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Coastal defence

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ICE design and practice guide

Coastal defence

Edited by Alan Brampton

Published by Thomas Telford Publishing, Thomas Telford Ltd, 1 Heron Quay, London
E14 4JD. URL: http://www.thomastelford.com

Distributors for Thomas Telford books are

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First published 2002

Front cover photo: The shingle barrier beach, Selsey Bill, Sussex

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 0 7277 3005 3

# Institution of Civil Engineers, 2002

All rights, including translation, reserved. Except as permitted by the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Publishing
Director, Thomas Telford Publishing, Thomas Telford Ltd, 1 Heron Quay, London
E14 4JD.

This book is published on the understanding that the authors are solely responsible for
the statements made and opinions expressed in it and that its publication does not
necessarily imply that such statements and/or opinions are or reflect the views or
opinions of the publishers. While every effort has been made to ensure that the
statements made and the opinions expressed in this publication provide a safe and
accurate guide, no liability or responsibility can be accepted in this respect by the
authors or publishers.

Typeset by Gray Publishing, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books, Bodmin, Cornwall

Civil engineering at the coast has been carried out for thousands of years. Initially, the
impetus was provided by the development of harbours and ports, i.e. providing
breakwaters and quays. This was followed by the construction of embankments to
convert inter-tidal areas to fertile agricultural land. The birth of seaside resorts in the
Regency period set new challenges for engineers, for example the provision of
promenades and the stabilization of cliffs and beaches to improve the amenity value of
the coast. Later the Industrial Revolution, and the development of the railways that
often ran along the shore, led to the widespread construction of seawalls to provide
level ground along the coastal strip. Development of the coastal zone continues,
including for example the construction of power stations, oil refineries and marinas.

As a consequence of this range of activities, many of the most intensively developed

areas of the UK, and overseas, lie at or close to the coast. Such areas are of great
economic and social value, for example containing industrial, commercial or
residential properties as well as high-grade agricultural land. In addition, the coastline
often also provides opportunities for tourism as well as, formal and informal recreation.

Apart from these numerous human uses of the coastal zone, it has an intrinsic natural
importance, for example providing habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna. In
addition, the action of the sea on the edge of the land produces rapid changes in the
coastal morphology, revealing the underlying rock strata, causing landslides and
reshaping the shoreline, all effects of great interest to geologists. Because of these
attributes, parts of the coastline (especially where they have remained undeveloped)
have been designated as of national or international importance from a scientific or
conservation viewpoint. Sensitive management of these areas is of crucial importance
both now and into the future.

The desire to preserve assets in the coastal zone has resulted in the widespread
installation of coastal defences, i.e. structures designed to resist the erosion or flooding
of land by the sea. This particular branch of civil engineering has a long history in the
UK. Although well intended, coastal defence schemes have often resulted in
detrimental effects on adjacent stretches of shoreline, or have subsequently required
increasingly expensive maintenance or rebuilding. Alternatives to traditional forms of
defences, such as seawalls, have therefore been developed to reduce both costs and
adverse effects on the surrounding area. In some areas, the need for maintaining
existing defences is now being reviewed in strategic reviews of the coastline and its
management. The alternative of allowing parts of the coastline to revert to a more
natural pattern of behaviour, and dealing with the consequences of its subsequent
evolution, may ultimately prove more cost-effective and sustainable than continuing to
defend it. In many highly developed areas, however, the protection of people and
property from the sea will remain a necessity into the indefinite future, although the
type of coastal defences may well change.

The whole task of planning, designing, building and managing coastal defences in a
cost-effective, environmentally acceptable and sustainable manner is a complicated
undertaking, involving a wide range of skills. Hopefully this introductory guide to the
subject will give a flavour of the challenge involved, particularly for civil engineering,
which is at the centre of this continuing challenge.

This design and practice guide was initiated by the Maritime Board of the Institution
of Civil Engineers. The steering group members for the production of this guide were as

Hugh Payne (Chairman) Welsh Office/National Assembly for Wales

Alan Brampton (Editor) HR Wallingford Limited
Noel Beech Posford Haskoning Ltd.
Andy Bradbury New Forest District Council
Jan Brook Posford Duvivier Environment/Independent Consultant
Chris Fleming Halcrow Maritime Ltd
Sian John CIRIA/Posford Haskoning Ltd
David Richardson Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
Keith Riddell Babtie Limited
Michael Owen Independent Consultant
Andrew Usborne The Environment Agency
Martin Wright Gwynedd County Council/Independent Consultant

The text for this guide was generated from contributions from the steering group
members and the editor.

The Maritime Board is grateful to the contributors and their organizations for their
support, and for the funding contribution provided by the Environment Agency. The
Board emphasizes that the views expressed in this guide do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of the organizations or individual contributors.

The editor gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by June Taylor of the
Institution of Civil Engineers and Maria Stewart of Thomas Telford Limited in the
production of this guide, all who have commented on earlier versions of the text and
those who have provided photographs and illustrations.

Picture credits.
HR Wallingford Ltd 2, 4–9, 11, 14–22, 25–27
West Dorset DC 23
New Forest DC 24

1. Introduction 1
2. Coastal defences 3
History and background 3
Coastal defences – who builds them? 7
Coastal zone management 8
A strategic approach to coastal defence 9
3. Coastline processes 14
Waves 14
Tides 16
Coastline changes 17
4. Review of coastal defence techniques 24
Introduction 24
Linear defences 25
Beach management 33
Beach control structures 35
Dune stabilization methods 38
Estuarial coastal defences 39
Cliff stabilization 43
5. Steps required in choosing coastal defence options 46
Introduction 46
Data gathering 47
Assessing the effect of not intervening 53
Public consultation 58
Assessing coastal defence options 58
6. Choosing a preferred option 60
Technical appraisal 61
Economic appraisal 64
Environmental appraisal 66
Risk 69
7. Design development 71
Introduction 71
Mathematical modelling 75
Physical modelling 77
Scheme promotion and approvals 79
8. Practicalities of coastal defence construction 83
Access and delivery/storage of materials 84
Tidal restrictions 87
Seasonal and phased construction 88
Planning and environmental considerations 90
Construction plant and methods 91
Measurement and detailing 91
Construction risks 92
Construction supervision 92
9. Post-project monitoring, maintenance and evaluation 94
Introduction 94
Construction evaluation 95
Monitoring the condition of defences 95
Maintenance 97
Evaluation of defence performance 98
Environmental monitoring 100
Post-project evaluations 100
Data storage, sharing and future use 100
Bibliography 102
1. Introduction

For many centuries, man has developed the coastline and its immediate hinterland for
both commercial and cultural reasons. Flat land adjacent to the sea is in great demand
for many purposes, including agriculture, ports, roads and railways, power stations and
refineries, and residential properties. In many areas, substantial tracts have been
reclaimed from the sea to increase the land available for development. A substantial
part of the national economy of the UK, and many other countries, is now generated
in the coastal zone.

However, the areas of the coastal zone of greatest value, i.e. that on top of low cliffs,
reclaimed areas and low-lying coastal plains, are often at greatest risk from the sea.
The continuing action of waves and tides, together with the slow increase in global
sea level relative to the land, results in the majority of the shorelines around the world
suffering recession. Because of this, risks to the developed areas from marine flooding,
and erosion of the land itself, increase with time and may be growing faster due to the
changing climate. It is widely expected that global warming will cause both
acceleration in sea-level rise, and changes in the frequency and intensity of storms,
thus altering both wave conditions and tidal surges.

For many centuries, the response to these risks has been to resist the action of the sea
by the construction of coastal defences, i.e. structures designed to reduce the risks of
erosion or flooding. These range from simple earth embankments to sophisticated civil
engineering structures such as tidal barrages. The construction of coastal defences is
expensive, and carries the risk of substantial damage to the environment. This is often
an important consideration because the coastline often also provides very important
habitats for a very wide range of flora and fauna, as well as opportunities for tourism,
formal and informal recreation.

In addition, it can be difficult to design and build a structure that will be both
effective and long lasting. This guide aims to introduce the reader to the process of
considering and, if appropriate, choosing, designing, building and maintaining coastal
defences appropriate to a particular situation.

The guide starts with a review of the history of coastal defences in the UK, and of the
legal administrative arrangements for their construction. This is followed by a
description of the important processes causing changes to the coast, and examples of
the commonest types of coastal defences. After this the guide goes on to discuss the
information needed to decide whether installing defences is justifiable, and how to
choose appropriate types of defence for further consideration. These decisions have to

Coastal defence

take account of the technical, environmental and economic aspects of any proposed
scheme. In the remainder of the report, the issues of detailed design, construction and
post-construction activities are explained.

Managing the coastline involves many issues, both technical and non-technical, and
it is unlikely that any individual coastal engineer will have sufficient depth of
knowledge in all of the disciplines required. In addition to civil engineering, expertise
will be required in geology and geomorphology, environmental or ecological science,
archaeology, risk analysis and project management. There may also need to be an
involvement from oceanographers, marine biologists, information technologists,
meteorologists, economists and others.

A considerable body of knowledge and expertise on coastal defence in the UK, and in
many other countries, already exists. Much of the knowledge that has gradually been
built up over many years has been set down in reference books and technical papers,
but research continues apace with new publications appearing regularly. Even against
this background, the problems encountered at each site are often unique, and require
a carefully tailored solution requiring experienced specialists to achieve cost effective
and technically sound coastal defences. Use of general technical guidance documents
is no substitute for specialist expertise and site-specific investigation.

2. Coastal defences

2.1 History and Human attitudes and responses to coastline change vary considerably around the
background world. In some areas, for example, it is illegal to erect defences to prevent erosion.
Instead threatened assets have either to be abandoned, or moved inland to preserve
them, often incurring considerable expense.

Elsewhere, including the UK, there has been a long tradition of preventing flooding
and reducing the coastal erosion that leads to shoreline retreat. Planners and
politicians have relied on coastal defences to protect, for an indefinite period, a wide
range of commercial, industrial, residential and recreational developments in areas
at risk. Indeed, the success of past schemes to avoid flooding and erosion has given
planners confidence to allow further development close to naturally eroding
shorelines, or in areas where the land lies below the level of highest tides.

Many parts of England and Wales are low-lying, reclaimed land. In some areas, the
land is below 0 m ODN (which is approximately equal to mean sea level). Figure 1
shows the areas defined by The Environment Agency (1999) as ‘Extremely low-
lying land’ and is taken from a report by the Climate Change Impacts Review Group
(1996). The shaded areas rely on flood defences that may be natural, e.g. dunes or
shingle ridges, but are mainly man-made. In the long term, such areas are
theoretically liable to marine flooding, although this would only occur in the
(unlikely) eventuality that all the coastal defences were abandoned.

Background and history of coastal defences in the UK

Coastal defences have been built in the UK at least since the time of the Romans;
their flood embankments are recorded, for example, on the Severn Levels in
South Wales. Until about 200 years ago, virtually the sole objective of coastal
defence was protection of low-lying agricultural land and creation of new, fertile
land by enclosing and draining inter-tidal areas. Any substantial buildings were
generally located above flood level, or were designed to cope with flooding.

Erosion of the UK coast has caused major loss of land over the centuries, with
many villages and several substantial towns lost to the sea. Natural rates of retreat
of soft cliffs in Yorkshire, East Anglia and Kent, for example, are typically 12 m/
year, but little was done to prevent this land loss because of the great expense
involved. Defences against such erosion started in earnest in the late eighteenth

Coastal defence

and nineteenth century when sea bathing and walking along the seafront became
fashionable. Promenades, i.e. wide, level and solid walkways along the beach crest,
were built to facilitate this new recreation and solid walls, adjacent to the beach,
were subsequently installed to protect their seaward edges in most cases. Often
the works included an element of land ‘gain’, providing valuable new areas for the
developing resorts and offsetting the costs.

At about the same time, defences were also built to protect the growing coastal
infrastructure such as roads and railways. The continuing growth of industry, for
example commercial harbours, power stations, oil refineries and, more recently,
the construction of new sewage treatment works or pumping stations, has also
required defences to prevent damage or loss of these developments, especially if
they have been built on reclaimed land.

Defences have also been built in response to particular social circumstances

at different times in the past. For example, in the 1930s seawalls were built around
reclaimed areas as part of an initiative to regenerate the local economy. After
World War II, seawalls and other structures were built as part of an initiative to
allow better public access to the coastline, and to protect valuable agricultural land
at a time when food was rationed. The infamous North Sea surge of January/
February 1953, for example, caused widespread damage to coastal defences (see
Figure 2) and resulted in major flooding of low-lying coastal towns and villages as
well as agricultural land. This event provoked a major programme of renewal and
improvement of flood defences.

The ‘reclamation’ of inter-tidal areas, for commerce or industry, and the

construction of new flood banks to protect low-lying land has continued to the
present. However, most coastal defence schemes now being carried out are to
reduce the risk of flooding of commercial or residential properties, particularly in
urban areas where land levels are below that of highest tides. In areas where only a
small area of low-grade agricultural land is at risk from the sea, existing defences
are not always being renewed; some are being deliberately breached to
accommodate the natural processes of coastal recession and create new habitats
for wildlife.

Pressures to build and maintain coastal defences today are often even greater than in
the past. Increased demand for residential property close to the coastal strip and
greater use of the coast for recreation and tourism have led to the creation and
expansion of resorts that are major wealth creators. Elsewhere, major industrial
investments such as power stations and oil/gas terminals have been built close to the
shoreline. Allowing the sea to damage or destroy these developments would usually be
politically and economically unacceptable. In recent years, there has also been a desire
to protect sites that are important because of their ecological or archaeological
attributes, although allowing continued erosion and/or inundation remains important
at others, for example sites designated because of their geological, geomorphological
or other ‘earth science’ interest.

