5.3 Recommended approaches

The underlying principles of shoreline management are to match the solution to the problem and to minimise the disruption to natural processes. Ideally dune systems would be left free from backshore development, and therefore erosion management would not be required. This principle should be fundamental to the planning guidelines for all coastal authorities. All soft shorelines should be considered as potentially erodable, even if they appear stable at present, and competent guidance should be sought as to an appropriate set back distance for any new coastal development. Unfortunately, even the most remote Scottish beaches are often already affected by some form of human development. Typically backshore recreational assets, such as caravan parks, footpaths or golf courses, are threatened by erosion, whether seasonal or long term. In extreme cases the threatened backshore assets may also include housing or industrial facilities.

Management responses to the threat of asset loss should start with consideration of adapting the backshore to allow natural erosion to continue. In many cases this will be the only practical solution, as erosion may be an irreversible trend, and the long-term cost of defences may be greater than the value of the property at risk. This approach may be coupled with small scale, short term works to delay the onset of asset loss, or with selective defences to protect the most important assets while accepting the loss of others. If erosion continues and further losses are considered unacceptable then the level of response may have to escalate to large scale works.

Figure 5.1 presents a flow diagram to assist the shoreline manager in moving from an observation of erosion to the implementation of a management plan. This process is strongly linked to monitoring, which is discussed further in Appendix 2.

Fig 5.1 Click to enlarge

Figure 5.1 Dune management planning and implementation flow diagram

Table 5.1 summarises potential responses to different generalised risk situations based on the nature of the assets at risk. The selection of specific approaches will depend on the characteristics of the site. Other factors such as coastal processes, site access, availability of materials and labour, acceptability of a commitment to long term management, recreational use of the area, financial resources and the conservation interests of the site will also play a part in the decision process.

Table 5.2 provides a further multi-criteria guide to assist in the selection of management options. Each approach is graded for initial and long term maintenance cost, life expectancy of benefits assuming no maintenance and impact on habitat, landform, landscape and coastal processes. The star system is indicative only, as every case must be considered independently. The ideal scheme will provide the asset protection required while minimising costs and impacts and maximising life expectancy.