How is the UK's coastal environment and its management changing?
Britain’s coastline is under the spotlight again.
With concern growing over sea-level change, increasing rates of erosion and the threat to millions of homes, changes have occurred in how the coast is managed by the agencies responsible for its protection.
A recent newspaper article asked if the ‘only solution is to abandon the shore?’ (Guardian 09/10/06). But why is the coast under threat? What will be the approach of the new government agency Natural England (operational since Oct 2006) in the management of our coastline? How is the National Trust responding to the threats facing its coastal estates? And how are local communities dealing with the threat to their homes in some of England’s worst-hit areas?
Under new management: who is “Natural England”?
Rising tides: why are sea levels rising?
Managed retreat: are we giving up or just getting real?
Shifting shores: what is the National Trust thinking?
No surrender: what are the costs and benefits at Fairlight?
Key Stage 3: suggestions for teachers
A Level: exam tips for students
England’s coastlines came under new management from 2 October 2006: a government agency called Natural England has taken over. Its chairman plans to open up the entire 4,000 km of shoreline to walkers (Guardian, 21 Febuary 2007). The pathway would run alongside a new “biodiversity corridor” that will help preserve key habitats threatened by climate change. This may be good news for environmentalists and tourists, but will all land owners favour the new proposals?
New government agency Natural England will not actually own the English coastline, when it takes over responsibility for strategic management at the start of 2007. However, it will have legal powers to ensure that farmers, home owners and major land owners such as the National Trust allow walkers access to roam everywhere (using the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000).
According to The Observer (18 December 2005), the plan to establish a round-England coastal path follows on from success with smaller-scale initiatives in Dorset and Pembrokeshire in Wales. Trial sites were chosen during January 2006 and the full public consultation exercise began in October 2006, shortly before Natural England officially begins to operate.
Until now, responsibility for England’s coastline has been split between a number of different government agencies and attention has mainly been focused upon areas granted protection as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). For instance, along the Dorset and East Devon coast there are some 11 SSSIs.
However, Natural England’s chairman, Sir Martin Doughty, believes that these SSSIs may have an unsustainable future now that climate is changing. In The Observer newspaper (18 December 2005), he asserts that “the odd nature reserve where there are protected species isn’t going to work perhaps in the future or because of climate change. Species will want to move; if that nature reserve is surrounded by monoculture intensive agriculture, they probably won’t get out”.
A key part of the new agency’s strategy will be getting farmers to start thinking about making their land more attractive to any rare species that may live in neighbouring SSSIs. Wild plants and animals may need to migrate across farmland in the future, if their original homes are lost to rising sea levels or increased cliff erosion.
In the long-term, Sir Doughty wants to see the SSSIs enlarged and ultimately linked together to form one long biodiversity corridor as part of a sustainability strategy that will leave coastal ecosystems better placed to adapt and change in response to future climate change.
KS3 notes: For an all-round walk, who needs to talk?
It is quite a challenge: getting the landowners for all 2,000 miles of the English coastline to agree to let walkers have access to the land and to extend areas of protection to form one long biodiversity corridor. But it is vital if, in the future, rare species lose their homes in currently specially protected areas as sea levels start to rise. They need to be able to move somewhere else, and currently are often boxed in on all sides by housing developments or intensively farmed land. But just how easy will it be to get groups of people and landowners to agree to this proposal? As a classroom exercise, students could study maps of coastal areas and try to plan coastal walks that are both safe and scenic. What kind of different land uses would the paths they choose cut through? What kind of conflicts could arise between landowners and tourists? Is a round-England pathway really possible, as Natural England would like?
A Level notes: what is Natural England?