It is important to realize, however, that the installation of defences can and often does
cause problems elsewhere along the coast. Groynes will retain material on one part of
a beach, but often at the cost of depriving another area of sediment. Seawalls will
prevent the natural erosion of cliffs that previously supplied sediment to the beaches,

Coastal defences

Low-lying land

Figure 1 Low-lying land areas

(Climate Change Impacts
Review Group, 1996)

and also restrict the natural slow landward movement of a shoreline caused by the
gradual rise in sea level. Beach levels in the vicinity of defence structures hence
become lower and it has often proved necessary to extend defences both along the
coast, and downwards, to counter this effect.

The traditional presumption in favour of maintaining existing defences, and

extending them where new risks of erosion or flooding arise, is now being seriously
reconsidered. Factors such as the environmental damage caused by defences, their
sustainability and their great cost are all weighty considerations. Economic evaluation
methods have shown that the renewal of some defences is not worthwhile, and has
altered plans for others. A consequence of these considerations has been a more
rational approach to the evaluation, design and construction of defences.

In particular, greater efforts are now being made to define the risks of erosion or
flooding, and to design defences that provide an appropriate level of protection to the
land behind them. By such means, the needs and benefits for expensive schemes can

Coastal defence

Figure 2 Damage to seawall in 1953 storm surge, Trusthorpe, Lincolnshire

be justified, and priorities established to ensure that the most deserving and urgent
cases are dealt with first.

Part of this approach to considering coastal defences involves analysing the coastal
changes described in Section 3.3. This will usually involve estimating future erosion
or recession of both protected and unprotected coastlines, and calculating the
consequences for assets close to the coast. Such predictions rely to a considerable
extent on the extrapolation of past changes in the shoreline, although mathematical
modelling techniques have proved worthwhile where extrapolation is not appropriate
(see Section 7.2).

In addition, the threats posed by extreme wave and tide conditions also need to be
evaluated. Where the main reason for coastal defences lies in the risk of flooding,
then it is appropriate to calculate the likelihood and consequences of such events.
This necessarily leads to an examination of the possible combinations of tide levels
and waves that might occur, and the performance of existing defences (natural or
man-made) under those conditions (see Section 6.1).

Coastal defences

2.2 Coastal Powers and responsibilities for construction of coastal defences vary from country to
defences who country. This publication considers such aspects primarily in the context of the
builds them? situation in the UK; legislation and responsibilities for coastal defence will be different
in other countries.

As previously noted, the sea can cause damage to assets, including but not limited
to man-made structures, in two main ways. It can flood them, or it can erode away
the ground on which they stand. In the UK, defence against these two dangers is
distinguished in legislation. The prevention of erosion and encroachment is termed
Coast Protection, while the avoidance or control of flooding and inundation is termed
Sea Defence. ‘Coastal defence’ is undertaken to prevent or control such damage and
is a convenient term that is used to cover both coast protection and sea defence.

Coastal defence policy is set by the Government and the ‘Strategy for Flood and
Coastal Defence in England and Wales’ (produced by the former Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food & Welsh Office, 1993) provides a more detailed view
of the policy framework. The aim of the policy is to reduce the risks to people and the
developed and natural environment from flooding and erosion, through the following

— encouraging the provision of adequate and cost effective flood-warning systems,

— encouraging the provision of technically, economically and environmentally
sound and sustainable flood and coastal defence measures, and
— discouraging inappropriate development in areas at risk from flooding or coastal

The fact that there are two kinds of coastal defence, and three different sets of
legislation in England and Wales alone, owes much to the historical development of
coastal defence. Sea defence, being primarily for the protection of agricultural land
and integral with fluvial flood defence, has long been the province of those responsible
for managing rivers. Presently this type of defence tends to be the responsibility of the
Environment Agency.

On the other hand, coast protection has always been primarily concerned with the
protection of urban centres on the coast, and thus has been the responsibility of the
local councils. Consolidation of sea defence and coast protection arrangements has
been strongly resisted by the councils who see the provision and maintenance of
promenades, seawalls, access steps and the like as an important part of the amenities
of their coastline, especially in holiday resorts. The legislation and responsibilities for
coastal defence in the UK are briefly outlined in the box below.

Coastal defence legislation in the UK

Coast protection in England, Scotland and Wales may be carried out under the
Coast Protection Act (1949) by maritime district or borough councils, or by
unitary councils where there is only the one tier of local government. These
councils are required to consult over major construction or re-construction
schemes with the Environment Agency, neighbouring councils, national conserva-
tion organizations (e.g. English Nature), harbour authorities and fisheries bodies.
Approvals and/or licences may also be required from various government
departments and other bodies who will check, for example, that the proposed
scheme is unlikely to cause environmental damage or be a danger to navigation.

Coastal defence

The government department with responsibility for administering the Coast

Protection Act will give ultimate approval and may also assist financially with a
scheme. There can be a relaxation of the consultation requirements when
emergency works are necessary. Note, however, that while the Coast Protection
Act provides ‘permissive’ powers, it does not impose a duty on those authorities
to install coastal defences.

Landowners, railway owners, highway and harbour authorities may also undertake
coast protection works. Such bodies must normally consult the relevant coast
protection authority before commencement of works.

Sea defence in England and Wales may be undertaken by the Environment Agency,
who have overall supervisory powers to protect against flooding, under the Water
Resources Act (1991). There is no requirement in that legislation for the
Environment Agency to consult with others or to obtain consent from a minister.
In practice, though, consultation is required to satisfy environmental and safety
legislation and consent from the appropriate government ministry is required to
obtain financial assistance.

Sea defence works may also be undertaken by councils or by internal drainage

boards, under the Land Drainage Act (1991), and owners may undertake works on
their own property. Sea defence works may only be undertaken with the consent
of the Environment Agency. In Scotland, the relevant legislation for coastal flood
defence is the 1961 Flood Prevention Act (Scotland).

2.3 Coastal zone The coastline and the coastal zone, i.e. an area of land and water on either side of the
management coastline, are very important assets to the UK, as in many other countries. Many
people involved in commerce, transport, industry and tourism have the coastal zone
as their main focus of activity. In addition, there is increasing pressure on this zone
from people wishing to live close to the sea, with related demands for infrastructure to
support residential, recreational and tourism developments. Hence there is likely to be
a continuing demand for coastal defences, both to replace the ageing stock, and for
newly developed areas. However, the remaining undeveloped stretches of coastline
are often of great environmental importance, particularly from the viewpoints of
biological diversity and landscape value.

The management of the coastal zone is also complicated by the dynamic nature of
both the sea and the shoreline. Flooding of low-lying land, and the effects of marine
erosion leading to the recession of beaches and cliffs and loss of land, can result in
considerable difficulties either in planning new development, or in maintaining
existing assets close to the shore. These difficulties are further compounded by the
probability of changes in the climate, with a widely predicted increase in sea levels.

Coastal areas are subject to the same planning and political conflicts as other areas.
However, some extra management problems arise because of the land/sea divide being
a boundary of ownership and legal powers; for example, planning authorities often
do not have responsibility for the seabed below the low water mark. Further, there
are many authorities/groups, other than those responsible for coastal defences, that
have a responsibility for, or an interest in, the coastal zone. Port authorities and
conservation bodies are good examples. These many different groups often have very
different concerns and priorities regarding the coastline and its management.

Coastal defences

It is, therefore, very difficult to carry out coastal management in a practical and cost-
effective way, while satisfying everyone. Over the last decade or so, in the UK and else-
where, these problems have led to the development of coastal zone management. This
is an approach to planning aimed at careful and sustainable management of the coastal
zone reconciling the many, sometimes-conflicting needs and constraints that exist.

Managing beaches and providing defences against flooding and erosion is just one area
of coastal zone management, but the particular one that this guide focuses on.
However, it should always be remembered that other initiatives and options for the
management of the shoreline, and the wider coastal zone, will need to be considered
for each particular situation. For example, relocating assets at risk, or avoiding new
developments close to the present-day shoreline may be preferable to coastal defence
works, both from the economic and environmental viewpoints.

Further information on coastal zone management in the UK can be obtained from the
following publications:

— Department of the Environment (1995 and 1996), for England

— Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (1995) for Northern Ireland
— Scottish Office (1996) for Scotland
— Welsh Office (1998) and National Assembly for Wales (1999) for Wales.

This issue is also attracting considerable interest in Europe (e.g. Commission of the
European Communities 1992, 1995).

2.4 A strategic A common and often valid criticism of coastal defences is that many have been
approach to erected in a piecemeal fashion, sometimes as an emergency response to a particular
coastal defence event, e.g. a cliff fall or a major flood. This has often resulted in further problems
elsewhere along the shoreline, and the building of further coastal defence structures.
In addition, the need for rapid action has sometimes caused damage to the
environment or other interests that could have been avoided if more time had been
available for consultations and amendments to the designs.

Because of the difficulties caused by such reactive responses, and in anticipation of

the benefits of a longer term and holistic view, a more strategic approach to planning
and installing coastal defences is now being adopted. Each stage requires an
understanding of coastal processes, coastal defence needs, environmental considera-
tions, planning issues and current and future land use, but at an appropriate level of
detail. The assessment of risk is an integral part of the appraisal process at each stage
to ensure decisions taken at that time are robust and based on an awareness of the
consequences and appropriate mitigation measures. The elements of this approach are
illustrated in Table 2.1.

The strategic planning and specific implementation of coastal defence works forms
the main subject of this Guide. The remainder of this chapter describes shoreline
management plans in more detail.

To assist in the process of preparing shoreline management plans, the coastline of

England and Wales has been divided into sediment ‘cells’ and ‘sub-cells’ (Figure 3). A
similar exercise has also been undertaken for Scotland (Scottish Natural Heritage,
1997). Each cell is defined as a length of shoreline that is relatively self-contained as
far as the movement of beach sand and shingle is concerned, so that any interruption

Coastal defence

Table 2.1 Stages in the appraisal process

Stage Shoreline management plans Strategy plan Scheme

Aim To identify policies to To identify appropriate To identify the nature of

reduce risks scheme types to implement works to implement
policies preferred scheme
Delivers Broad-brush assessment of risks, Preferred approach (i.e. scheme Comparison of different
constraints and opportunities, type) including economic and implementation options
areas of uncertainty environmental decisions for preferred scheme type
Output Generic policies (e.g. hold Type of scheme (e.g. beach Type of works (e.g. revetment,
the line, advance the line, etc.) management, linear defence, seawall, recycling, etc.)
setback embankment, etc.)

Figure 3 Coastal cells and sub-

cells, England and Wales (HR
Wallingford, 1993)

Coastal defences

to such movements will not have a significant effect on beaches in adjacent sedi-
ment cells. Such ‘natural’ divisions of the shoreline do not normally coincide with
the administrative boundaries, for example between adjacent councils, so that
co-operation in required if the shoreline is to be managed in a satisfactory manner.

In England and Wales, the authorities with powers to undertake coastal defence,
together with other relevant interests, have been established as regional coastal
groups, to oversee the shoreline management planning process. Each group
concentrates on the shoreline within one or more sub-cells, depending on the length
that can be conveniently managed. These groups have now prepared a first generation
of plans for management of the shoreline that will provide the framework for future
actions to minimize the risks from flooding and coastal erosion without further
disrupting natural sedimentary processes. In addition, the plans accommodate, as far
as possible, all the requirements of the users of the coastline while not inflicting
environmental damage.

The objectives of the shoreline management plan process are:

— to define, in general terms, the risks to people and the developed, historic and
natural environment within the shoreline management plan area
— to identify the preferred policies for managing these risks over the next 50 years
— to identify the consequences of implementing the preferred policies
— to set out procedures for monitoring the effectiveness of the shoreline
management plan policies
— to ensure that future land use and development of the shoreline takes due
account of the risks and preferred shoreline management plan policies.

In order to facilitate management of the shoreline it is necessary to identify

‘management units’, i.e. stretches of shoreline with coherent characteristics in terms
of natural processes, shoreline type and land use. This process is assisted by first
identifying the lengths of shoreline (‘coastal process units’) in which the physical
processes are relatively independent from processes operating in adjacent coastal
process units. These provide a framework for considering the potential wider impacts
of policies in a particular management unit(s) on the adjacent shoreline.

For each of the management units there are five generic policies available to shoreline

— hold the existing defence line while maintaining or changing the standard of
— advance the existing defence line, by constructing new defences wholly seaward of
the original defences
— managed realignment by identifying a new line of defence and, where appropriate,
constructing new defences landwards of the original defences
— limited intervention, by working with natural processes to reduce risks whilst
allowing natural coastal change, e.g. dune management, cliff drainage, warning
systems, etc.
— no active intervention, where there is no investment in coastal defences or coastal
management operations, i.e. no shoreline management activity.

Shoreline management plans do not identify the defence option, only the need for
defences. Strategic monitoring should be considered an integral component of all

Coastal defence

Each length of shoreline will be currently managed in one of the above ways but, for
various reasons, this policy may no longer be feasible or acceptable at some time over
the next 50 years. For example:

— the current defence line may be unsustainable

— the current defences may have a limited residual life and scheme improvements
are unlikely to be economically viable
— the risks to the developed, historic and natural environment may become
unmanageable because of sea-level rise or climate change.

A shoreline management plan should, therefore, identify the combination of policies

that are likely to be feasible and acceptable over the coming decades. This may
involve continuing to implement the current policy or implementing an alternative
policy at some time within the next 50 years. This preferred sequence of management
approaches is the basis, in general terms, for an anticipated programme of strategy
plans, works or operations (see Table 2.1 above).

In preparation for the second round of shoreline management plans for England and
Wales, a major study of coastal processes and their likely effects on coastal evolution
will be implemented in 2002. This will also assess likely sensitivity of shorelines to
potential climate change.

Not all matters affecting the coastal zone are considered in a shoreline management
plan. For example, there are matters that may affect only the sea, i.e. beyond the
influence of coastal defences, such as fisheries, navigation, water quality and water
use. Others may only affect the land, such as works beyond the likely reach of flooding
or erosion.

