
21 Isle Head – Screen, Isle of Whithorn H H H
22 Screen, Isle of Whithorn – Airlour Creamery Li Li Li/Hi
23 Airlour Creamery – Low Drumskeog H H H
24 Low Drumskeog – Balcarry Holdings Hi Hi Hi
25 Balcarry Holdings –Carisbrooke Caravan Park Ni/Li Ni/Li Ni
26 Carisbrooke Caravan Park –Inchmore Hi Hi Hi
27 Inchmore – Back Bore H H H
28 Back Bore – Mull of Galloway Hi Hi Hi
29 Mull of Galloway –Lagnawinny Hi Hi Hi
30 Lagnawinny – Portpatrick (north) H H H
31 Portpatrick (north) – Milleur Point Ni Ni Ni
32 Milleur Point – Clachan Heughs (south) Ni Ni Ni
33 Clachan Heughs (south) –McCullochs Point Hi Hi Hi
34 McCullochs Point – Bishop Burn Bridge H H H
35 Bishop Burn Bridge –Bankhead Hi Hi Hi
36 Bankhead – Glen Burn Hi A A
37 Glen Burn – Galloway Burns Hi Hi Hi

Table Source; Wallingford, H.R. (2005)

Coastal flooding and erosion risks are also assessed in the SMP.

Frontages most at risk of coastal erosion:

  • Annan Estuary to Powfoot (MUs 3,4)
  • Carsethorn and Southerness (MUs 6,7)
  • Garlieston, Isle of Whithorn and Port William (MUs 19,21,23)
  • The western side of Luce Bay (MUs 26,27)
  • The western shoreline of Loch Ryan (MUs 33,34)
  • The eastern shoreline of Loch Ryan (MUs 35,36,37)
    (Wallingford, H.R. 2005)

Frontages at risk of coastal flooding:

  • River Sark (MU 1)
  • Annan Estuary (MU 3)
  • Nith Estuary, particularly at Dumfries, Kingholm Quay and Glencaple (MUs 6,7)
  • Dee Estuary (MU 9)
  • Creetown and Carsluith (MU 17)
  • Wigtown (MU 18)
    (Wallingford, H.R. 2005)

Flooding also occurs near the tidal limits of Newton Stewart, Gatehouse of Fleet and Glenluce.

The potential for flooding and erosion in many areas of Dumfries and Galloway poses a very real threat to local communities, homes and businesses. To illustrate the potential risks from flooding, including river and surface water flooding, the below table offers an estimate of some areas and the properties which would be vulnerable. A interactive map which will provide further detail on each potentially vulnerable area when clicked on can be found for the Solway Local Plan District here.

Potentially Vulnerable Areas (coastal)

*At risk from coastal, river and surface water flooding

Potentially Vulnerable Area Residential properties at risk* Non-residential properties at risk* 
Kirtle Water catchment 20 <10
Ecclefechan –Annan 240 70
Dumfries East 110 <10
Dumfries Nith 600 240
Southerness and Carsethorn 50 <10
Dalbeattie 280 80
Palnackie <10 0
Kirkcudbright 90 40
Gatehouse of Fleet <10 <10
Creetown 90 20
Braehead and Whauphill <10 <10
Isle of Whithorn and Garliestown 90 30
Portpatrick 10 <10
Kirkcolm <10 0
Stranraer 290 60

Table Source; Data for this table was collected from the Solway Flood Risk Management Strategy (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, 2015)


Image; Port Mora, Portpatrick (Southern Upland Way) © G.Reid/ Solway Firth Partnership

Coastal change

Shoreline Management Plan - English Shore

The North West and North Wales Coastal Group is comprised of local authorities, the Environment Agency and other organisations who manage the coastline from Great Orme’s Head in Wales to the border with Scotland at the Solway Firth and produces the Shoreline Management Plan for this area.
This group reports to the North West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.

In England the North West England and North Wales Shoreline Management Plan region is split into 5 separate sub-cells, one being sub-cell 11e, covering St Bees Head to the Scottish Border, the entirety of the English side of the Solway Firth coast.

This is the second generation non-statutory Shoreline Management Plan (SMP2) for Sub-cell 11e, which includes Moricambe Bay as well as the Rivers Ellen, Derwent, Eden and Esk. Seeking to manage risks of coastal erosion and flooding over the next 100 years, SMPs must be considered in development planning, and vice versa.

This area of coastline has a great deal of environmental and heritage value in addition to the many homes and businesses located near the coast. Included in this area are 48 Scheduled Monuments, Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, and the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, along with reasonably sized towns such as Workington and Whitehaven and the Cumbrian Coastal Railway. The SMP2 considers the best course of action to protect these features, and others, which include defence maintenance, naturally allowing the coastline to evolve, and managed realignment, which was recommended for the majority of Moricambe Bay.