Natural England is a new government agency that replaces English Nature (EN), as well as absorbing the landscape, access and recreation elements of the Countryside Agency (CA), and the environmental land management functions of the Rural Development Service (RDS). This newly integrated-body is intended to hold overall responsibility for nature conservation, biodiversity, landscape, access and recreation. In addition to the proposed changes in access, Natural England’s coastal works will include:
overseeing the progressive transfer of SSSI Wildlife Enhancement Scheme agreements (currently managed by English Nature) into the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme.
working in partnership with The Environment Agency to maximise the impact of activities to protect the environment, e.g. by working on local projects to generate improvements in biodiversity and flood defence and, more widely, the full implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
Following recommendations made in the government’s 2004 Rural Strategy, it will assume control in January 2007 (subject to Parliamentary agreement on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill). Rural Strategy promised the sustainable vision of “rich diverse landscapes and wildlife, managed and enhanced for the benefit of current and future generations”. Further details of how the new agency and its other partners are working towards this goal are available at various agency and government websites:
Natural England: www.naturalengland.org.uk
Rural Development Service: www.DEFRA.gov.uk/corporate/rds
Rural Strategy: www.DEFRA.gov.uk/rural/strategy
DEFRA (the department for the environment, food and rural affairs) recently estimated that 83,000 commercial properties and 4000 square kilometres of agricultural land are currently at risk of river and coastal flooding. These assets are worth anything up to £200 billion.
Coastal areas are threatened because sea levels around the UK are rising, particularly in the south of England. What are the physical and human processes responsible for this?
The Hadley Centre (part of the Meteorological Office) predicts that sea levels in southern England will rise by around one quarter of a metre over the next 50 years, due to two different sets of processes:
Thermal expansion of the oceans and worldwide glacial melting are a product of global warming. These are known as eustatic changes and are experienced everywhere on earth. They are a product of climate change brought about by increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Gas trends over the last two hundred years coincide exactly with the rise of industrialised and industrialising societies. Scientists in most nations now agree that the changes underway are, for the most part, a result of human activity.
The gradual down-tilting of southern parts of the UK is a continual process caused by earth movements triggered during the last ice age, which ended just 10,000 years ago. Following the initial melting of the great mass of ice that covered Scotland and the North of England, land levels there have been rising by several millimetres a year. This is known as isostatic recovery, and occurs locally whenever a great weight, such as an ice sheet or glacier, is removed. Unfortunately, it has led to the south of England being tilted downwards at a similar rate! To support this theory, there is plenty of evidence of settlements in the Solent area (near the Isle of Wight) that have been abandoned to the sea over the last two thousand years. Archaeological remains from Roman and Saxon-occupied areas are now found well below the high tide mark.
Currently, our best defences in the UK have been engineered to withstand floods that are thought likely to recur only once every thousand years, according to historical records. However, the combined effect of eustatic and isostatic changes makes it likely that such catastrophic events may occur much more frequently in future. They will have a shorter return period, meaning that risk to property is set to rise still further. Increasing numbers of people migrating to coastal regions for retirement or to enjoy the scenery is also contributing to the growing value of property, possessions and lives now threatened by these physical changes.
Faced with escalating costs of upgrading defences and uncertain knowledge of future flood levels and their likely recurrence intervals, a strategy known as managed retreat appears to be an increasingly attractive option for the agencies that look after our coastlines. Of course, some areas will always have to be protected if enough people live there or important amenities / environments need to be safe-guarded. Cost-benefit analysis will have to be conducted on a case-by-case basis and some communities will inevitably lose out.
Instead of building better defences, the agencies responsible for coastal management in the UK increasingly seem to be talking about “managed retreat”.
What does this strategy involve, and just how far is it being put into practice?
Managed retreat (sometimes called ‘managed realignment') is a response to coastal flooding and erosion that been gaining currency for several years now.
In 1998, a controversial report from the Commons Agriculture Committee criticised the widespread “deluded belief that we can maintain indefinitely an unbreachable line of towering sea-walls and flood defences.” (The Guardian 06 August 1998)
Instead, it was proposed that low-value land should be abandoned to the sea. An early test-case proved successful at Porlock in west Somerset, where nature was allowed to take its course. Agricultural land was left to flood.