Nevertheless some of these aspects may need to be taken into account when
designing coastal defences, such as the need for fishermen and recreational water
users to have access to the sea. Thus there is much more to coastal defence than just
the prevention of flooding or erosion. Shoreline management plans, in this respect,
only form a part of the wider concept of coastal zone management.

It is also important that shoreline management plans interrelate with the plans of
others, particularly those of the local planning authorities. They should take account
of land use planning initiatives but, more importantly, they should inform such
initiatives. Development plans can take account of shoreline management plans, for
example by guiding developments away from areas at risk from future coastal erosion
or flooding and where their policies indicate that defences would not be appropriate.
This would avoid the need for coastal defences, with implications on both public
finances and possible adverse impacts on adjacent areas. Links between shoreline
management plans and the statutory planning process are provided, for example,
through relevant planning policy guidelines, namely:

— Coastal Planning PPG20 (Department of the Environment, 1992)

— Development in Flood Risk Areas PPG 25 (Department of Local Government,
Transport and the Regions, 2001)
— Planning Guidance (Wales), Technical Advice Note 14 Coastal Planning.

More detailed guidance on the preparation of shoreline management plans has been
published by DEFRA and the National Assembly for Wales (Shoreline Management
Plans: A Guide for Coastal Defence Authorities, 2001). It stresses that coastal defence is

Coastal defences

an iterative process with information from the preparation of strategic implementa-

tion plans, scheme preparation and post-project evaluation being fed back into the
preparation of the next review of shoreline management plans. These reviews are
recommended every 5–10 years taking into account also the results of monitoring and
research and other developments in the intervening period that might alter the
selected management policies, either in terms of timing or in the choice of generic
options. The revised plans would then provide the framework for future strategy plans
and schemes.

Having determined the broad direction of policy at the shoreline management plan
level, it is then appropriate to consider implementation at a more local scale. ‘Strategy
plans’ (see Table 2.1) are a means of considering the major interactions and impacts
in terms of the environment, economics and coastal processes over a number of
management units. At this level it will probably not be practical to draw boundaries
that encompass all impacts but it will certainly be desirable to include all areas where
there is a significant link in terms of scheme benefits, coastal processes or
environmental impacts.

A coastal defence Strategy Plan should establish and justify the main aims and
objectives for the flood and coastal defences, and identify the generic principles for
their achievement. DEFRA and the National Assembly for Wales issued updated
guidance on the strategic planning and appraisal of flood and coastal defences in 2001
(Flood and Coastal Defence, Project Appraisal Guidelines, Volume 2 Strategic
Planning Appraisal; FCDPAG2). More details of the process of choosing the most
appropriate coastal defence option are given in Chapters 5 and 6.

3. Coastline processes

The coastline is normally an extremely dynamic area. Over a few years, most
coastlines will change noticeably as a result of the natural processes acting on them.
A fundamental requirement of designing any coastal defence scheme is a thorough
appreciation of waves, tides, sediment transport and their likely effects, for example
on the future evolution of the shoreline. This publication cannot cover all these
aspects in detail, but there are a range of other publications that do and information,
and references to these are provided in the text. The remaining sections of this
chapter aim to provide a brief introduction to waves, tides and coastline changes,
sufficient to introduce the needs and objectives of coastal defences, the conditions
they have to cope with, and their effects on the coastline.

3.1 Waves Waves can be generated by a variety of mechanisms, for example by ships, underwater
seismic activity or landslides at the coast but waves generated by winds usually
dominate. The high latitude of the UK and its maritime temperate climate, mean
that strong winds, and hence large waves, are more common than in many other
parts of the world. Indeed, some parts of the north and west coasts of the British
Isles experience a particularly severe wave climate because of their proximity to the
north-east Atlantic, in which wave conditions are as harsh as anywhere around
the globe.

Waves are important in shaping the coastline, causing erosion, and contributing to
flooding. The rapid oscillatory currents produce stresses on the seabed that mobilize
sediment, while the associated accelerations produce substantial forces and pressures.
These stresses and forces reach a maximum where waves break, often just at the point
where coastal defences are installed. Failure to accurately predict near-shore wave
conditions will often have serious consequences.

The measurement and forecasting of wave growth and propagation under the action
of winds is a rather new science, less than 50 years old. Wind speed is a major factor in
wave generation, but so too is either the duration of that wind speed, or the ‘fetch’,
i.e. the uninterrupted distance across the sea surface over which the wind can act to
create and propel waves. Once created, for example by a storm in mid-Atlantic, waves
will often travel large distances. During this journey, shorter period waves travel more
slowly and lose energy. Some of this energy transfers to faster-travelling, long-period
components, called ‘swell’, which in deep water can cover huge distances with little
loss of energy.

Coastline processes

Swell forms an important part of the wave energy on oceanic coastlines, often
combining with waves generated by local winds to create a complex mixture of wave
heights, periods and directions. Distantly generated swell waves occur around most of
the UK shoreline, although in some areas, for example Liverpool Bay, they are rare
and insignificant.

Calculations of the offshore wave climate can now be carried out for most coastlines
with good accuracy, using numerical models alone. However it is wise to verify such
modelling by comparison with measurements, preferably using instruments that
record wave directions as well as heights and periods (see Section 5.1). Information
on offshore wave heights around the UK coastline is presented in the form of an atlas
(Draper, 1991), and extreme wave heights are also summarized in a publication
produced for the oil industry (Department of Energy, 1989). Note however that these
publications make only limited allowances for shallow water effects (see below) and
will therefore tend to over-estimate the conditions that coastal defences will

As waves travel through shallower water approaching a coast, the effects of wind
become smaller than the effects of the seabed. To predict wave conditions arriving on
a beach, or at a seawall, therefore requires investigation of shallow water wave effects.
The process which is usually most important is wave refraction, by which waves
arriving at an angle to the depth contours are induced to change direction, typically
turning to approach the coastline more directly. However, irregular seabed contours
can cause focusing, or de-focusing of waves, in the same way that optical lenses can
concentrate or scatter light. Simultaneously, the variations in water depth also cause
shoaling, a change in wave height resulting from the varying speed of propagation of
the wave energy. At the least, calculating the wave refraction and shoaling effects is
necessary to predict accurately near-shore wave conditions. While the main interest is
usually in wave conditions at high tidal levels, it must be remembered that changes in
tidal level also affect wave refraction patterns. In some areas, other processes also
have to be considered. For example, where offshore islands shelter a coast they cause
wave diffraction, where wave energy travels into the sheltered areas. In the vicinity of
the mouths of estuaries, or elsewhere if tidal currents are strong, they too can affect
wave propagation and need to be taken into account.

The processes of shoaling, refraction and diffraction do not alter the total amount of
wave energy; they simply re-distribute it spatially. Off some coasts, however, a
significant proportion of the wave energy approaching a coast is dissipated. This can
be either by wave breaking over offshore banks or by frictional effects at the seabed.
Finally, as all these processes are occurring, winds continue to act on the waves,
usually adding energy to them. In these situations, complex computational methods
have to be used to calculate wave conditions in shallow water.

Despite these changes, which typically reduce wave heights as they approach a coast,
there is often a large amount of energy still to be absorbed or reflected by the beaches
or coastal defences at the shoreline. Where the beaches are well stocked with sand
and/or gravel, then much of the wave energy is dissipated in continuously re-arranging
that sediment, although not necessarily with any significant change in the beach
shape or profile. Where waves impact on cliffs or impermeable defence structures such
as seawalls, then much of the incoming wave energy is reflected back out to sea. This
can lead to considerable turbulence and scour in shallow water, with a consequential
removal of sediment.

Coastal defence

Wave heights inside the breaker zone, i.e. landward of the point at which almost all
waves break, reduce roughly proportionally with the water depth. The greater the
water depth at the toe of a seawall therefore, the greater are the wave heights that can
impact on that seawall. This means that when designing coastal defences, it is the
combination of high tidal levels and simultaneous large waves approaching the
shoreline that is of crucial importance.

In the UK, many modelling studies of wave transformation have already been carried
out, and details of near-shore wave conditions can sometimes be found in previous
study reports (e.g. HR Wallingford, 1998). For further details on wave processes in
the coastal zone, the reader is referred to Sorensen (1997) and Beach Management
Manual (CIRIA, 1996).

3.2 Tides The large tides that occur around much of the UK are a significant factor in the
natural evolution of a coastline, and hence need to be considered in its successful
management and defence. Both the variations in water level, and the accompanying
currents that the tides produce, need to be considered.

Were it not for the effects of changing atmospheric pressures and winds, the
prediction of tides would be straightforward. Indeed, published predictions of tidal
levels, based on analysis of measurements and knowledge of astronomy, have been
available for several centuries. Further details on the generation of the astronomical
tides can be found in various texts, e.g. Open University (1987). Predictions of tidal
levels for any point around the world, based on similar analyses, can be obtained from
various sources, for example the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory or the UK
Admiralty. Note that in many parts of the world, due account has to be taken of
seasonal effects, such as persistent onshore monsoon winds or prolonged variations in
mean barometric pressure.

From the viewpoint of coastal defence, however, the effects of the weather on the
‘astronomical’ tides are a crucial concern. Static areas of low pressure will tend to
increase tidal levels. More important than this effect is the influence of wind stresses
and moving pressure systems. Differences between actual and predicted tidal levels,
called ‘residuals’, are often in excess of 0.5 m during the winter in the UK. In severe
weather, the combined effects of low pressure and strong winds can cause a storm
surge, a wave-like disturbance to the tide, which propagates across the sea surface. A
surge can increase expected tidal levels by more than 2 m in extreme cases, especially
where the shape of the coastline amplifies the tides (Pugh, 1991). If the peak of this
surge arrives on the coastline at the same time as the predicted high tide, then
exceptionally high water levels can result. This was the cause of the severe flooding
along the eastern coast of England and the coasts of Germany, The Netherlands and
Belgium in early 1953, when many lives were lost.

The maximum level reached by exceptional high tides is a crucial parameter for the
design of coastal defences. It is important that they are sufficiently high to reduce
flows over their crest to an acceptable volume during such events. In addition, the
maximum water depth in front of defence structures will govern the height of waves
that can attack them, as explained in Section 3.1 above. This in turn will influence
the type of construction used.

Currents produced by tides (and surges) can also be important when considering
coastal defences, especially near the entrances to tidal inlets or estuaries. On open

Coastline processes

coasts, tidal currents are typically low in shallow water, e.g. over the upper portion of
the inter-tidal beach, and may not be strong enough to mobilize or transport sand on
their own. However in shallow water, waves will often mobilize and agitate sediment
making it available for tidal currents to carry it along the coast. In some areas, this
mechanism transports significant quantities of beach sand, especially below the low
water mark. As noted earlier, tidal currents can also affect waves as they approach a
coast, particularly where there are strong spatial variations in current speed, e.g. near
the mouths of estuaries, producing unexpectedly large waves at certain times during
the tidal cycle.

Establishing tidal information for coastal defence design

In the UK, extreme tidal levels have been predicted for virtually the whole
coastline, and are available in tabulated form (see Dixon and Tawn, 1997). These
predictions are based on a combination of computer modelling and analyses of
measurements from the national network of ‘A-class’ tidal gauges. They take
account of the joint probability of a surge occurring at the same time as a high tide.
In areas of large tidal range, the timing of the arrival of the peak of the surge
relative to the predicted time of high water is crucial. There is often an interaction
between the surge and astronomical tide, tending to result in a consistent
difference in time between the arrival of their peaks. Clearly the smaller this
difference, the greater the total water level. Surges may also be very important,
from the viewpoint of coastal defence, in areas where the tidal range is low since
the surge height is a greater proportion of the normal tidal elevation.

Tidal currents are typically fastest in areas of large tides. However strong currents
can occur even where the tidal range is low, for example in the central part of the
English Channel. Navigation charts, such as those produced by the Admiralty, will
often provide information on tidal currents, at least in offshore waters. To obtain
information in shallow water, as for waves, either specific measurement or
modelling is usually required. The British Oceanographic Data Centre holds
information from many tidal flow measurements in the seas around the coast of
the UK.

3.3 Coastline The almost continuous action of waves and tides will cause substantial changes to
changes coastlines, both in the short term, i.e. during a major storm event, from season to
season, and over longer time-scales. For example, parts of the eastern coast of England
have retreated over 3 km since Roman times, with the loss of many villages and some
major towns in the process. Changes are usually much more rapid on ‘soft rock’ coasts,
in the UK from Yorkshire south and westwards to Dorset, but stretches of coastline
that are easily eroded can occur almost anywhere. This variability in the position of
the coastline causes considerable problems to planners, developers and coastal
engineers alike.

It is useful for the following discussion to introduce two types of coastline, as follows.

— ‘Open’ coasts, where the morphological changes are dominated by wave action.
Beaches on such coasts are generally of sand or gravel, and may have cliffs or
dunes behind the beach crest. The mobile sediments are typically of modest depth
and lie on a solid, near-horizontal, shore platform that extends underwater below

Coastal defence

the seaward toe of the beach. The changing tidal level continually alters the point
of attack by wave action; tidal currents can also influence the movement of beach
— Estuarial or tidal inlet coasts, where morphology changes are dominated by tides.
Waves are often important as well, increasing the transporting capacity of the
currents and eroding the upper part of the inter-tidal zone in storms. In the UK,
the surface sediments in these areas are generally cohesive, i.e. clays and silts, and
often of considerable depth. Shoreline evolution is often linked to changes in
offshore channels and banks, which can alter unpredictably.

There are coastlines intermediate between these two main types, for example near the
mouths of major estuaries and tidal inlets, with correspondingly mixed and sometimes
more complicated characteristics.