Four options are provided for management of the English shoreline; ‘Hold the Line’, ‘No Active Intervention’, ‘Advance the line’, and ‘Managed Realignment’. These can be briefly described as maintaining defences, no investment needed in defences, providing more seaward defences, and shoreline movement limitation.

Cumbria coast SMP current policy;

H – Hold the line

Ni – No active intervention

A – Advance the line

Mr – Managed realignment

Policy Unit Location 0-20 years 20-50 years 50-100 years
1:1 St Bees Head to Saltom Pit Ni Ni Ni
1:2 Saltom Pit H H Ni
1:3 Saltom Pit to Whitehaven Ni Ni Ni
1:4 Whitehaven South Beach Ni Ni Ni
2:1 Whitehaven Harbour and north beach H H H
2:2 Bransty to Parton H H H
2:3 Parton H H H
2:4 Parton to Harington Parks H H H
2:5 Harrington Parks to Harrington Harbour H Ni Ni
2:6 Harrington Harbour H H H
2:7 Harrington to Steel Works Site H H H
2:8 Steel Works Site H H H
2:9 Steel Works to The Howe Ni Ni Ni
2:10 The Howe to Workington Harbour south breakwater Mr Mr Mr
2:11 Workington Harbour H H H
3:1 Workington Harbour to Siddick H Mr Mr
3:2 Siddick to Risehow H H H
3:3 Risehow to Maryport Marina Ni Ni Ni
3:4 Maryport Harbour/Marina H H H
4:1 Maryport Harbour to Roman Fort H H H
4:2 Roman Fort to Bank End H Ni Ni
4:3 Maryport Golf Course to Allonby­­ Mr Mr Mr
4:4 Allonby H H H
4:5 Allonby to Seacroft Farm Ni Ni Ni
4:6 Seacroft Farm to Dubmill Point H Ni Ni
5:1 Dubmill Point to Silloth Mr Mr Mr
6:1 Silloth Harbour H H H
6:2 Silloth to Skinburness H H H
6:3 The Grune Ni Ni Ni
7:1 Skinburness H H H
7:2 Skinburness to Wath Farm H Mr H
7:3 Wath Farm to Saltcoates including Waver to Brownrigg Mr Mr Mr
7:4 Newton Marsh Mr Mr Mr
7:5 Newton Marsh to Anthorn including Wampool to NTL Mr Mr Mr
7:6 Anthorn H H H
7:7 Anthorn to Cardurnock Mr Mr Mr
8:1 Cardurnock to Bowness-on-Solway Mr Mr Mr
8:2 Bowness-on-Solway Mr Mr Mr
8:3 Bowness-on-Solway to Drumburgh Mr Mr Mr
8:4 Drumburgh to Dykesfield Mr Mr Mr
8:5 Dykesfield to Kingsmoor Mr Mr Mr
8:6 Kingsmoor Mr Mr Mr
8:7 Rockcliffe H H H
8:8 Rockcliffe to Demesne Farm Mr Mr Mr
8:9 Demesne Farm to Metal Bridge Mr Mr Mr
8:10 Metal Bridge (Esk) to the River Mr Mr H

The above table is populated with information compiled from Cumbria Coastal Strategy Technical Appraisal Report for Policy Area documents which detail the current SMP2 policy from Halcrow (2011).

Table Source; Cumbria County Council (2021).


Image; Harrington. © Solway Firth Partnership

Coastal change

Cumbria Coastal Strategy

Following on from the North West Shoreline Management Plan, the need for a more focused Strategy was identified. The Cumbrian Coastal Strategy (CCS) uses SMP2 as a basis to build upon in order to identify locations where interventions may be necessary in the future. The CCS looks at the existing conditions of both flood defences and land itself in making such identifications. The development of the Strategy is managed by Cumbria County Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority supporting the five second tier Local Authorities in their role as Coast Protection Authorities for the coastline.

The strategy is being created over a 29 month period. A number of drop-in sessions were held to inform and include stakeholders in the strategy. This document should be completed and ready for publication in summer 2020.

The key objectives of the Strategy are:

  • To evaluate the risk of flooding and erosion along the Cumbrian coastline
  • Identify properties and infrastructure at risk
  • Identify and evaluate potential long-term solutions
  • Form a robust and objective evidence base
  • To provide a framework for future infrastructure and development
    (Cumbria County Council, n.d.)

The Technical Appraisals provide a host of information on the Cumbrian coastline of the Solway including historic erosion rates, current defences, coastal character and more.