Saltmarsh quickly developed, with halophytic (salt-loving) species such as eel grass, salicornia and spartina thriving in the new environment which is regularly covered by high tides. By allowing this natural process of vegetation change – known as a halosere – to take place, coastal managers have actually nurtured a highly effective natural coastal defence. Incoming waves now lose energy as they cross the saltmarsh, thereby helping to safeguard land further inland from marine processes such as hydraulic action and abrasion.
Abandoning other parts of the coast in this way will certainly help to reduce the annual cost of maintaining sea defences. However, questions over the costs of compensation for farmers and home-owners who lose their land have yet to be resolved.
What is the UK government thinking?
According to Future Flooding, a report by the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, published in April 2004, “over £200 billion worth of assets are at risk around British rivers and coasts, and in towns and cities.”
Currently, the government only spends around £540 million a year on flood management. If this remains unchanged, then the number of people at high risk from river and coastal flooding could double from about one-and-a-half million today to around three million by the 2080s. Increased spending is therefore needed, he warned in his report.
The government responded by suggesting that a basic lack of money will mean that some threatened communities will have to be abandoned.
In June 2004, DEFRA - the government department responsible for sustainable development - published a consultation paper titled Making Space for Water. The very title will make coastal dwellers extremely nervous, especially when the content reads: “the government proposals that solutions for flood management and coastal erosion that work with natural processes to make more space for water should be identified and pursued wherever possible.”
Professor Tim O'Riordan from the University of East Anglia, which has taken a lead role in developing government policy, says that he is “sure the first reaction of those communities affected will be a sense of betrayal by a cruel and insensitive government. But it is clear that the aggressive nature of the sea will mean defences will continue to be undermined. Vulnerable communities must think of relocating. It is not a short-term need. We have time for a planned retreat from places”
Source: adapted from The Guardian (09 January 2005)
Retreat from Wallasea
In an unusual case of “managed retreat”, the UK government spent £7.5 m turning prime agricultural land on Wallasea Island in Essex back into mudflats and salt marsh as a penance for breaking European law. The land, reclaimed centuries ago from the sea, had its sea defences breached in four places so the tide could flow over the north side of the island.
As well as providing natural sea defences, bird habitats will be replaced that were lost when two valuable wildlife sites (Lappel Bank on the Medway in Kent and Fagbury Flats on the Stour and Orwell estuaries) were controversially taken for port developments in the 1990s.
In 1997 the House of Lords ruled that the government had acted unlawfully in giving permission for the new developments, but by then it was too late. As a result of this European ruling, however, the UK government promised to replace the lost habitats. Given that the sea defences of Wallasea were are already under pressure, The Guardian newspaper (04 March 2004) suggested that it seemed “a logical choice to replace the areas that were lost”.
Source: The BBC 04 July 2006 and The Guardian 04 March 2004
Large areas of the British coastline are owned by an independent charity known as the National Trust. Established in 1895, the Trust has always seen its role as one of protecting and preserving the environments that have been entrusted to its care.
With rising tides, preservation is no longer always an option. How is the Trust responding to this challenge?
The National Trust owns 702 miles of UK coastline, including 169 sites in Devon and Cornwall that cover 153 miles. The charity recently commissioned research to assess how the coastline is likely to change over the next 100 years. In April 2005, the results were published in report titled Shifting Shores that announced a major shift in management style.
Shifting Shores showed that many of the Trust’s important sites are at risk from (1) coastal erosion and (2) flooding. The report argues that “we face some difficult choices in managing this change, and need to make well-informed decisions that stand the test of time. Learning from experience, our policy now favours adaptation, to give us time and space to change with the coast and work with the forces of nature.”