3.3.1 Changes on open On open coasts, the main changes arise as a consequence of re-distribution of
coasts sediment on beaches and over the near-shore seabed. It is normal to simplify the
transport of sediment by considering two main components, parallel to the contours,
i.e. ‘long-shore transport’, and perpendicular to them, i.e. ‘cross-shore’ transport. Note
that in reality the movements of beach sediment take place in both these directions,
and also vertically, with corresponding complex changes in beach morphology.

Normally the major concerns on open coasts arise as a result of beach plan shape
changes, caused by variations in long-shore transport from point to point along the
coast. If the volume of sediment leaving a section of a beach ‘downdrift’ exceeds that
arriving from ‘updrift’, then erosion will result. Such imbalances can arise naturally,
but are often the consequence of human interference, caused for example by the
construction of a breakwater or groyne across a beach. The usual result is an
accumulation of material on one side, and erosion on the other side of the obstruction
(Figure 4, West Bay, Dorset).

Cross-shore sediment transport processes change the shape of the beach profile. One
obvious consequence is the seasonal change in beach gradients, with flatter slopes in
winter than summer. The transfer of sand from beaches to dunes by winds and their
subsequent erosion by winter storms are also examples of the effects of cross-shore
sediment transport.

There are some stretches of wave-dominated coast that do remain stable, or gradually
gain material, but these are uncommon. In general, open coasts suffer long-term
erosion problems. There are two main causes for this general tendency for erosion.

First, beach sediments on open coasts, i.e. sand and gravel, are generally products of
an erosion process, although they may have been deposited many centuries ago. In
the UK for example, much of the sediment on beaches today is the product of the
action of glaciers during the last Ice Age. Some of the softer particles of beach
sediment, e.g. shell fragments, suffer rapid attrition, with the smallest particles being
washed out of the beach, suspended within the water, and then deposited in calmer
waters elsewhere. Quartzite sand or gravel particles suffer less from such attrition, but
will also gradually move into sheltered water, for example tidal inlets and estuaries.
Some sediment is also lost inland (by winds). Fresh supplies of beach sediment can
arise from rivers, from erosion of cliffs and of the near-shore seabed, and from offshore
(shell-sand). In the UK, few rivers contribute significant quantities of sand or gravel,
although this source of supply is significant in other parts of the world.

Coastline processes

Figure 4 Beach accumulation updrift of West Bay harbour, Dorset

Second, most beaches are only thin layers of sediment lying on a solid rock or
consolidated clay substrate, often a nearly flat and gently seaward sloping ‘shore
platform’. The plan shape of a coast is also largely controlled by the topography of the
solid rock, for example the headlands between which the beaches are retained. Even
the hardest rocks will eventually be eroded by the continual action of waves and tidal
currents, while softer rocks such as clay shore-platforms or cliffs of glacial till, erode
more rapidly than older harder strata. As the rock is eroded, often accelerated by the
abrasive action of the sand and gravel particles moving over its surface, the beaches
will also change, generally retreating landwards. Figure 5, for example, shows an
exposed chalk shore-platform from which the overlying beach sediment has been
removed by storm wave action. While some extra sediment for beaches is produced by
the abrasion of the platform, in this case flint nodules, the overall effect will be of
lowered beach levels.

Typical problems caused by the long-term changes in open coasts include:

— lowering and steepening of beaches, especially in front of seawalls, as the

shore platform is lowered by abrasion, a process accelerated by sea-level rise (see
Figure 5)

Coastal defence

— over-washing, recession and/or breaching of barrier beaches and dunes, usually by

a combination of high tide levels and severe waves (see Figures 6 and 7)
— erosion of cliffs and coastal slopes, with waves eroding their seaward toe, hence
‘preparing’ for a collapse, e.g. rotational slip or block collapse (see Figure 8).

3.3.2 Estuarial Within estuaries and tidal inlets, wave heights and the forces they create are smaller
coastline changes than on the open coast. Historically many such coastlines have accumulated
sediment. This sediment arrives both from the open coast and from inland, borne to
the coast by rivers. Salt-tolerant vegetation establishes itself in the upper inter-tidal
zone, helping to stabilize the sediment and encouraging further accretion of sediment.
Tidal currents play a significant role in transporting sediment and in changing the
shape of these coastlines. Fine-grained, cohesive particles of mud and clay usually
predominate but sand and shingle bars and banks are frequently present, particularly
in the seaward parts of the estuaries.

The morphological development of estuaries and tidal inlets is often unpredictable,

both on the local scale (e.g. as a result of the meandering of channels) and on a wider
scale, with whole estuaries undergoing long periods of accretion followed by similar
periods of erosion. The fundamental causes of these longer-term changes often remain

Figure 5 Exposed and eroding shore platform, Sheringham, Norfolk

Coastline processes

Figure 6 Eroding dunes, Sumburgh, Shetland

Figure 7 Waves overtopping shingle barrier beach, Selsey Bill, Sussex

The combination of deep-water channels and shelter from waves afforded by estuaries
has frequently led to the development of ports, power stations and other industry
along their shorelines. In addition, advantage was taken of the gradual accretion in
estuaries and large areas of the inter-tidal zone have been enclosed and converted

Coastal defence

Figure 8 Eroding sandy cliffs, Easton Bavents, Suffolk

into fertile agricultural land. Even at the time of their enclosure, many such areas
were below the level of the highest tides. Subsequently, sea level has risen, and the
land itself has often consolidated as it was drained, with the consequence that large
areas close to estuaries are at risk of inundation, to a substantial depth, either from
the sea, from rivers or both. The enclosures were achieved by the erection of flood
banks around low-lying areas. These were normally simple clay embankments, built at
the landward edge of saltmarshes, where water depths were small even during the
highest tides. Later periods of erosion within the estuary have increased water depths,
and hence wave heights, at the face of these relatively weak structures, causing
damage and sometimes collapse and breaching. To prevent such damage, many of the
original embankments have been strengthened, e.g. by armouring their front face, and
raising their crest levels, forming a much more permanent and solid defence, although
one that, under extreme conditions, may have an uncertain performance.

Where further erosion occurs, and the inter-tidal mud-flats move landwards, then the
saltmarsh area in front of the defences narrows and sometimes disappears completely.
Not only does this allow greater wave action on the flood banks, but also the loss of a
valuable ecological habitat is a major environmental concern. This phenomenon is
called ‘coastal squeeze’; it is often argued that was it not for the defences the estuary
would widen, and adjust to a new stability, with new saltmarsh areas developing
further landwards.

Coastline processes

Methods for intervening and controlling estuarine morphology changes are less well
developed than for open coastlines. There are few methods, for example for protecting
or restoring saltmarsh that have proved successful (Environment Agency, 1996).
Until better methods have been developed for predicting changes, either as a result of
natural processes or human intervention, then the effects and performance of
defences against erosion or flooding in estuarine areas will remain difficult to
determine in advance.

4. Review of coastal defence

4.1 Introduction This chapter describes the most common types of coastal defences that have been
used in the UK and elsewhere around the world. Most of these defences have been
developed and refined for installation on wave-dominated shorelines. Such coasts
typically have beaches of sand, less frequently of shingle, and the interactions between
defence structures and these beaches is a crucial factor both in their effectiveness
and in longevity. Over the last 20 30 years, there has been a widespread change
in views on the types of defence that are most cost-effective and acceptable from
an environmental viewpoint. For example, near-vertical impermeable seawalls were
once highly rated since they can provide a high standard of protection at low cost.
However, they have also tended to adversely affect beaches and therefore require
periodic extension or re-building. Defences based on enlarging and maintaining
beaches are now popular. Although not necessarily a permanent solution to erosion
or flooding problems, they can offer a range of environmental and economic

The most appropriate type of defence in any location, however, should not be
prejudged. Decisions have to be made bearing in mind both the particular
characteristics of the site and the standard of defence that is appropriate. In the
UK, coastal defence design often includes extending, repairing or renewing existing
structures. It is rare to have to design schemes where no coastal defence structures
already exist.

In the following, the main advantages and disadvantages of the numerous defence
types are summarized as an aid to the identification of suitable options. It is important
to point out that it is rare for any single type of defence to be installed on its own;
a combination of techniques often provides the best solution.

Finally, it is important to realize that special consideration should be given to

coastlines with cliffs, sand dunes and especially those within estuaries. Separate
sections of this chapter have been provided to indicate the extra or alternative
methods of coastal defence in these situations.

Review of coastal defence techniques

4.2 Linear ‘Linear defences’, for example seawalls, are the most obvious form of coastal defence.
defences They consist of techniques applied either directly along the shoreline, or close by and
parallel to it, to strengthen or protect the immediate area from storm attack. More
4.2.1 Introduction knowledge and experience has been acquired regarding these than any other form of
defence. Nevertheless, a ‘scientific’ approach to their design and construction has
only been developed over the last century, and this has gone hand-in-hand with an
appreciation that such an installation is generally only one element in an overall
coastal management plan.

In order to design linear defences, whether embankments, revetments or seawalls,

information is needed on:

— the tidal levels and wave conditions it needs to withstand

— the levels of the beaches and/or the shore platform on which it is to be built, and
— the geotechnical characteristics of the ground conditions.

The design of the defence will need to provide satisfactory performance under four
headings, namely overtopping, stability, durability and environmental effects. These
aspects are now considered in turn. Overtopping. In order to perform its main function, a defence needs to prevent,
or reduce to acceptable levels, the amount of water that passes over it even in severe
conditions, i.e. large waves occurring at times of high tidal levels. The capacity of the
defence to prevent overtopping is mainly dependent on the following parameters:

— the defence height, slope, berms and any special features such as a wave return wall
— the roughness and permeability of the front face of the defence
— the level and slope of the foreshore fronting the defence. Stability. A coastal defence structure must be able to withstand the forces
imposed on it. Principally these are the pressures and overturning moments caused by
the action of waves and tides. In addition, it must withstand both steady and transient
forces within and beneath the structure. These various forces and pressures depend
on the parameters that influence overtopping rates, as listed above, but also on:

— the size and weight of the structural elements of the defence

— the strength of the interconnections between those elements
— permissible foundation pressures, and
— drainage arrangements and permeability. Durability. The durability of a defence will depend on the same parameters
that influence its stability, but also on other parameters which affect the long-term,
often gradual, changes in its structure, namely:

— quality of materials used, and of initial construction

— harshness of environment, controlling mechanical and chemical abrasion rates
— long-term beach and foreshore movements, that can lead to undermining of its
front face
— maintenance arrangements, i.e. planning, monitoring and execution.

More on these matters is presented in Chapter 7.

Coastal defence Environmental effects. The effects that a coastal defence will have on the
environment, whether human or natural, are discussed in more detail in Section 6.3.
However, for linear defences the key issues are normally the effects on:

— access, amenity, aesthetics and public safety

— beach and foreshore levels, both in front of the defence and along adjacent
stretches of coast
— heritage interests (natural and cultural), for example protecting eroding cliffs or
historic monuments.

Having discussed the generalities of linear defences, it is now convenient to describe

the three most common forms, namely embankments, revetments and seawalls.
Occasionally other types of linear defence are encountered, for example ‘palisades’
and ‘breastworks’, and these have to be considered and designed on an individual,
case-by-case basis.

4.2.2 Embankments Flood embankments, often called dykes or bunds, are constructed to prevent
inundation of low-lying land by high sea levels caused by extreme tides, surges and/or
storm activity. Where land is reclaimed from the sea, banks are almost always needed
to protect it against flooding by high tides several times each year. In most cases, such
reclaimed areas are protected by simple earth or clay embankments.

Earth banks are normally the cheapest forms of linear defence against high water
levels, provided suitable materials are available locally and that the value of the strip
of land they are built on is not a significant factor in decision making. They must be
designed in accordance with good geotechnical practice to provide stability at times of
high tidal levels and also when beaches in front of them are lowered, for example by
persistent wave action. Surprisingly, water-tightness is not generally an over-riding
consideration. It is important that the structure has good internal stability under the
hydraulic gradients that can occur. Some leakage of water through the embankment
during the time when tidal levels are high will not then cause the damage that would
otherwise occur. Migration of fines leading to leaching failure is the major reason for
dyke failure and adherence to maximum hydraulic gradient criteria will generally
mean that flow rates will not be so high as to necessitate complicated arrangements
for draining their rear face.

Initially, the only protection to the surface of earth banks is grass and other natural
vegetation, although the crest of the embankment may be lightly armoured, e.g. by
asphalt or shingle, to allow access along it. Such protection is unlikely to resist
significant wave attack, although moderate overtopping may be adequately withstood.
If embankments are used in regions where large waves can occur, more protection is
needed. One alternative is to use some type of armouring, particularly on their front
face, for example concrete slabs or asphalt. This turns the ‘embankment’ into a
‘revetment’, as described in the following section.

Alternatively the incident wave heights may be reduced, for example by the use of
breakwaters or by encouraging an increase in foreshore levels. Often, however, the
simplest means of achieving this protection is to build the embankment further inland
so that its toe is in shallow water, even during high tides, and is hence only exposed to
very modest wave action. This method has been employed very successfully on the
East Coast and in Somerset, where an embankment is built perhaps 50 100 m inland
from the mean high water mark. The intervening area is usually vegetated, and of

Review of coastal defence techniques

Figure 9 Damage to rear face of clay embankment

shallow slope, forming a natural ‘berm’ at the base of the embankment. The length,
level and roughness of this berm then attenuate wave action before it reaches the
embankment, reducing both the impact forces and run-up on its face.

Attention must also be paid to the rear face of embankments, for example preventing
or repairing damage caused by grazing or burrowing animals. Water overtopping the
crest of an embankment and flowing down its rear face, assisted by gravity, can cause
serious damage (Figure 9) and is another significant cause of the failure of this type of
coastal defence.

4.2.3 Revetments Protecting soft cliffs and slopes, clay or earth embankments and old marine structures
from wave impact forces is generally accomplished by applying some form of
revetment. Many new seawalls are more accurately termed revetments since they
consist of an embankment core covered by a protective surface layer. A revetment
may be either rigid or flexible, depending on the materials used for its construction.

