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Some 70 per cent of the world's shorelines are in recession (Bird, 1985). This is likely to be exacerbated if sea levels rise as a result of global warming; particularly in flat, low-lying regions. In recent years methods of coastal engineering have moved from 'hard' sea-wall type solutions toward so called 'soft' techniques, such as beach nourishment. These demand a much better understanding of the coastal processes that prevail. By acknowledging the regional scale of such processes, the benefits of a strategic approach to the provision of coastal works has been identified. This is now leading to a more integrated approach to shoreline management, which seeks to identify and resolve conflicts of interest. Within England and Wales, Shoreline Management Plans are now being implemented around the coast. These are beginning to raise a number of issues, particularly in the context of sustainable development, such as protection of isolated dwellings, or nature conservation interests. It seems that these can only be resolved through a closer integration of long-term coastal planning with engineered solutions. This paper briefly reviews developments to-date and begins to consider whether there is greater scope for coastal processes to be more closely integrated into current SMP practice. It also suggests some modifications to the existing institutional arrangements, which would further facilitate the now firmly established move towards strategic management of the physical assets on the coast.
The Geographical Journal © 1998 The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)