Using Flood Risk Maps provided by the Environment Agency in conjunction with predictions of sea-level rise due to climate change, the National Trust Coastal Risk Assessment indicates that over the next century:
169 sites along some 608 kilometres (60%) of National Trust-owned coastline could lose land by erosion
10% of this loss could take place between 100 - 200 metres inland
Another 5% could take place more than 200 metres inland
126 sites with land covering 40 square km are currently at risk from tidal flooding
33 further low-lying sites are at risk of combined tidal and river flooding within the next 100 years
Holding the line and resisting change through hard defences, often in the form of rock or concrete, have been the National Trust’s traditional responses to coastal change. However, during the last few years the charity has changed its outlook. The Trust is arguing that “through evidence and experience we now have a better understanding of the forces of nature and the consequences of working against them. Our policy is to take a long-term view, working with natural coastal change wherever possible.” Recognising that some changes cannot be prevented, the new report concludes that “we favour adaptation.”
Top five National Trust sites:
(1) for erosion
(2) for flooding
1. Golden Cap
2. West Wight, Isle of Wight
3. Formby Sands
4. East Head
5. Orford Ness
Westbury Court Garden
National Trust land at risk
Erosion risk (km)
Flood risk (ha)
East of England
Source: Shifting Shores – Living with a Changing Coastline
No more hard defences?
Traditional hard defences, such as sea walls and groynes, often create as many new problems as they solve. The National Trust is well aware, for instance, of the difficulties that arise from interfering with longshore drift sediment cells. Longshore drift is a coastal transport process that involves beach material moving laterally along the coastline whenever waves approach obliquely, driven by prevailing or dominant winds.
Swash thus drives beach material both inshore and sideways, while backwash, under gravity, returns the material to a position distant to the starting-point. The net result is a lateral (sideways) drift with a saw-tooth or zig-zag motion.
Longshore drift links places together as part of a physical system. Inputs of sediment from a collapsed cliff-face can nourish beaches many kilometres away, reducing cliff erosion there by providing a rough surface that depletes incoming wave energy, lessening hydraulic action and scouring of the base of the cliff. However, defences that shore up one part of the coastline – by preventing cliff erosion or interfering with transport through groyne-building – can reduce the longshore drift of beach material to neighbouring sites. These other locations then experience increased erosion as a consequence of shrinking beaches and a resulting growth in wave energy.
Many coastal sites now suffer the knock-on impacts of hard engineering further along the coast. National Trust land at East Head on the Sussex coast - an internationally important sand dune formation - is being starved of its essential supply of sand and shingle from the shoreline to the east due to the hard defences protecting housing on the Manhood peninsula. The hard defences in one place are thus giving rise to problems in other areas and for other coastal users. Perhaps their use should become more restricted?
The National Trust recognises that “there is no guarantee that hard defences work in the long term: they are often only a temporary solution. As sea levels rise and severe storms increase, it will become ever more difficult and expensive to build and maintain strong defences. They can also disfigure the coast and cause environmental harm by moving the problem to another location. We believe therefore that hard defences should only be used as a last resort.”
Flight from Lizard Cove
As early as 2003, the village of Mullion Cove, on the edge of the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, was short-listed for abandonment. Owned mostly by the Trust, the small harbour settlement has been proving increasingly expensive to protect from the advancing sea and the Trust accept that they cannot keep it for ever.
A programme of repairs started after Easter 2006 at an estimated cost of £5000 a year, but once maintenance and repair is no longer deemed viable, managed retreat will begin (National Trust 2006). No time has been specified as there is no telling “when and how the ultimate extreme storm event or series of events” will occur (The Guardian, October 20, 2006).