Coastal defence

A flexible revetment will allow for some limited degree of deformation due to settle-
ment of the underlying material, without damage to its outer face (McConnell, 1998).

The main types of revetment commonly used for coastal defences are:

— rock armour and substitutes

— concrete blocks (often inter-connected)
— gabions
— asphaltic blankets
— earth reinforcement. Rock armour and substitutes. Rock armour is probably now the most common
form of revetment used in the UK. The availability of appropriate sizes of rock used to
be problematic in some areas, leading to wide regional variations in price. This is no
longer the case, as more quarries are producing armour-stone, although much of the
rock armour used in the UK originates in Scandinavia and France. Where it proves
too expensive to obtain large enough rock, substitutes such as concrete cubes,
Tetrapods, Dolosse or other patented or specially designed units are sometimes used.
These perform the same function as rock. Their shape often allows greater inter-
locking of the armour units than can be achieved using quarried rock, so reducing the
weight of each unit.

Rock is primarily sized for its resistance to displacement by wave action, and in this
regard is substantially more effective as a graded material than when it is of uniform
size. Various formulae exist for the determination of rock size capable of withstanding
wave attack of specified severity (generally described by height and period
parameters) for a given duration.

A second important consideration is of the rock armour’s function as a ‘blanket’ to

retain smaller sized material placed beneath it. Rock revetments are built using layers
of different sized material, with the finest forming a central ‘core’, which is then
protected by layers of rock of increasing size and weight. To ensure that the finer
material is not disturbed and lost through the coarser, strict rules apply as to the rock
sizes in the overlying layer compared to those in the underlying material. For this
reason, rock revetments are often of two or three layer construction and may include
a suitable geotextile to retain the core material or sub-soil. The ‘Manual on the use of
rock in coastal and shoreline engineering’ (CIRIA/CUR, 1991) gives complete
guidance on design and construction using rock.

Rock is often favoured for revetment armouring because it has the following

— the roughness and permeability both help reduce wave run-up and overtopping
— wave reflection is reduced, in turn reducing beach scour at its toe, perhaps even
promoting accretion
— the structure will usually have some capacity for ‘self-healing’ after damage by
wave action
— this last attribute also means that rock revetments are unlikely to suddenly
collapse or breach, i.e. they typically fail more gradually than a seawall that may
collapse without warning
— the rock will often provide a ‘niche’ habitat colonized by shellfish, and algae hence
attracting fish and wading birds.

Review of coastal defence techniques

The usual disadvantages are the possible dangers to pedestrians or beach users, who
may be injured clambering over the structure, and its visual aspect, which can be out
of character with the surrounding area. If the whole structure is not regularly
submerged at high tidal levels, there can also be a problem with rats living in the
interstices of the revetment.

The following points may be considered as paramount when considering the

suitability and the design of a rock revetment:

— rock size and grading (for a given geometry, i.e. slope and crest height)
 resistance to wave action
 effect on run-up and overtopping
 likely effects on foreshore
 public safety and amenity considerations
— necessity for filtration and foundation stability
— rock material specification
 method of delivery.

Rock of smaller size can be incorporated into gabion mattresses or grouted with
bituminous or asphaltic material (see McConnell, 1998) to provide an alternative
type of revetment. Concrete blocks. Concrete blocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, either
as single units, or interconnected, i.e. ‘cable-tied’ and supplied in the form of a flexible
‘mattress’. Each block in a cable-tied system may weigh as little as a few kilograms,
while the single units that rely on friction or interlocking shapes for stability may
weigh more than 100 kg. Often the blocks are of proprietary or patented design,
hence subject to royalty payments. Concrete block systems are usually placed as a
single layer over a prepared slope of finer rock or gravel, with that under-layer often
placed on a geotextile filter. Generally, the blocks are laid to produce a plane, sloping
face to the revetment and, depending on the type of units used, the face may be
smooth or rough, permeable or impermeable.

Block systems, due to their regular nature, are subject to progressive failure should
some damage occur. The removal of one block (or failure of one cable or tendon) is
likely to adversely affect the stability of adjacent blocks by allowing water pressures to
be exerted directly underneath the blocks. For this reason, concrete block revetments
are often divided into sections by panel beams running the full height of the slope.
Design parameters for these systems have generally been established by physical model
testing and design must be carried out by reference to the appropriate published
results (see McConnell, 1998). These systems may suffer sudden, catastrophic
failure when the wave forces exceed a certain threshold. Examples of concrete
block systems include:

— steps and large rectangular slabs: stable by self-weight

— concrete tiles (rectangular or hexagonal): generally lightweight units, jointed with
bitumen, and used in mild wave environments
— Essex blocks, T-lock, Dytap, Basaltine, etc.: these rely on mechanical interlock,
and sometimes grouting as well, to achieve greater stability.
— Armourflex, Petraflex, etc.: cable-tied systems, produced in the form of mattresses

Coastal defence

— Cob, Shed, Seabee, Diode units, etc.: large hollow concrete blocks designed to
dissipate wave energy.

With the exception of the hollow block systems, all of these will produce a defence
structure with a seaward face that is hydraulically smooth (or nearly so), that is
compatible with access requirements as well as leisure and amenity interests. This is at
the expense of higher run-up levels than on a rock revetment, a greater effect on the
foreshore and adjacent areas and an often less harmonious blend with the natural
environment. Dependent on location and site-specific conditions, these systems can
compete in price with rock. Once such systems have been damaged, usually either by
wave impact forces that displace blocks, or by undermining of their seaward face
causing wash-out of the underlying material, repairing them is more difficult than rock
revetments. Gabions. Gabions are wire baskets usually filled with stones, cobbles or small
rock, but sometimes with concrete blocks such as old kerbstones. They are best
considered using the guidance to be found in manufacturer’s literature and are
generally only suitable in areas where abrasion is low due to the propensity of the steel
or plastic wires to abrade, corrode and fail. Common causes of failure include:

— abrasion by beach material, especially shingle

— the breaking up and removal of the material used to fill them, again leading to
abrasion of the wires, and
— damage caused by beach users walking over them.

They can be placed either as a near-vertical wall in front of eroding cliffs or dunes, or
as a sloping revetment, when their permeability helps to limit wave run-up and
overtopping. In an open-coast situation, i.e. where there is significant wave action,
gabions are likely to need repair or replacement within 10 years of placement,
sometimes sooner. Asphaltic blankets. The use of asphalt in the hydraulic environment has
been most developed by the Dutch for the protection of dykes and river channel
banks (see Rijkswaterstaat, 1985) and a few such systems have been used in the UK.
The asphalt blankets generally rely on preventing hydrodynamic pressures reaching
the back of the membrane and possessing sufficient continuity and flexibility to resist
the forces acting on the seaward face. They may also be very much thinner than
equivalent rock or concrete block constructions. Their impermeability is generally
achieved by specifying asphaltic concrete, which is an overfilled mix with self-healing
properties when over-stressed.

An alternative permeable material with similar qualities of flexibility and with some
claim to energy dissipation and reduced run-up is known as open-stone-asphalt (see
McConnell, 1998). It is applied in a much greater thickness in order to achieve
sufficient strength. This material consists of single-size stone bound together with an
optimally designed asphaltic mix that merely coats every stone without filling the
voids. Earth reinforcement. Techniques of earth reinforcement are generally

considered as slope stabilization (see Section 4.6) but certain methods involving
the use of heavy (usually woven) geotextiles merit inclusion as revetment systems
in their own right. Bag-work laid at a slope has long been used as a temporary form
of protection. With the advent of modern geotextiles, very large bags laid to a

Review of coastal defence techniques

three-dimensional pattern can now offer substantial life expectancy in moderate

environments at very low cost. They are typically filled with beach sand in situ. Such
constructions can be used in the first stages of dune rehabilitation programmes, which
may take many years to reach their full effectiveness and provide adequate
reassurance against the risk of flooding. The geotextile bags, however, can be easily
damaged, for example by vandalism, and hence have to be used with discretion.

4.2.4 Seawalls In some cases the distinction between revetments and seawalls is not clear-cut, with
different people using different terminology. Seawalls, however, typically have the
following features:

— construction is of concrete, either pre-cast or poured in situ, or of masonry

— a beam along the toe of its seaward face, often supported on piles
— the seaward face is usually solid, e.g. of concrete or stone, and often not a simple
plane slope
— it has a rear wall that contributes to the strength of the overall structure
— the crest is also part of the structure and is often designed and used both as an
access route and an amenity.

Modern seawalls usually have sloping front faces, like revetments, but often have
breaks in the slope and details such as steps (see Figure 10). These features are usually

— to dissipate wave energy, and hence reduce overtopping

— to reduce problems of beach lowering at the seawall toe

Figure 10 Seawall with beach recharge operations

Coastal defence

— for aesthetic reasons

— to provide good access and an amenity for beach users.

Necessarily, however, this increases the volume of construction materials used, and
results in the seawall extending further down the beach profile.

Many vertical and near-vertical seawalls were constructed in UK in the past and their
refurbishment or replacement or other special circumstances may still necessitate
their consideration today. These special circumstances may include:

— the close proximity of property to be protected

— the absence of beach and nearness of deep water
— the desire for boat moorings or other water access and
— the need to protect existing near-vertical features such as cliffs.

In some countries, vertical seawalls are still regarded as the most suitable forms of
coastal defence, because of these factors.

The overtopping performance of a seawall mainly depends on its cross-sectional

profile and its roughness, as mentioned above. Often a ‘wave return wall’ is added at
the crest of the seaward face, i.e. a concrete or masonry wall typically 0.5 1.5 m high
with a vertical or concave seaward face designed to reflect waves seaward and prevent
them overtopping the crest of the wall. The acceptable limit for overtopping at the
design standard is governed by public safety considerations, the acceptance potential
of the cliff or other natural feature behind the wall, potential damage to property,
stability considerations of the rear slope of the wall and flooding implications.

Calculating overtopping discharges for simple types of embankment or seawall can be

carried out using numerical methods. Most such methods are empirical, i.e. based on
analysis of laboratory test results, but modern models that simulate the wave motions
in shallow water up to and on the seawall are also now being employed. Many designs,
however, are non-standard and may require physical model testing to assess their
performance accurately. Artificial roughness, in the form of rock or concrete
protuberances in addition to wave return walls, are often added to basic seawall
designs to reduce overtopping during extreme wave and tidal conditions. Further
details on the design of seawalls to achieve a desired level of protection against
overtopping can be found in (BS6349 Part 1).

The over-riding acceptability criterion for a vertical seawall is its stability. This is
achieved by its mass for concrete or masonry ‘gravity’ structures, or by its depth of
penetration and bending strength for timber breastworks or steel sheet pile walls.
All of these structures are very sensitive to the level of the foreshore in front of the
wall. Unfortunately, due to their highly reflective nature, vertical walls can have a
pronounced effect on the immediate foreshore leading to the development of deep
scour holes and sometimes to the complete loss of beach.

Concrete is very often the material of choice for seawall construction and its use in
the marine environment is subject to special consideration (see for example BS6349
Part 1, Concrete in Coastal Structures, edited by R.T. Allen, Thomas Telford, London).
For example, the inclusion of steel reinforcement will provide extra strength, but
where abrasion reduces the depth of coverage of the reinforcement elements, then the
subsequent problems of corrosion can lead to significant weakening of the structure.
There is little doubt that significant problems are faced when placing in situ concrete

Review of coastal defence techniques

in a tidal situation. The use of pre-cast concrete, and the pre-tensioning of properly
designed load-bearing elements, is to be recommended on the basis of durability and
longevity. Ease of construction under tidal conditions may also yield significant
savings over in situ construction methods.

Amongst the various forms of linear defence, seawalls generally have the highest
potential impact on the natural environment but also offer some of the most
attractive benefits to leisure and amenity. New seawalls are also one of the more
expensive options available within an overall shoreline management scheme and their
adoption must be carefully considered with regard to all of the aspects covered in this
guide. Nevertheless, many seawalls in this country are nearing the end of their useful
lives and their replacement is very often the preferred option bearing in mind the
often-substantial development that now depends on them.

4.3 Beach In its broader context the term ‘beach management’ refers to all or any of the
management activities concerned with controlling, using or improving beaches for defence,
recreation, or other purposes. The term is also used in a narrower sense to refer to
various methods for effecting coastal defence, which are described below.

4.3.1 Beach recharge Beach recharge (also known as beach nourishment, replenishment or feeding) means
supplementing the natural volume of sediment on a beach using material from
elsewhere. The ‘imported’ material may be either sand (particle size 0.06 mm up to
2 mm) or shingle. Shingle is a general term that includes both gravel (particle size
2 4 mm) and pebbles (particle size 4 75 mm). The use of beach recharge has been
steadily growing in the UK, as in many other countries, over the last 25 years, and this
is largely because of the development of dredging and delivery systems that make the
operations cheaper, in real terms, as the years pass. The material for beach recharge is
usually obtained from the seabed, from areas licensed for the commercial production
of aggregate for the construction industry. In recent years, there has been a growing
trend towards using sediment dredged from navigation channels to ports, and from
areas of the seabed licensed solely for supplying beach recharge material. Some limited
recharge of beaches from inland sources has also been carried out, although the
logistics of delivering large quantities of sand or shingle by road often make this option
undesirable and expensive. There is a substantial body of literature on individual
schemes and reviewing the methods and successes of beach recharge. Useful guidance
can be found in the Beach Management Manual (CIRIA, 1996), Davison, Nicholls and
Leatherman (1992) and Delft Hydraulics Laboratory (1987).

The first substantial beach recharges in the UK, at Portobello, Edinburgh in 1972 and
at Bournemouth in 1973 4, were carried out using sand dredged from the offshore
seabed with the sand being pumped ashore through a pipeline. The scale of such
operations has increased in recent years with much larger sand recharges carried out
between Happisburgh and Winterton, in Norfolk and between Mablethorpe and
Skegness, in Lincolnshire between 1997 and 1999.

