Stakeholder expectations of the public in local coastal flood risk management in England

Authors: van der Plank, S., Brown, S., Nicholls, R.J. and Tompkins, E.L.

Conference: ICE Coastal Management

Dates: 24-26 September 2019

DOI: 10.1680/cm.65147.605


The flood risk management (FRM) doctrine that drives coastal flood preparedness in England acknowledges that not all floods can be prevented. Subsequently, beyond flood prevention other measures such as control, acceptance, adaptation, and redistribution constitute part of both national management policy and local policy implementation. The aim of this paper is to analyse the challenges of stakeholders implementing FRM policy locally, and their expectations of the public regarding coastal flood risk. We analyse the challenges from engineering, planning and insurance perspectives, through thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews in two case studies in contrasting English regions.

In the North West case study, covering parts of the Lancashire and Cumbrian coastlines, there is a contrast between the ongoing significant investment on the Fylde Peninsula (in 2015-2021, ∼£120 million will be invested on coastal protection schemes) and the Cumbrian coastline, where a strategy is still being produced. In the South, an area composed of parts of the Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight coastlines was studied. Similarly to the North West, this area encompasses contrasting coastlines of significant settlements as well as more sparsely populated coast. Both cases have a legacy of coastal defences as well as more rural stretches of coastline with a defence legacy but less contemporary spending. Thus, it was possible to compare responses across stakeholder groups and case areas experiencing locally different environmental, social and economic conditions.

A set of 45 interviewees (stakeholders with involvement or interest in coastal flood risk in the North West or South coast) were questioned regarding the costs, timing, power, responsibility, acceptability, equity, and effectiveness of FRM. Responses were coded and analysed using thematic analysis.

Results suggest in the case study areas there is a disjuncture between the stakeholders’ perceived need for increased public debate on a longer-term, more holistic vision for the coast, and a public who is considered to be largely unaware, uninvolved and not feeling responsible for coastal FRM. While the Environment Agency and Local Authorities have clear, local and regional FRM responsibilities through the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, the respondents in the North West and South case areas desire further devolution of these responsibilities to the household and the individual. Simultaneously, they perceive the public to be currently unaware of their flood risk and not very involved in its management. It may be necessary to resolve these existing public engagement issues before the public can become involved in any meaningful way in the desired long-term, integrated and holistic vision for the coast, including and beyond FRM.

Source: Manual

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