Some of the residents are upset and cannot understand the proposal, but others accept the inevitable. One resident, John Pascoe, is reported as saying “the sea is the master, isn’t it? In time, one day the walls will crumble and that will be that.” (The Observer 09 November 2003)
Managing changes for people and ecosystems
The National Trust’s beach at Formby Sands on the Sefton Coast in Lancashire has been eroding at a rate of three to four metres every year for the last 100 years. Severe storms can take twelve to fifteen metres from the front of the dunes, most recently in 2002. Over the next 100 years the Sands may recede more than 400 metres, a change which the Trust says it will now allow to occur naturally. The Trust is therefore planning to re-route the Sefton Coastal Path and relocate the car park, both of which must be maintained if Formby is to remain an important recreational site attracting 350,000 visitors annually from nearby Liverpool.
Allowing the dunes to migrate inland naturally will also ensure the survival of a rare toad species known as the Natterjack. This animal only lives in ponds forming in dune slacks (the hollows that lie between sand dunes). Ensuring that such rare habitats survive climate change is becoming an important new part of coastal management. The new government agency Natural England will be particularly well pleased to see a major landowner like the National Trust taking steps to ensure that endangered species can become mobile and migrate if their local environment starts to change.
The Trust say that they are keen to find solutions where wildlife will be unable to adapt to rising sea levels. Will this be possible in every case? At Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast there are worries that sea level rise may lead to “the loss of freshwater marsh and coastal reed bed which support species such as avocet, bearded tit, bittern, marsh harrier and water vole. We urgently need to find space for new freshwater habitats, giving wildlife the chance to adapt to change.”
The Shifting Shores report can be read in full here
A threatened stretch of coastline can be protected if the benefits of doing so are shown to outweigh the costs. But at Fairlight Cove in Sussex, cost-benefit decision-making has not been easy.
Why is the village of Fairlight under wave attack and why isn’t the government response clear?
Fairlight Cove village sits high on 50 metre-high cliffs close to Hastings on the East Sussex coast. A small settlement of just 770 houses, it grew quickly in the interwar years (1919-39), with a community of 2,000 mainly retired people now living here. Part of Fairlight has been protected since 1990 by a 10 metre-high and 500 km-long offshore reef in the sea below Sea Road.
However, a substantial part of the settlement still has no protection and during the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in cliff loss. This has already led to the demolition of five houses and evacuation of others. The amount of erosion over this period is such that the cliff edge is approaching a previously estimated position for the year 2053! Should protection now be extended to the whole village?
A Level Notes: what are the causes of erosion?
Fairlight suffers from a combination of cliff toe erosion and elevated ground water. Consultants estimate that over the next 100 years between 148 and 195 houses could be lost as the cliff continues to recede under a cyclical failure process. The 50m high cliffs are a mixture of soft clay with siltstone/sandstone beds that are divided into three sections by two major faults. The collapse is by means of:
Slumping (rotational failures) of the saturated clay cliffs (made worse by heavy rainfall during the wet winters of 1999, 2000 and 2001)
Mudflows down the face of the cliff, leaving a scarp at the top of the cliff
Undercutting of the base by the waves, eroding the toe of the mass, with material moved eastwards by long shore drift. As support is lost from the scarp face this induces further collapse of the cliff top
Undercutting has worsened since the sea defences at Hastings (5 km to the west) increased erosion by trapping sediment behind a large groyne system and harbour wall, thereby restricting the replacement of beach material at Fairlight that is also being moved eastwards by longshore drift.
An additional problem arises from the geological structure of the areas. The cliffs are actually made up of alternating layers of hard Lee Ness sandstone and much weaker clays. Along some parts of the neighbouring coastline, the sandstone runs at beach level and, following undercutting, collapses to provides naturally hard rip-rap that gives a degree of natural protection to the remaining cliffs by dissipating wave energy. In Fairlight Cove, the geological structure takes the Lee Ness Sandstone below beach level, leaving the softer clays to be undercut and to collapse. The soft debris that is produced is far more easily eroded and transported away by waves, removing protection and leading to even quicker undercutting cycles.
Why is only part of Fairlight protected? The current situation is a compromise reached when a cost-benefit survey was carried out during the 1980s. Different branches of local and national government came together and debated the situation, taking into account a number of issues:
The cost of the proposed works There are not unlimited funds available nationally to help coastal communities – from the government perspective, was this a priority case?