Shingle recharge schemes are usually designed on the basis of average particle
diameters of between 5 and 15 mm. This originally made delivery by pipeline
impractical and early recharge schemes involved delivery of material by bottom-
opening barges moored in the inter-tidal zone. In more recent schemes, notably
at Seaford in Sussex in 1987 and at Hurst Castle Spit, Hampshire in 1996,
improvements in equipment have allowed delivery by floating pipelines, as for sand.

Coastal defence

More rarely, beaches have been formed using much coarser material (50 500 mm);
examples of recharged ‘rock beaches’ can be found at Hilton Bay near Berwick-on-
Tweed, and near Prestatyn in North Wales.

As a coastal defence, beach recharge is carried out to provide a ‘buffer’ between the
shoreline and the land that is to be defended. By raising beach levels, and adding to
the total volume of beach sediment, much more of the incoming wave energy is
dissipated by the lower beach, leading to less overtopping or damage at its crest.

In some cases, beach recharge performs a second coastal defence function, i.e. that of
covering and thereby isolating an underlying soft shore platform from the erosive
action of the sea. Exposure and hence erosion of a platform of soft rock, such as chalk
or clay, brought about by a lack of cover by sediment results in a permanent lowering
of the foreshore (see Figure 5). In these situations, beach recharge can offer a more
sustainable option for coastal defence than ‘hard defences’ (e.g. seawalls, revetments)
which by reflecting wave energy can add to the erosion problems.

Also, the provision of a wider, higher beach is usually regarded as a benefit by seaside
towns, as it will provide a better amenity for residents and visitors alike.

Unlike seawalls and revetments, beaches are dynamic features being subject to the
mobilizing influence of waves and tides. To provide an effective defence, a beach must
maintain a required volume (or cross-sectional area) at every section along the
frontage. For a flood defence scheme in particular, the standard of the defence is
dictated by the standard of the beach at its weakest point. Design of a beach recharge
scheme must carefully consider the behaviour of the chosen material (e.g. whether
sand or shingle since they behave differently) with respect to:

— long-shore transport the movement of sediment along the shore that is

responsible for the ‘plan shape’ development of a beach
— cross-shore transport the movement of sediment up and down the beach and
foreshore that alters the slope and shape of a beach profile.

These two types of transport operate continuously giving rise to beach changes both
in the long term (e.g. annual long-shore drift rates, seasonal variations in beach
morphology) and short term (e.g. plan shape and profile variations during a storm).

A nourished beach must be designed to withstand storm attack, generally without any
human intervention at the time of the storm. In the long term, losses of the recharge
material and unwanted changes in the beach shape can be managed in several ways,
usually by a combination of:

— periodic recharge (i.e. adding extra material as and where required)

— recycling/bypassing (i.e. moving sand from one place to another along the beach,
see Section 4.3.2)
— installation/modification of beach control structures (see Section 4.4).

Without such measures, the expected lifetime of a beach recharge scheme may be
short, although this will greatly depend on the particular site. A recharge scheme in a
self-contained pocket beach with a low long-shore transport rate may last almost
indefinitely. In most cases, however, a financial evaluation of the costs of alternative
methods of retaining or replacing the recharge material will first need to be carried out
to prescribe the best management strategy. This will then often need to be adjusted in

Review of coastal defence techniques

the light of the performance of the beach as revealed by monitoring its evolution. In
suitable locations, a beach recharge scheme can be expected to remain effective for
5 10 years before any major addition of further sediment.

4.3.2 Beach recycling Both beach recycling and bypassing are methods for mitigating local deficits in beach
and bypassing volume due to unwanted or deficient long-shore transport.

Beach ‘recycling’ means mechanically moving sediment in the opposite direction to

that of the net long-shore transport, and is usually carried out to restore beaches
further updrift that have lost material. These beaches can erode because of
insufficient sediment supply at the updrift boundary. This type of operation is also
referred to as ‘back-passing’ in the USA. Thus, beach recycling is a way of reworking
the sand or shingle within a sediment cell to maintain the required volume at all
sections. It has been undertaken, for example, at several places in Kent since the mid-
1950s, and at Seaford in West Sussex and at Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast,
following beach recharges in 1987 and 1991, respectively. Often the beach material is
collected from an area of accumulation, e.g. against a groyne or harbour breakwater,
and this technique can therefore have the added advantage of reducing siltation of
harbours or navigation channels.

In practice, beach cells are not usually entirely ‘closed systems’ in the true sense; i.e. it
is more likely that there are some net overall losses. Beach recycling programmes must
be planned carefully allowing, if necessary, for some importation of material from time
to time to offset any gradual losses or overworking of the borrow site.

‘Bypassing’ is a way of restoring the natural long-shore transport pattern where it has
been interrupted, for example, by a breakwater. Sediment is mechanically collected
from the updrift side of the obstruction, where it accumulates, and transferred to the
downdrift beaches. Often, bypassing is primarily carried out to reduce problems of
siltation in ports or the mouths of navigable inlets or rivers rather than to manage the
beaches on either side of them, although the operations also reduce problems of
erosion on the downdrift beaches. A good UK example is provided by the operations
at Shoreham in Sussex. Overseas examples are found in the USA (e.g. Jones &
Mehta, 1980), in Italy (Fiorentino et al., 1985), South Africa (Campbell et al., 1985),
on the eastern coast of India (Paradip) (Wakeling et al., 1983) and in Australia
(Coughlan & Robinson, 1990).

4.4 Beach control The Beach Management Manual (CIRIA, 1996) defines beach control structures as
structures ‘man made works designed to reduce net long-term loss of beach material due to long-
shore or off-shore transport’. Beach control structures include groynes, breakwaters
and sills. Seawalls could also be regarded as beach control structures insofar as they
control the most landward line of the beach and, on occasions, affect the long-shore
transport of sediment as well, but they have already been considered in Section 4.2

Most beach control structures alter the rate of sediment transport along a shoreline. It
is important to realize, however, that beach control structures cannot increase the
total volume of sediment on a coastline. Thus increases in the volume of a beach in
one area can only be achieved at the cost of causing corresponding losses elsewhere
(unless beach recharge operations are also carried out).

Coastal defence

4.4.1 Groynes Groynes are narrow structures built usually at right angles to the shoreline and have
been used extensively on UK beaches. They extend across the beach, but rarely below
the low water mark. Perhaps most commonly constructed of timber planking between
timber piles, groynes have also been built from rock, steel piling, concrete and asphalt.
Although usually ‘solid’, some permeable groynes have also been built, with the idea
of allowing some sediment to pass through them. The majority of groynes are
straight fence-like structures but there are a number of variants including ‘snake’ or
‘zigzag’ plan-shapes or with an enlarged seaward end, e.g. round-headed, T-headed or

The purpose of groynes is to hold back sediment that would otherwise move along the
beaches under the action of waves and long-shore currents. Groynes alter these
currents, reducing their speed in the ‘bays’ between them, and causing sediment to
accumulate on the updrift side of the groyne. They have a similar calming effect on
tidal currents that would otherwise produce long-shore movement of sediment on the
upper part of the foreshore. Groynes with an enlarged seaward end also provide some
localized shelter from wave action and this enables sediment to accumulate on their
immediate downdrift side as well.

Because groynes (purposely) prevent some long-shore sediment movement, they also
cause some downdrift deficit or erosion. The overall effect of groynes is often to cause
a re-orientation from a straight shoreline to a ‘saw-tooth’ pattern. The thickened
part of the beach is at the downdrift end of the groyne bay (the length of beach
between successive groynes) and the narrowed section at or towards the updrift end
(see Figure 11). As mentioned above, groynes will not add to the total volume of
beach sediment; they will simply distribute it in a different manner.

As the narrowest or weakest point of a beach dictates the standard of defence it

provides, it follows that more sediment (sand or shingle) is needed to achieve a given
standard to offset the effect of the beach re-orientation produced by groynes. Groynes
do not, therefore, improve the standard of defence of a beach, but they are a way
of mitigating sediment losses. Careful selection of the groyne length, plan shape,
and spacing, as well as initial addition of extra beach sediment, can minimize
any unwanted downdrift (erosion) effects. The overall standard of defence may
be improved if losses of sediment by long-shore transport in a storm (or sequence of
storms) are reduced.

Groynes are commonly built on both sandy and shingle beaches. Groynes on sand
beaches are typically longer, and built with their crests parallel to the beach slope,
often less than a metre above it. Groynes on shingle beaches are often shorter but
taller, with a significant proportion of their length at or above high tide level. Because
sand beaches generally extend into deeper water and the sand is mobile at greater

Figure 11 Effects of groynes

on beach plan shape

Review of coastal defence techniques

water depths than shingle, groynes are less effective in retaining sand than shingle, i.e.
there is a greater potential for sand to pass around the ends of the groynes, or over
their crests.

Groynes cannot be expected to prevent or significantly reduce offshore transport of

beach sediment, for example as a result of the beach profile flattening.

4.4.2 Breakwaters Breakwaters may be either shore-connected (e.g. a harbour breakwater) or detached
(and usually shore-parallel). The distinction between a shore-connected breakwater
and a groyne is that the former usually extends into deeper water and provides a more
significant barrier to waves than a groyne. Shore-connected breakwaters are usually
built using land-based plant, although the materials may well be delivered by sea.
Detached breakwaters, also sometimes referred to as offshore breakwaters, are
generally set parallel to the shoreline. They are generally installed in even deeper
water than the seaward end of shore-connected breakwaters, and are usually built
using marine plant, e.g. barges and floating cranes.

Breakwaters used for coastal defence may be installed singly, for example to protect a
short length of coastline. Often, however, they are placed in pairs, to form artificial
headlands between which a ‘pocket’ beach can be held (Hsu et al., 1989) or in groups
to protect longer frontages of shoreline.

They are usually built of small rock, armoured with larger rocks or concrete units.
They provide shelter to the coast from wave attack, reducing waves in their lee
through the processes of wave reflection, breaking and diffraction. By reducing wave
activity in their lee, breakwaters also moderate cross-shore movements of sediment
there. Adjacent to the breakwater shadow, however, wave activity at the shore can
actually be intensified due to the interference of diffracted waves with the incident
waves that (in any case) pass the end of the breakwater. Almost all the breakwaters
built as beach control structures in the UK have their crests above normal high tide
levels, and hence greatly reduce wave action in their lee throughout the tidal cycle.
Elsewhere in the world, where tidal ranges are small, offshore breakwaters are often
built so that their crest is just below water level, to avoid both the aesthetic
disadvantages of a large structure just offshore and problems of poor interchange of
water between beaches and the open sea.

The wave ‘shadow’ created by a breakwater reduces wave-induced long-shore drift at

the shore. For a shore-connected breakwater this, together with the groyne effect of
the shore connection, produces a very efficient sediment trap with the updrift beaches
accumulating material rapidly, although often with corresponding erosion problems
on the downdrift coast.

For a detached breakwater, the reduction in wave height along the shoreline behind
the structure, together with reduced cross-shore and long-shore sediment movement,
causes a ‘broadening’ of the beach and its lee (see Figure 12). This feature is termed a
‘salient’. In some cases, e.g. where the breakwater length is greater than its distance
offshore, the salient may extend out to reach the landward side of a detached
breakwater, a feature known as a ‘tombolo’. This accumulation of sediment can be
helpful, for example in increasing beach levels in front of a vulnerable section of
defences. However, tombolos, in particular, are also very efficient in preventing the
transport of beach material along the coast behind a breakwater and are therefore not
always desirable, since the resulting downdrift erosion can be a problem. In either

Coastal defence


Figure 12 Effects of detached

breakwaters on beach Salient

case, the local increase in beach volume in the lee of a detached breakwater is likely
to be at the expense of a narrowing of the beach along one or both sides of it. It is
important to anticipate this problem, and prevent it by adding sediment to the beach
at the same time as the breakwater is built.

Summing up, detached breakwaters, like all other beach control structures, must be
designed very carefully with a full understanding of all the physical processes at work.
If not designed properly they can be detrimental to downdrift beaches and hence to
the coast. Like groynes, they have the effect of re-orientating the shoreline; they will
not ‘add’ sediment to it and therefore should not be considered in isolation from
beach management. Simultaneous beach recharge will often be needed at the time of
installing breakwaters to avoid short-term detrimental impacts.

4.4.3 Sills Sills are low, shore-parallel structures, usually built of rock and designed to hold beach
material on their landward side. Their objective is to alter the normal patterns of
cross-shore beach sediment transport, and hence prevent offshore losses of sediment.
They have not yet gained widespread acceptance as an effective method of improving
beach levels, although some recent schemes have shown their potential to succeed.
Around the UK coast, they have largely been built near the crest of a beach, to retain
sediment against the face of an eroding cliff. The sill itself also intercepts and absorbs
some of the wave energy that reaches it, although this may cause some scour of the
beach immediately to the seaward.

Elsewhere sills have been built at the toe of a recharged beach, in an attempt to
reduce the offshore loss of sand to the seabed under wave action.

4.5 Dune Dunes, where they exist, are an important and dynamic component of sand beaches.
stabilization In some parts of the UK (see Figure 6), and in many other parts of the world, e.g. The
methods Netherlands, they act as natural barriers against flooding of the hinterland. The
preservation and enhancement of dunes is therefore a valid part of coastal defence
practice. Although they can be regarded as ‘coastal slopes’ in the broadest sense of the
definition, few of the management methods described in the Section 4.7 have been
applied to them. The exception is surface erosion control, and this is widely practised
wherever dune erosion is a problem.

Their management, however, should be influenced by their considerable environ-

mental importance; indeed, the impetus for dune management may often arise from
those concerned with environmental issues. In the UK, many dunes are rich biological
habitats, as well as being popular recreational areas. Dunes are often damaged by both
marine action and beach-users and conservation bodies have developed and applied a
variety of management methods (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, 1996), as
listed below. For further reading on the natural processes affecting dunes, and their
successful management, the reader is referred to the manuals on dune/beach
management by Ranwell and Boar (1986) and Scottish National Heritage (2000).

