3.1 Coast Protection Legislation in Scotland

3.1.1 Introduction

A broad range of legislation governs the approval and implementation of coast protection works - that is schemes intended to manage or prevent coastal erosion - and filely all works outlined in this guide will require certain consents or licences before they can be implemented. The nature of the consents required depends largely upon the precise location of the works relative to high and low water marks, the type and scale of the works and the nature conservation interest of the area concerned.

Table 3.1 provides a detailed breakdown of the consents and approvals typically required of coast protection schemes in Scotland. It should be noted that in the exceptional case of listed buildings or scheduled ancient monuments being affected by the works under consideration, other, additional consents may also need to be sought.

3.1.2 Summary of Legislation

The Coast Protection Act 1949 (part I) empowers Local Authorities with coastlines (termed ‘Coast Protection Authorities’ in the Act) to carry out coast protection work inside and outside their area as necessary, subject to the approval of the Scottish Executive1. Capital works may, if approved, be eligible for grant aid from the Executive, ranging from 20-80% of eligible costs, depending upon the Authority concerned. Proposed schemes, other than maintenance or emergency operations, must be advertised by the Coast Protection Authority and notice of the works served upon a number of bodies, including SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The powers given to the Coast Protection Authorities under the Act are permissive, i.e. Authorities are not obliged to protect eroding coastlines. Instead responsibility for management and prevention of erosion rests with the landowner of the site concerned. Schemes proposed by landowners require the consent of the Coast Protection Authority and are not eligible for grant under the Act. Road, rail and harbour authorities, and certain other bodies with special powers, are exempt from the requirement to gain such consent but must instead give notice to the Coast Protection Authority of any works they propose to carry out.

Further to these requirements, because coast protection works below MHWS might, in theory, affect or interfere with marine transport or navigation, consent is also required for these under part II of the Act from the Scottish Executive Transport Division2.

The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA) regulates activities involving construction or deposition of materials upon the seabed. Under FEPA, all operations, including coast protection works, entailing movement of beach sediment or the erection of structures below HWMOST require a licence, in this case from the Scottish Executive Marine Laboratories3.

Depending upon the nature and scale of the works, most coast protection schemes proposed by individuals or Local Authorities also require planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (TCPSA), assuming they extend above LWMOST. For major schemes this is the case even where it is the Local Authority itself which proposes the works.

Naturally, the permission of the landowner will need to be sought prior to commencement of works. For foreshore and seabed below HWMOST this will typically be the Crown Estate. Local Authorities retain the power, under the Coast Protection Act, to carry out works even where landowner permission is not given. Such schemes, however, require Ministerial approval following consideration of any objections which the landowner may have.

  1. Scottish Executive (Rural Affairs Department), Environment Group, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh. EH6 6QQ.
  2. Scottish Executive (Development Department), Transport Division 4, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh. EH6 6QQ.
  3. Scottish Executive (Rural Affairs Department), Marine Laboratories, PO Box 101, Aberdeen.