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You are here: Coastal Home > SMP Homepage > SMP Publications > Glossary


This glossary will explain some of the terms used in Shoreline Management Plans.

The following text is provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Shoreline Management Plan Guidance © Crown Copyright 2006.


In geography, accretion means the land increasing due to sediment being added to it.

This refers to something of value and may be environmental, economical, social, recreational and so on.
Beach recharge

This is the management practice of adding to the natural amount of sediment (such as sand) on a beach by using material from elsewhere. This is also known as beach replenishment, nourishment or feeding.

Beach recharge material

Natural sediment sourced from elsewhere used to replenish the beach.

Behavioural systems approach

This is a method of looking at how a coast is changing and is likely to change in the future by assessing all the factors that affect its behaviour at a range of scales, both in terms of time and distance. This approach was adopted for the Futurecoast project (see the definition below).


The richness and variety of wildlife (both plant and animal) and habitats on earth.

Biodiversity Action Plans

National action plans for an important habitat or species, approved by the Government, as part of the overall UK biodiversity action plan. (See the reference for the UK Biodiversity Group, 1995 and 1999.) Each action plan provides a description of the species or habitat and any threats to it. It sets targets for recovery and lists the17 December, 2010

Biodiversity objective

An aim for maintaining and improving biodiversity within a habitat.

Biodiversity target

This target was approved by the World Summit on Sustainable Development. “To achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to easing poverty and to benefit all life on earth.”

Catchment Flood Management Plan

A large-scale planning framework for managing flood risk to people and the developed and natural environment. See guidance published in July 2004 ( and Defra's website ( for further details.

Client Steering Group (CSG)

A group formed to review a shoreline management plan.

Coastal defence
A term used to cover both coastal protection against erosion and sea defence against flooding
Coastal Defence Strategy Plan

A detailed assessment of the coastal defence options for a policy unit, based on our guidance: FCDPAG2.

Coastal Habitat Management Plan (CHaMP)

A management plan that identifies the flood and coastal defence work that is likely to be needed in a given area to conserve a European site (or group of sites), particularly where the current defence line may not be able to be maintained over the long term. A guidance note was produced in 2000 by English Nature and others (see the references list for details).

Coastal process units
These were defined by previous SMPs as a length of shoreline in which the physical processes are relatively independent from the processes in neighbouring coastal process units.
Coastal processes

The set of processes that operate along a coastline.

Coastal Squeeze

The process by which coastal habitats and natural features are progressively lost or drowned, caught between coastal defences and rising sea levels.

Coastal Zone Management Plan
Plans through which local authorities and others implement planning objectives and policies for an area of the coast, which deal with a range of issues such as landscape management, development, recreation, conservation, etc.

An outcome or a result, such as an economic, social or environmental effect. It may be expressed as a quantity (such as monetary value), a category (high, medium or low) or a description (see our guidance: FCDPAG4).

The political/social/economic process by which the environment is protected and resources are used wisely.
Earth heritage

A term which describes landscapes identified as important for their fossils, minerals or other geological interest.

Economic Assessment

An assessment which takes account of a wide range of costs and benefits, generally those that can be valued in money terms.

Organisation of the biological community and the physical environment in a specific geographical area.

This term covers landscape and natural beauty, wildlife, habitats, and buildings, sites and objects of archaeological, architectural or historical interest.


This refers to a period of time. In the SMPs three epochs are defined: 0-20, 20-50 and 50-100 years from the present.


The loss of land due to the effects of waves and, in the case of coastal cliffs, slope processes (such as high groundwater levels). This may include cliff instability, where coastal processes result in landslides or rock falls.

European Site

Any site that has been officially named (‘designated') as a site of international nature conservation importance, either as a special protection area (SPA), a special area of conservation (SAC) or a Ramsar (see the glossary) site. When considering planning, it is government policy to treat possible SPAs, candidate SACs and listed Ramsar sites as if they were already designated.


A study we asked for to provide consistent information on coastal processes and possible future development of the coast, for the whole of England and Wales (


The study of landforms on the earth's surface and processes of forming land.

Habitat Directive

EC Directive 92/43 on conserving natural habitats, wildlife and plant life.

Habitat Regulations

The Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 1994. This makes the Habitats Directive UK law.


A situation with the potential to result in harm. A hazard does not necessarily lead to harm.

Heritage Coast

Heritage Coast is a national definition to cover the most unspoilt areas of undeveloped coastline around England and Wales.

High-Level Targets (HLTs)

HLTs have been developed with colleagues in the Environment Agency, Association of Drainage Authorities and the Local Government Association as well as with the wider Flood Management Stakeholder Forum (see for details of its membership). They are not legal requirements but are important for delivering government policy so we expect all operating authorities to put them into practice. Further details on the targets are on Defra's website at

Historic environment

Previous environmental conditions over a range of timescales.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

A strategy to identify lasting levels of economic and social activity in our coastal areas while protecting the coastal environment. It brings together all those involved in developing, managing and using the coast within a framework that makes it easier to join their interests and responsibilities together. Also see Defra's website at

Intertidal areas

The area between mean high water level and mean low water level in a coastal region.


An overflow of water or an expanse of water submerging land.

Landscape character assessment

A way of identifying and explaining different things (such as woodlands, hedgerows, moors, mountains and farmland, building styles and historic artefacts) which give a place its unique character.