Review of coastal defence techniques

4.5.1 Wind fencing A variety of methods have been used to reduce the wind-induced shear stresses on
the surface of dunes, thus encouraging the deposition of sand. Fences on the seaward
face or toe of dunes often only last for a short time, before being damaged or removed
entirely by severe storms. Consequently, they are normally built of cheap materials
such as brushwood, although plastic mesh has also been successfully used, especially
in less vulnerable areas.

4.5.2 Planting of Dunes are normally stabilized by specialized species of grass (e.g. Sand Couch, Marram
dune-binding grasses Grass and Sea Lyme in the UK) which thrive in the unusual ecological niche of the
upper part of sand beaches and dune faces. They are both salt- and drought-tolerant
and colonize fresh deposits of wind-blown sand, helping to reduce wind speeds over
the ground surface, and increasing the soil strength. Propagating and planting these
grasses in suitable locations is a good method of improving dune stability and
enhancing the environment.

4.5.3 Surface In areas severely affected by surface erosion due to wind action (deflation), or where it
stabilization has been necessary to remove dunes temporarily (e.g. to install a pipeline), the above
two methods of restoring dunes may not be sufficiently effective. A number of
methods of protecting the surface of dunes have been employed, including covering
the ground with fishing nets, coir matting, straw ‘blankets’ (thatching), or even
stabilizing affected areas with a bituminous spray, which later breaks up as vegetation
beneath it germinates and grows through it. It is important to ensure that the long-
term effects on the environment of such techniques are carefully thought through.
Materials that are biodegradable, for example, may be preferred.

4.5.4 Control of Deflation, i.e. the erosion of dunes by winds, often starts in small areas where
pedestrians and vegetation has been damaged by trampling or grazing. Controlling the numbers of
grazing animals animals within an area of dunes by fencing (for agricultural animals and people), and
by shooting or trapping (for rabbits) is often an effective measure. Pedestrians also
need to be managed by installing boardwalks and advisory notices (see Figure 13).
Off-road vehicles and motorcycles can be particularly damaging, and need to be
prevented from reaching vegetated dunes.

4.6 Estuarial Some coastal defence structures in estuaries, such as revetments, are very similar to
coastal defences those used on the open coast. However, the fine-grained cohesive sediments, i.e. mud
and clay, found in estuaries mean that other types of defence, such as beach
management, are not applicable, or have not been developed to the same extent.
However, the problems arising from erosion and flooding along the shorelines of
estuaries should not be regarded as unimportant. Many important commercial,
industrial and agricultural areas are at risk from such events. Two techniques
specifically used in estuaries are worth mentioning, as described below.

4.6.1 Surge and tidal Several barrage schemes have been completed, and others are under consideration,
barriers around the coastline of the UK and elsewhere in the world. Whether these structures
are called barriers, barrages or sometimes weirs, they are all designed to modify, or in
some cases totally prevent, the progression of the tide up an estuary or inlet. In this

Coastal defence

Figure 13 Pedestrian management over coastal dunes

report we are principally concerned with ‘surge protection barriers’ whose task is
to limit the maximum tidal level upstream of it. The primary example in the UK is
the Thames Barrier. Unlike permanent barrages, these barriers are movable and are
only operated when necessary. At other times, they are designed to have minimal
effect on the existing propagation of the tide. Hence they minimize disruption to
navigation, to tidal flows and to the natural processes and environments of the area
within which they are set. A review of such barriers, explaining the important issues
and giving many examples, has recently been published (Burt & Rees, 2001).

The requirement for such structures to be movable involves large-scale mechanical

engineering. Both the supporting structure and the moving components, such as
gates, have to be on a substantial scale even across a small tidal inlet or estuary
mouth. As a consequence, the initial construction cost and subsequent maintenance
commitment are both large, even in comparison with conventional coastal
engineering works. The length of shoreline protected, and the assets lying to the
landward of it, must both be large to justify such a defence option. Because of this,
and the considerable environmental issues involved in any large-scale engineering
projects in estuaries, any proposal to erect a surge barrier will need considerable study
and evaluation.

Review of coastal defence techniques

There are a number of issues that have to be considered during the design of a surge
barrier. These include the following. The impact of its closure on the area downstream. The tidal ‘wave’ will reflect
from its front face, and thus increase tidal levels further seaward. This may require a
strengthening and raising of flood defences downstream. Real-time forecasting of tidal levels and surges. A considerable investment in the
accurate prediction of high tidal levels will be required, not least because a
considerable time is needed to close a large barrier, and early warning has to be given
to those navigating in the area. Over-caution may lead to closing the barrier too
often, causing inconvenience and perhaps increasing the impacts on the morphology
of the estuary. Over-optimism may lead to flooding that could have been prevented
by operating the barrier. Impacts on the morphology of the estuary. Although barriers that only close
occasionally may not seem likely to have much effect on the long-term patterns of
sediment transport and morphological change, these issues always should be
considered. As sea levels rise, barriers will need to be operated more frequently,
and this too needs to be taken into account. Where such changes are likely to occur,
for example changing the width of inter-tidal areas, then there may be consequential
effects on the wider environment, particularly on the ecology of the area.

It is likely that all such schemes will require extensive data collection exercises,
numerical modelling studies to calculate the effects on tidal flows, sediment transport
and morphological change (i.e. siltation and erosion) and exhaustive environmental
assessments. Nevertheless, the impacts and costs of a barrier may be less than wide-
scale improvement of flood defences along the shorelines further upstream.

4.6.2 Saltmarsh Many estuaries and tidal inlets have saltmarsh around their edges. These areas are
management where sediment has been deposited and subsequently colonized by ‘halophytes’, i.e.
salt-tolerant species of plant. The vegetation both stabilizes the accumulated
sediment, by reducing the stresses caused by waves and tidal currents, and helps
further sediment settle in amongst the plants. Saltmarsh forms in the upper part of the
inter-tidal zone, typically from above mean high water neaps to about that of the
highest tidal level. Where the tidal range is large, the saltmarsh can be wide and it
then acts as an effective natural coastal defence, greatly reducing the height of waves
as they travel over it. Where a saltmarsh fronts a flood embankment, and this is often
the case, then it serves a dual purpose, both protecting the vulnerable toe of the
defence and reducing wave action on it. This reduces the need for reinforcement or
armouring of the embankment and the volume of water that overtops it during a
storm. Because of this, the maintenance of saltmarsh areas is a legitimate component
of coastal defence management in estuaries.

In much of southern and eastern England, there has been a wide-scale problem of
erosion of mud flats and saltmarsh over the last few decades. This has been
detrimental to the flood defences, often provoking major expense in armouring them
and raising their crest to retain a satisfactory standard of protection. In some areas,
this expense has not been justifiable because of the low value of the land at risk from
flooding. Alternative, less expensive methods of flood defence have therefore been
sought, the most common of which is saltmarsh management.

Coastal defence

A number of techniques have been used to protect eroding saltmarsh and/or to

encourage its re-establishment in areas from which it has been lost. These are based
on the idea of reducing the strength of the waves and tidal currents over and/or in
front of the saltmarsh, thus encouraging deposition of silt as a first step to forming new
saltmarsh (Environment Agency, 1996). This approach to managing coastal defences
also has the advantage that, if successful, it will extend and enhance the important
ecological habitat that saltmarsh provides.

There has been a considerable degree of experimentation, and the techniques for
protecting saltmarsh are certainly less well established than those used for sandy
beaches and dunes. The following types are the most commonly used. Sedimentation fences. These are usually built of brushwood and arranged as a
grid on mud flats fronting the eroding seaward edge of a saltmarsh. They allow some
flow of water through them, but reduce both waves and current speeds so that
sediment deposited within them settles on the seabed. Offshore breakwaters. At a number of locations in Essex, small barges have

been towed into position in front of saltmarshes and then ‘grounded’ by filling them
with sand and water. This is essentially the same concept as the use of offshore
breakwaters as beach control structures (see Section 4.4). Figure 14 shows a site in
Essex where both sedimentation fences and offshore breakwaters (barges) have been

Figure 14 Saltmarsh management schemes, Essex

Review of coastal defence techniques Artificial near-shore banks. In some estuaries, there are natural banks of sand
or gravel, called ‘cheniers’, which have healthy areas of saltmarsh in their lee. This has
encouraged the idea of placing sand and gravel as artificial banks on the mud flats in
front of eroding saltmarshes. This method has been used at several sites where
suitable sediment was available at low cost, as a by-product of dredging in harbours or
their approach channels (HR Wallingford, 2001). Other methods. Other techniques that have been attempted have included
armouring the eroding face of a saltmarsh with rock, installing artificial seaweed and
using mud dredged from navigation channels to recharge eroding areas.

It is fair to say that none of the techniques used has always been successful. Indeed,
there have been more failures than successes in saltmarsh management so far,
probably because in most cases the erosion of saltmarsh is a symptom of a much larger
erosion problem affecting an estuary or tidal inlet as a whole.

4.7 Cliff Where coastal defences are installed to protect a cliff or other coastal slope, it may be
stabilization necessary to consider further works to prevent landslides, which could threaten not
only the defences but also property on or above the slope. The main objective is
stabilization and prevention of movement. It generally requires one or more of the
following techniques (see Brunsden & Prior, 1984, Bromhead, 1986, or Hutchinson,
2001, for further details):

— reducing porewater pressures in slopes by surface or sub-surface drainage

— reducing de-stabilizing forces by re-profiling slopes (including old landslides)
— increasing stability by adding weight to the toe of the slope or increasing the shear
resistance along the failure surface
— supporting unstable areas by building retaining structures, or
— preventing or reducing the erosion (e.g. by freeze/thaw, wind) of the surface of
coastal slopes.

The appropriateness of these various techniques will vary depending on the geo-
technical properties of the land mass under consideration, on financial constraints,
and on the environmental impacts that may result from such stabilization procedures.
The design of safe and cost-efficient stabilization measures can generally only be
achieved by a thorough and detailed investigation of the slope, and this is an area
where specialist expertise will often be needed. For example, incorrect installation of
drainage work or incautious placement of fill material can reduce the stability of
slopes. Further information on this subject is given in Lee & Clark (in press).

The most common techniques are briefly described below.

4.7.1 Drainage Cost-effective slope drainage measures will depend on the size, depth and mechanism
of failure of a slope, the types of soil/rock and their permeability. Where surface run-
off is the predominant form of natural slope drainage, for example, then surface/
shallow drains with surface erosion control techniques are likely to be the most
appropriate techniques.

A wide variety of sub-surface drainage methods have been employed (Bromhead,

1986). They can be expensive to install and require considerable expertise in their
design and construction; as a result they may only be affordable for situations where a

Coastal defence

landslide would cause major damage. The potential long-term reduction in the
efficiency of drainage systems, by clogging, also needs to be considered. Schemes
should be monitored with a view to remedial works as necessary.

4.7.2 Slope re-profiling Flattening the overall gradient of a coastal slope is often the most efficient method of
increasing its stability. However this may immediately lead to the loss of property on a
cliff-top, and hence remove the benefit of the works being carried out. Other options
include ‘toe-weighting’ where material is imported and placed at the base of a slope,
excavating and replacing landslide debris with granular rock, and incorporating
‘benches’ or ‘terraces’ into the slope, which can reduce weathering and help in the
control of surface water run-off. Figure 15 shows an example of the use of both
drainage and terracing to help stabilize clay cliffs in Dorset.

4.7.3 Soil A number of techniques are available that improve the resistance of soils to failure
reinforcement and deformation. These include:
— piling and soil nailing
— shear keys
— grouting, and chemical injection including lime stabilization.

Figure 15 Terracing and drainage of ‘soft rock’ cliffs in Dorset

Review of coastal defence techniques

4.7.4 Retaining Retaining structures are usually installed at the toe of a slope, and need to be
structures differentiated from normal seawalls or revetments that do not have to resist such large
earth pressures. They are less efficient, in general, than drainage or slope re-profiling
but can be useful where space is limited. The design of such structures involves
consideration of bearing pressures under their base, overturning moments and sliding
forces. Stability analyses need to address the whole slope system, not just the structure
itself. The commonest retaining structures are reinforced concrete walls, and piled
walls. Other types include gabions, crib-block walls and reinforced earth.

4.7.5 Surface erosion It is important to differentiate between measures used to prevent erosion of the
control surface of a coastal slope from those used to prevent slope failure. Surface erosion can
be defined as the removal of soil or rock by agents such as wind, water, and ice or rain
splash. Surface erosion is not therefore a form of landslide, but it may eventually lead
to it. Methods of protecting slopes against weathering and erosion include:

— covering the slope surface with geotextile fabrics

— encouraging and maintaining vegetation (especially for soil slopes)
— covering the surface by revetments (e.g. gabions, cable-tied concrete block

5. Steps required in
choosing coastal defence

5.1 Introduction The impetus for undertaking a coastal defence scheme may arise in number of ways.
The most common circumstances are:

— following a severe storm event, or sequence of events, that caused damage or

— as part of a proposal for a coastal development or reclamation
— following routine inspection of defences or monitoring of coastal change.

Whatever the immediate impetus for action, it is most important for the development
of any sound and sustainable coastal defence solution that the first action is to
develop a clear understanding of the real problem that needs to be addressed.

Defence requirements are typically identified for short lengths of coastline, where
there is often perceived to be a need for urgent action. This, however, should not
negate the need to consider the long-term and wider-scale aspects of any coastal
management scheme. In the UK, it is more likely that schemes will be considered in
areas where older defences already exist. The procedure for choosing a suitable scheme
in such cases, nevertheless, should be as rigorous as if a completely new defence
scheme was being proposed for a ‘virgin’ coastline. This chapter discusses the work
necessary before and during the choice of suitable coastal defence scheme options.