Protecting homeowners Some local home-owners claim not to have been informed of the risk to houses before they moved to Fairlight. Should they have done better research? Or should they receive some sort of protection and / or compensation?
Keeping the cliff fossils visible The cliff at Fairlight Cove is a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). They are home to some of Britain's most important fossils, including the petrified footprints of 135m-year-old dinosaurs. Partly to preserve this habitat, conservation agencies such as Natural England want the cliffs to remain unprotected for scientists to study
Preserving natural beauty The shoreline is part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which might be spoilt by more ugly sea defences
Knock-on effects for neighbouring areas Other sites like Pett Level rely on cliff collapses in Fairlight for the supply of sediment for their own beaches (delivered eastwards by longshore drift processes active in the region)
The solution finally arrived at was to only protect part of Fairlight Cove for a 50 years period only with a reef, at a cost of £2.0 million (100% grant aid paid by central government to the local council). By leaving some sections of cliff free to erode, overall costs were reduced, while also keeping the SSSI exposed for study.
What about the rest of Fairlight?
In 2003, a group of local residents formed the Fairlight Cove Preservation Trust. Unhappy with the original compromise decision, they began to ask their local authority, Rother District Council, to back their bid to get government department DEFRA to fund the construction of a second protective barrier for the rest of the village. Following a meeting that 120 Fairlight residents turned up to, DEFRA agreed to offer Rother District Council grant aid of £120,000 to fund further studies and a geotechnical survey of the cliffs.
The new engineers’ report showed that the benefits now do exceed the costs and that a solution is possible and affordable. Some of this is due to the recent rise in house prices on the south coast as well as a reassessment of the predicted rate of erosion of the cliffs. It is also helped by the managers of the SSSI accepting that the cliff face has been mostly obscured by landslides for many years. Very few fossils are actually visible for study. Their preference is still to “do nothing” and they would like to keep the cliff face exposed if possible. However, they will accept protection of the lower cliff if it can be demonstrated by engineers that it is unlikely to ever become fully exposed even if nature is left to take its course.
As a result, the engineers’ new plans for additional defences in Fairlight have been approved by DEFRA. What is proposed consists of the construction of a second protective reef constructed using rock armour along the toe of the existing lobe of landslip debris. The cliff slope itself would then be stabilised by re-profiling the slope to achieve an even grade between beach and cliff top level. This slope would also be provided with a network of sub-surface drains to improve the soil’s physical characteristics. To provide long term stability, groundwater will be intercepted by a line of pumped borehole wells at the cliff top.
Planning permission was granted for this proposal in July 2006. DEFRA confirmed in September 2006 that funding for the scheme is available in 2007 if the costs are kept below the £3.4 million approval figure. The Council is now seeking tenders for carrying out the work in 2007.
Real lives for KS3 readers (The Guardian, 09 January 2005)
“One of Fairlight's 18 threatened houses is Fairhurst, a three-bedroom bungalow built in the Eighties, owned by John and Kathy Sinclair. The Sinclairs are currently 40 metres from the cliff edge. According to a June 2003 report by engineers for Rother District Council, their local authority, the worst-case scenario is for the cliff to recede at 25 metres a year. The report recommends that all those in the 'tension zone' should move.
“The Sinclairs bought the house 11 years ago, but it was no spur-of-the-moment purchase. John Sinclair, 72, a retired GP, was aware of the history of coastal erosion in the area, and took advice from the council: 'They said the house was safe for 400 to 500 years,' he says. Kathy adds, 'They said it was built on sandstone (a resistant rock). I don't know what gave them that idea' (the rocks are actually much softer). The uncertainty about the future, she says, has started affecting her health. She's 70. 'I had a heart attack in May. Until now I've never been depressed. I always said I wanted a sea view. I suppose you should be careful what you wish for.'