Management Units

These were defined by previous SMPs as a length of shoreline with similar characteristics in terms of coastal processes and assets at risk that can be managed effectively. They have now been replaced by policy units.

Natural areas

This covers both the small number of natural areas and the much greater semi-natural areas of Britain, which have been influenced by people's actions over the years.

Nature conservation designations

Below is a list of statutory and non-statutory nature conservation designations (areas identified as special sites for their wildlife and habitats).

Sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) designated for their wildlife and earth heritage (see the definition above) interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

National nature reserves designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Areas of special protection, formerly bird sanctuaries, designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) designated under the 1971 Ramsar Convention.

Special areas of conservation (SACs) designated under the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/ EEC Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Special protection areas (SPAs) designated under the EC Birds Directive (79/409/ EEC Conservation of Wild Birds).

Local nature reserves (LNRs) designated by local authorities under section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

Non-statutory nature conservation sites, such as regionally important geological or geomorphological sites (RIGSs) or sites of interest for nature conservation (SINCs) and land held for conservation purposes by other organisations (such as The National Trust).

Natural Processes

Those processes over which people have no significant control (such as wind and waves).

Net ‘along shore' movement

The difference in the yearly total movement of sand and shingle in each direction along the shore.

Non-statutory conservation

Local-authority conservation plans aimed to protect a local environmental resource.

Operating Authority

An organisation with legal powers to carry out flood defence or coast protection activities, usually the Environment Agency or maritime district council.

Planning Policy Guidance (PPG)

Issued by the Government to set out its national land use policies for England on different areas of planning. These are gradually being replaced by planning policy statements ( PPS ).

Policy Unit

A length of shoreline with similar characteristics in terms of coastal processes and assets at risk that can be managed efficiently.

Preferred policy

The policy that best meets the objectives set out in Box E.

Public Service Agreement

The public service agreement (PSA) framework is a government objective to drive forward the highest priorities and ambitions for delivery within the context of public services.


The conservation on wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 is a treaty between governments which provides the framework for national action and international co-operation for protecting wetlands and their resources.

Residual life

The time until when a defence is no longer able to achieve minimum ‘acceptable performance'.

Residual risk

The risk which remains after managing and reducing risks. It may include, for example, risk due to very severe storms or risks from unexpected hazards.

Risk assessment

Considering risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment.

Risk management

Managing and monitoring risks (

River basin management plans

The plans which must be developed to put the EU Water Framework Directive into force.

Schedule IV

Part of the Coast Protection Act 1949 which says waters excluded for purposes of definitions of ‘sea' and ‘seashore', that is the upstream limit in estuaries and rivers.

Scheduled monuments

The main legislation concerning archaeology in the UK is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. This Act, building on legislation dating back to 1882, provides for nationally important archaeological sites to be protected as scheduled ancient monuments .

Sediment cell

A length of coastline and its associated nearshore area within which the movement of coarse sediment (sand and shingle) is largely self-contained. Interruptions to the movement of sand and shingle within one cell should not affect beaches in a neighbouring sediment cell. A report was produced in 1994 defining sediment cells around the coast of England and Wales (author: HR Wallingford 1994).

Sediment sub-cell
A sub-set of a sediment cell within which the movement of coarse sediment (sand and shingle) is relatively self-contained.
Sediment supply

Adding sediment to a beach.

Shoreline management policy

A general term for any management option.

Shoreline response

The way the boundary between the land and the sea changes due to varying coastal process and people's actions.

Significant effect

An important effect – for example, if a plan or project is likely to affect a European site, you need to decide whether or not it would have a ‘significant effect'. If there is any doubt, you must consult Natural England or Countryside Council for Wales . They will advise whether, in their view, the proposed scheme would be likely to have a significant effect on the habitat interests of the site.

Spatial planning

Spatial planning refers to the methods used to balance demands for development with the need to protect the environment, and to achieve social and economic objectives.


A person or organisation with an interest or concern in something.

Statutory conservation

A legal duty to protect and manage an area of national importance in terms of environmental value.


This describes carrying out any process in a wide-ranging way, taking account of all associated effects, interests of other people and the widest possible options for solving a problem. In this document, the word ‘strategic' does not mean any particular level in the planning process.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

A process of assessing the environmental opportunities and restrictions of a project, and identifying and managing its implications. An SEA is a legal requirement of certain plans and programmes, under the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.

Sustainable development principles

Standards set by the UK Government, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government for a policy to be sustainable. See Defra's website at

Sustainable management

The process of developing (land, cities, business, communities and so on) that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable policies

Sustainable policies lead to coastal defence solutions that avoid committing future generations to inflexible and expensive options for defence. They will usually include considering relationships with other defences and likely developments and processes within a coastal cell or sub-cell.

Technical advice notes (TANs)

Current land use planning policy in Wales is contained in Planning Policy Wales (Welsh Assembly Government, 2002) which provides the strategic policy framework for the effective preparation of local planning authorities' development plans. These are supported by 20 topic-based technical advice notes (TANs).

Transparent and auditable

This means the process is open so that people can see what the process involves and understand why a decision has been made.

Water Framework Directive

This Directive is European Union legislation which covers all inland and coastal waters. The Directive sets a framework which should provide substantial benefits for managing water over the long term. Further details are on Defra's website at

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Updated: 17 December, 2010
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