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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2009

23 - Adaptive governance for a changing coastline: science, policy and publics in search of a sustainable future



The risks of coastal flooding and erosion in the UK are changing in response to the likely effects of climate change, natural isostatic readjustment and the consequences of hard coastal defence initiatives which have lead to coastal instability elsewhere. In addition to the considerable uncertainty brought about by these factors, there has been a significant, strategic shift in national coastal management policy in England away from investing in expensive ‘hard’ engineered defence, toward designing a more naturally functioning coastline.

This policy change (Defra, 2005a) has come about in light of questions being asked about the physical sustainability (and increasing cost) of a reliance on engineered defences. This means that many coastal communities of varying size in England are now facing a situation of great unease and anxiety about their future; new policy preferences for retreat and realignment mean no future guarantees of protection. Coastal governance arrangements at national to local scales have not yet adequately responded to the new strategic outlook; the national shift of priority has not been matched by any compensation package or appropriate initiatives to promote the development and delivery of associated adaptation requirements in such locations.

Drawing on Tyndall Centre research, this chapter presents an analysis of the governance setting for the management of England's changing coastline (O'Riordan et al., 2006, 2008; Milligan and O'Riordan, 2007; Milligan et al., 2009).

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Adapting to Climate Change
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