“Every three months, John and Kathy Sinclair measure the shortest distance between each of the 14 properties in Fairlight closest to the cliff edge.’The official erosion rate for our area is 1.45 metres a year,' John says. 'Last year the engineers said our cliff was going at 25 metres a year. Now their latest studies say that it might be going at 4.5 metres a year. For a year now we've done our own measurements. And we reckon it's going at about 10 metres every 12 months.'
KS3 Notes: doing cost-benefit analysis
Cost-Benefit Analysis is used to work out whether a project should be carried out or not. The three choices that are open to coastal managers worried about erosion or flooding are:
Maintain the present protection
Make the present defences better
The choice depends on (1) the available technology: can anything actually be done? (2) economic worries: what will it cost? (3) the environmental impact: how will local and neighbouring ecosystems and landforms be affected?
If the benefits are much less than the total cost, then the scheme is rejected. If the benefits are significantly greater than the cost, then the scheme is likely to be approved.
However it is sometimes difficult to give a cost value to some factors e.g. human suffering and worry, landscape quality and beauty, recreational use and the value of fossils or ancient monuments.
The difficulties in coming up with a solution that pleases everyone can be seen in the following three quotes from a series of interviews conducted in Fairlight for the BBC.
“We should be trying to work with nature where we can. The coastline isn't fixed and as sea levels rise it will cost us more to defend.” Peter Midgley of the Environment Agency in Sussex
”Managed retreat is the best answer for a sustainable coastline. The taxpayer would save money if we stopped propping up uneconomic sea defences.” Tim Collins, head of English Nature's coastal group
“I have no idea how much longer we will be in this house. I want to see as much as possible done to protect us. We are living here. We didn't expect this.” Frances Alexander, Rockmead Road resident
Read the full article 'BBC South: Coastal erosion' here
More about local people’s views can be found here in Living on the edge
How are coastal areas used by people? What conflicts of interest occur over the use of coastal areas and how can they be resolved?
In this section, children learn:
about a land-use issue and how to evaluate impacts
to make decisions about the likely environmental impact of a leisure development
to explore the idea of sustainable development and its implications within the study context
The item included in this resource about Natural England could be adapted to support teaching of this strand. Give pupils maps of a coastal area and ask them to investigate whether a coastal path could easily be built along a particular stretch of coast as part of a “round-England” walkway. Ask them to evaluate its likely economic, social and environmental effects and its potential impact on the land uses that the path would have to cross (as well as safety issues). Discuss with pupils the views of different interest groups and land-owners.
How can coastal areas be managed? What are the effects of environmental planning and management on coastal landscapes and the people who use them?
to describe and explain how physical and human processes affect specific coastlines
to evaluate different strategies used to manage environmental change
Pupils usually investigate different strategies of coastal management, e.g. “do nothing”, build sea walls, build groynes, and to write a summary of the different viewpoints, listing points for and against particular proposals. To assist with this, the item included here that deals with Fairlight contains plenty of biographical details of people suffering from the loss of their homes, as well as the opinions of a range of local and national government workers.
Students for all A-level Specifications will find the items on Fairlight and the National Trust useful for synoptic and decision-making papers that require an understanding of cost-benefit analysis.
Managed Realignment is a useful concept as it invites a more sophisticated discussion of hazard responses beyond structural and non-structural warning responses. By examining the third option of abandonment, understanding of the relational nature of hazards can be clearly conveyed (i.e. without people or property to be threatened there is no hazard).
Students writing about the management of ecosystems may find interesting ideas to pursue in the item on Natural England’s plans to establish a biodiversity corridor. Climate change may begin to drive the migration of species following their original habitat loss. This is also a strong synoptic theme to introduce into essay-writing.
Written by Simon Oakes, a teacher at Bancroft's School.
Thanks to Terry Oakes Associates and Ewan Laurie (Natural History Museum and Guildford High School) for their comments.
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