Cumbria Coastal Strategy – Technical Appraisal for Policy Area;

11e1 – St. Bees Head to Whitehaven

11e2 – Whitehaven to Workington

11e3 – Workington to Maryport

11e4 – Maryport to Dubmill Point

11e5 – Dubmill Point to Silloth

11e6 – Silloth to The Grune

11e7 – Moricambe Bay

11e8 – Cardurnock to Scottish Border


Image; Beckfoot. © Solway Firth Partnership

Coastal change

Land Based Concerns for Coastal Change



Coastal change is a particularly worrying process for heritage and historic sites, as changes, or even mitigation measures to the coast, can negatively impact these sites. As such, both England and Scotland have had significant work completed to provide guidance and advice on coastal change and heritage. This is important around the Solway, where there is a wealth of historic sites including wrecks, World War II sites, saw mills, Roman sites, and lots more.

Historic England produced Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys, including one for the North West, with coastal erosion being identified as a key threat. Deposition and reclamation of the intertidal zone were also considered a notable threat.

Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) was created by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in 2000. Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys (CZAS) have been conducted by SCAPE, and others. They aim to gather data on coastal heritage sites, and erosion data, and evidence to support recommendations, and inform both regional and national management and priorities. Three of these reports are on the Scottish Solway, all of which were prepared in 1996.


Land-Based Planning

Changes in the coastal area can have huge impacts on land-based infrastructure and planning, however as land-based issues related to coastal change form part of terrestrial planning it will only be discussed briefly. Across Scotland and England there is a wealth of documents, guidance, and policy which illustrates the need for coastal change to be considered in terrestrial planning and development. This limits the potential for unsuitable development in areas at risk now, or potentially at risk in the future, from coastal erosion and change.

In England, the National Planning Policy Framework explicitly outlines that the English planning system must fully account for coastal change. There are also paragraphs detailing the need to account for the UK Marine Policy Statement, marine plans, avoidance of inappropriate developments, the need for sufficient provision for coastal change management to be included in strategic policies, and the creation of Coastal Change Management Areas (CCMA). A Natural England two staged study has been published advising lists of potential CCMAs. These feature ‘long-lists’ of potential CCMAs and ‘short-lists’ of narrowed down priority/ stand-out areas. Limited areas within the Solway are featured in the ‘long-list’ of each report (1 in the first study and 3 in the second study). No Solway areas were considered for the short list of priority sites.

Current, non-statutory, Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), was published in 2014. This policy sits alongside the National Planning Framework 3 for Scotland, which only refers to coastal erosion when briefly mentioning the need to factor this coastal change into planning decisions in the long-term. SPP outlines the need for complementary marine/terrestrial development plans, that terrestrial development plans should take a precautionary approach when considering flood risk, recognise the impact of increasing sea levels and extreme weather. Furthermore, development plans;

‘should confirm that new development requiring new defences against coastal erosion or coastal flooding will not be supported except where there is a clear justification for a departure from the general policy to avoid development in areas at risk. Where appropriate, development plans should identify areas at risk and areas where a managed realignment of the coast would be beneficial.’ (Scottish Government, 2014)

Coastal change is considered in a local context within Local Development Plans for Dumfries and Galloway, Carlisle City Council, Allerdale Borough Council, and Copeland Borough Council.


Image; Beetle Pontoon at Cairnhead Bay, Portyerrock. © G. Reid/ Solway Firth Partnership

Coastal change


Archaeological Research Services Ltd (2009). North West Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment (NWRCZA), Executive Summary. Available here. (Accessed: 21.06.19)

Baxter, J.M., Boyd, I.L., Cox, M., Donald, A.E., Malcolm, S.J., Miles, H., Miller, B., Moffat, C.F., (Editors), (2011). Scotland’s Marine Atlas: Information for the national marine plan. Marine Scotland, Edinburgh. pp 191. Availablehere. (Accessed: 22.07.19)

CREW, Centre of Expertise for Waters (2012). Coastal flooding in Scotland: A guidance document for coastal practitioners. Available here. (Accessed: 25.07.19)

Cumbria County Council (2015). Local Flood Risk Management Strategy. Available here. (Accessed: 14.05.18)

Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (2006). Shoreline management plan guidance. Volume 1: Aims and Requirements. Available here. (Accessed: 06.11.19)

Dynamic Coast, Scotland’s National Coastal Change Assessment (n.d.). Available here. (Accessed: 11.05.18)

Environment Agency (2019) Flood and Coastal Erosion risk management report: 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. Available here. (Accessed: 07.11.19)

Halcrow Group Limited (2010). North West & North Wales Coastal Group, North West England and North Wales, Shoreline Management Plan SMP2, Main SMP2 Document. Available here. (Accessed: 14.08.19)

Historic England (2009) North West Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey (4548) – Air Survey Mapping Report. Report Number 108/2009. Available here. (Accessed: 07.11.19)

Marine Management Organisation. (n.d.). Marine Planning Evidence Base. Available here. (Accessed: 14.05.18)

Marine Scotland (n.d.). Scotland’s National Marine Plan Interactive. Available here. (Accessed: 25.07.19)

Mills, F., Sheridan, S. and Brown S., (2017). Clyde Marine Region Assessment. Clyde Marine Planning Partnership. pp 231. Available here. (Accessed: 14.05.18)

Natural England (2019) Coastal Change Management Areas: Opportunities for sustainable solutions in areas subject to coastal change, Natural England Commissioned Report NECR275. Available here. (Accessed: 07.11.19)

Rennie, A.F., Hansom, J.D., and Fitton, J.M. (2017). Dynamic Coast – National Coastal Change Assessment: Cell 6 – Mull of Kintyre to the Mull of Galloway, CRW2014/2. Available here. (Accessed: 14.08.19)

Solway Firth Partnership (1996). The Solway Firth Review, Dumfries. Available here. (Accessed: 23.07.19)

UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011). The UK National Ecosystem Assessment Technical Report. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge. Available here. (Accessed: 28.05.18)

Wallingford, H. R. (2005). Dumfries and Galloway Shoreline Management Plan Study: Stage 1, Volume 1, Report EX 4963 Rev 2.0 Available here. (Accessed: 19.07.19)

Wallingford, H. R. (2000). A guide to managing coastal erosion in beach/dune systems. Natural Heritage Management, NatureScot. Available here. (Accessed: 29.07.19)

Your Cumbria Website (2019) B5300 reopens following emergency repairs at Dubmill Point. Available here. (Accessed: 04.06.20)


In-Text References;

Committee on Climate Change (2018). Current Approach to Protecting England’s coastal communities from flooding and erosion not fit for purpose as the climate changes. Available here. (Accessed: 06.11.19)

Cumbria County Council (2021). Cumbria Coastal Strategy – Reports, Technical Appraisal Reports. Available here. (Accessed: 05.07.21)

Cumbria County Council (n.d.). Cumbria Coastal Strategy. Available here. (Accessed: 02.09.19)

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2006). Shoreline management plan guidance Volume 2: Procedures. Available here. (Accessed:14.08.19)

Dumfries and Galloway Council (2019). Local Development Plan 2. Available here. (Accessed: 04.06.20)

Environment Agency (2020). National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England. Available here. (Accessed:24.08.20)

Graham, E., Hambly, J., & Dawson, T. (2017). Learning from loss: Eroding coastal heritage in Scotland. Humanities, 6(4), 87. Available here. (Accessed: 14.08.19)

Hansom, J.D., Fitton, J.M., and Rennie, A.F. (2017a) Dynamic Coast – National Coastal Change Assessment: National Overview, CRW2014/2. Available here. (Accessed:14.08.19)

Hansom, J.D., Fitton, J.M., and Rennie, A.F. (2017b). Dynamic Coast – National Coastal Change Assessment: Cell 7 – Mull of Galloway to the Inner Solway Firth, CRW2014/2. Available here. (Accessed: 14.08.19)

Hansom, J.D., Lees, G., McGlashan, D. J. and John, S. (2004). Shoreline Management Plans and Coastal Cells in Scotland, Coastal Management, 32(3), 227 – 242. Available here. (Accessed: 14.08.19)

HR Wallingford Limited (2005). Dumfries and Galloway Shoreline Management Plan Study: Stage 1, Volume 1, Report EX 4963 Rev 2.0, Table 3.1 Management Unit – suggested defence policies. Available here. (Accessed: 21.06.19)

Masselink, G., Castelle, B., Scott, T., Dodet, G., Suanez, S., Jackson, D., & Floc’h, F. (2016). Extreme wave activity during 2013/2014 winter and morphological impacts along the Atlantic coast of Europe. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(5), 2135-2143. Available here. (Accessed: 13.08.19)

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (2015). Solway Flood Risk Management Strategy. Available here. (Accessed: 21.06.19)

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.). Flood Risk Management Strategy, Solway Local Plan District. Available here. (Accessed: 19.07.19)

Scotland’s Dynamic Coast (n.d.). ‘What is the Dynamic Coast project?’ Available here. (Accessed: 12.04.19)

Scottish Government (2014). Scottish Planning Policy. Available here. (Accessed: 07.11.19)


Image; Portpatrick Harbour. © E. Baruah