Where a strategic review such as a shoreline management plan has been prepared (see
Section 2.3), an initial view will have been formed on whether or not undertaking
defence works at any location is justifiable. The general position and extent of such
defences will also have been considered, i.e. whether these should be along, seaward
or landwards of the present defences or coastline. If such an overview has not been
carried out, then it is advisable to study hydraulic and morphological processes over a
long stretch of coastline either side of the problem area. The aim is to judge how
alternative management options would affect adjacent (and distant) stretches of the
coast. Taking a wider view prior to the consideration of a defence scheme is essential
in order to avoid adverse effects on the coastline elsewhere. The shoreline

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options

management plan step will use whatever existing information is available for the
entire coastal cell to provide a broad picture.

In England and Wales, the study and evaluation of alternative defence options at a
specific location is generally carried out within a ‘strategy plan’ (see Table 2.1). For
this step, it will probably be necessary to undertake specific data gathering and
modelling of a greater length of coastline than that where defences are being
considered, to gain an appropriate understanding of the consequences of intervening
(or not). A strategy plan will consider a shorter frontage than a shoreline management
plan, but in greater detail, including more precise evaluations of the costs and benefits
of alternative intervention options. Note that the improved understanding of the
processes and evolution of the length of coast considered in a strategy plan will
improve the shoreline management plan, and hence the knowledge available for the
appropriate management of other frontages in the coastal cell.

Following the strategy plan, if appropriate, the ‘design phase’ of a coastal defence
scheme will be entered; this is considered in Chapters 6 and 7 of this guide. The more
detailed work undertaken should again be fed back into the system to inform the next
stage of works, thus the detailed scheme investigations will feed back into the scheme
strategy and enable that to be adjusted to best effect. At each step of the appraisal of a
scheme, for example the shoreline management plan, the strategy plan and the final
scheme choice, the same basic procedure is repeated. The difference will be in the
area over which it is considered and the level of detail involved. For the final scheme
design, it should only be necessary to focus on the immediate area of the scheme, but
detailed modelling and consideration of other aspects will be needed and data to an
appropriate level obtained.

At each step in the consideration of possible coastal defence schemes, an essential

component will be to consider the effect of not intervening, as described in Section
5.3. This involves predicting how a coastline will evolve under natural processes if no
management action is taken, and assessing the consequences appropriate to the
purpose and level of detail required.

Before discussion of this basic management option, however, it is important to first

discuss the collection of data and provision of information to guide the choice of
management options.

5.2 Data gathering As with many forms of management, the provision of appropriate and accurate
information is fundamentally important. To select the most appropriate methods for
5.2.1 Introduction managing a stretch of coastline, a considerable amount of information will be needed
at the various decision-making stages. Much of this may already be available in one
form or another and needs to be sought, collated, validated and put into an
appropriate form. However, where existing information is inadequate, of doubtful
quality or simply does not exist, it will be necessary to collect it, probably by
undertaking monitoring. Appropriate monitoring is an important part of the
management of a coastline. It can give early warning of impending problems and
their causes, it can indicate the priority and extent of intervention required, and
provides information on the effectiveness of the management methods employed.
Routine data collection will also ensure that much of the information needed to
manage the coast and to design and optimize new schemes will be available before its
need arises. If post-project monitoring and evaluation has been undertaken as
discussed in Section 9, much of the data required should already be available.

Coastal defence

Information on data gathering in this section will also assist with the design of a post-
project monitoring programme.

If there is insufficient information at a particular site where coastal defences are being
considered, then a data gathering programme will need to be undertaken at an early
stage in the study or design of those defences. However, it must be remembered that
data gathering must be appropriately accurate and cost effective, commensurate with
the requirements of the decision-making process and the likely expenditure on
management of the problems being considered. Extensive data gathering will be
inappropriate for broad scale studies such as shoreline management plans, and may
not be justified even during the final design stage for small, straightforward defence

In view of the multiple uses of information about natural coastal processes, and on the
condition and function of defences, there is no particular stage in the management of
a coastline when its collection should be started. However, starting the collection of
data as soon as possible is usually the best option! The following text therefore
describes data collection in a general way. In most cases, there will be a need to
establish ‘baseline conditions’ over a wide frontage, followed by further regular surveys
to identify changes and perhaps more detailed surveys in areas of particular interest.

Data sets need to be collected in a systematic manner if maximum benefit is to be

derived from monitoring. The choice of sampling intervals in time and space,
however, will depend on the particular process being studied and advice may be
needed from experienced practitioners on best practice. However, changes in a
monitoring programme should be considered in the light of changing circumstances or
following analysis of the data sets collected. For example, if changes in beach level
were found to be taking place much more slowly than originally expected, a reduction
in the frequency of surveys would be indicated.

Remote sensing methods, and the use of global positioning systems (GPS), are now
routinely used as alternatives to more traditional and labour intensive methods of
surveying, and will be increasingly utilized in the future. However, even very basic and
inexpensive methods of monitoring a coastline, such as taking photographs at regular
intervals, can provide useful information when management decisions have to be made.

Analysis of the data should be carried out as quickly as possible after its collection,
and the methods for analysing and using the information should be carefully thought
out as a part of the planning of any monitoring programme. Initial enthusiasm for
routine monitoring can soon dwindle unless useful results are being obtained,
demonstrating the value of continuing the programme. It is often important to be able
to present the information obtained in a clear and attractive manner, suitable for a lay
audience. There will continue to be a need for ‘hard copy’ reports and depictions of
information, e.g. in graphical and tabulated formats, but increasingly coastal
authorities are using a geographical information system (GIS) or another customized
database system for the storage and presentation of data.

Although some of the data collected will be site specific, reflecting the individual
character of a coast, some data could potentially be used by others later or for a similar
situation elsewhere. Thought should therefore be given to the cataloguing and
dissemination of information gathered, with a view to maximizing its value. A recent
development in this aspect of data management has been the use of the Internet to
advertise, report and even publish data sets for possible use by a wide audience.

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options

Further reading on data management and sharing can be found in the MUSEC report
(CIRIA, 2000).

5.2.2 Collection of data Geology and geotechnics. The collection of this type of data helps to
on physical processes understand the geological foundation and geomorphological evolution of the coast,
and characteristics beach and foreshore. The solid geology of a coastal area, including the seabed, forms a
framework within which the waves and tides act, redistributing the mobile sediments
on beaches and the seabed.

Geological plans and geomorphological mapping may only be necessary at the

shoreline management plan stage but, when considering the design of a coastal
defence structure, further investigation of a site may include:

— a desk study to locate and review existing information, and to identify specific
requirements, e.g. for foundations
— site surveys, e.g. trial pits, shell/auger drilling, cone penetration tests, core drilling,
shallow seismic surveys. Coastal morphology. A carefully planned programme for collecting

information on coastal morphology is invaluable if past and present changes are to
be understood and future changes predicted. Such a programme will include some of
the following techniques:

— analysis of historical maps of shoreline/cliff top positions

— beach profiling (including any defences or dunes at the beach crest)
— beach plan shape surveys, especially in areas with complicated contours, e.g.
behind offshore breakwaters
— surveys locating the seaward edge of dunes, cliffs or, in estuaries, of saltmarshes
— beach sediment sampling and analysis
— fixed aspect photographs (e.g. taken looking along the shoreline from chosen
‘standard’ locations)
— aerial photographs, both vertical and oblique.

It should be noted that it will take several years of monitoring to identify any long-
term trends in beach morphology, due to the inevitable variations in wave conditions
from year to year. It is also important to have information on seasonal, and ideally
even shorter-term, changes in beach profile to assist in the design of defences.
Vertical changes of beach level of up to 2 m during a single storm are not unusual and
will have a significant effect on wave action on defences at the beach crest. Nearshore seabed. There are two main aspects of interest.

1. Bathymetry, i.e. the underwater morphology of the seabed, can be established by

analysis of navigation charts and near-shore hydrographic surveying. Changes in
morphology, especially where there are channels and sandbanks close inshore, can
have a significant impact on the evolution of the shoreline and beaches.

2. Seabed sediments, the spatial distribution and particle sizes of sediments on the
near-shore seabed can give guidance on possible gains and losses of beach sediments.
Data can be obtained on both the surface and sub-surface sediments using both direct
sampling and remote sensing techniques, with, for example, the type and size of
bedforms providing information on sediment transport directions and rates.

Coastal defence Waves, winds and tides. Knowledge of the waves and tides that affect a
coastline, altering its beaches and morphology, is essential to understand past changes
and for assessing the shoreline’s future evolution.

— Weather records, particularly measurements of winds, are available from

meteorological archives or from numerical models of the atmosphere. These
can be used, in combination with wave measurements and numerical models of
wave generation, to predict wave conditions offshore from a coastline.
— In the UK, tide level records are available from approximately 40 class A gauges
and a further 60 privately owned gauges. In many cases, the main interest is the
prediction of highest tidal levels, for use when designing the crest level of coastal
defences. For this purpose, summaries of predicted extreme tidal levels have
recently been updated for many locations around the coast of England and Wales,
and reported, in 1997, by Dixon and Tawn. The approach employed in this report
tries to cover the whole country in a consistent and continuous way, focussing
particularly on the high extreme values. However, the search for measured tidal
data used in the report was not exhaustive, being confined to A-Class gauge data
and earlier annual maxima from a number of other sites. Therefore, this report
should not be used as a substitute for a thorough site-specific study, but as an
input to such a study. Additional years of data and/or information from non-A-
Class gauges, including anecdotal data and previous studies, are often available for
site-specific studies. The report by Dixon and Tawn therefore recommends that
other sources of data be reviewed. In particular, it makes the point that if the 1-
year value can be determined accurately from additional local data, that this
should be used, together with the rate of increase with return period from
the report to provide a better estimate of extreme tidal levels at the specific
— Direct measurements of wave conditions are much less readily available.
Measurements around the UK coast, for example, are generally sparse. In 1991,
the available information was used to produce a wave ‘atlas’ (Draper, 1991) which
gives an approximate guide to the intensity of wave conditions at different times
of the year. Catalogues indicating where wave measurements have been made do
exist, for example for the coasts of England and Wales (Harford, 1998), although
not all the wave measurements are necessarily available, as many are collected for
commercial purposes and may only be obtained at some cost. Information for
some other countries can be located on the Internet, especially where there are
national wave recording networks (for example the work of NOAA in the USA).
However, in general the chances of locating data that is directly useful for any
particular site where defences are being considered remain slim.
— In deep water, well offshore, there is now a growing amount of information on
wave conditions gathered by satellites. These measurements are made by
altimeters, and results obtained by gauging the roughness of the sea surface using
the variation on the measurements of the height of the instrument above the sea.
Further processing of the signal can now provide estimates of the surface
wavelength (and hence allow the wave period to be estimated). However, such
measurements are not accurate close to the shoreline, and repeat visits of the
satellite to the same point over the sea can be many days apart.
— Since the advent of numerical wave forecasting models, e.g. the Meteorological
Office Fine Mesh Wave Model (1986), reasonably accurate information on deep-
water wave conditions is available for most of the world, and at finer resolution
around the British Isles. This ‘synthetic’ wave data also includes information on
swell, which is difficult to predict using simpler numerical models of wave

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options

— Inshore wave monitoring provides valuable data to complement and validate

numerical modelling results. The deployment of a wave recorder at a particular
site, typically for a minimum period of six months over a winter, should be
carefully considered, for all significant coastal defence schemes, to provide
validation data for wave prediction methods. Coastal defences. The standard of defence and residual life of existing coastal
structures will influence the evolution of a shoreline and consequently the damage
that will occur to assets close to the coast. Full details of all existing structures must
therefore be obtained, to assess both their residual life, and whether they can be
restored to an acceptable condition.

The performance of existing defences should also be monitored, to identify

maintenance costs and to assess functional performance, e.g. noting overtopping
during storms and their effects on beach levels. They may have effects on coastal
processes or the local environment; data collection may therefore be needed to
quantify these effects, for example with a view to mitigation or enhancement
measures. The history of earlier defences can be important in determining the longer-
term shoreline evolution and also in providing data on performance, particularly if
there has been a failure.

5.2.3 Data on benefits At each stage in the appraisal process, it will be necessary to evaluate at an
and costs appropriate level the cost of building various defence options. At the shoreline
management plan stage it will only be possible to use broad-scale cost assessments
based on a range of typical cost/metre run values for a range of defence types and
standards. As the options are developed, more detailed evaluations of the costs (and
benefits) can be made (see Section 6.2). If at any stage it becomes evident that the
costs required for all defence options are significantly greater than the benefits
delivered by those options, it would be prudent to accept that trying to defend the
area is inappropriate.

The most obvious benefits of coastal defence arise from the avoidance of flooding or
coastal erosion. Flooding may arise from overflow, wave overtopping or breaching of a
natural or man-made sea-defence structure. If property, infrastructure or other man-
made or natural assets would have been lost or damaged but for the presence of a
defence then the avoidance of this loss represents an economic benefit of the defence.
Therefore, it is necessary to collect data on the property that will be damaged. This
will include type, age and value of residential property; area, construction type, use
and contents of commercial property; details of infrastructure such as roads, railways
and utilities; and the areas and classification of agricultural land that might be

There may also be loss of amenities and recreation assets and the avoidance of such
losses or the enhancement of existing assets at or close to the shoreline arising as a
direct consequence of the proposed works may be counted as benefits arising from a
scheme. If possible, data to evaluate these, such as changes in visitor numbers or
income should be collected. Data will be necessary to evaluate other indirect benefits
arising from prevention of disruption and avoidance of recovery costs for example.
The possible risk to life should also be assessed but some human impacts, such as
those on health, stress and loss of memorabilia are not easily valued in economic
terms, although this is an active area of research at present. Nevertheless, any
available data such as the numbers of people likely to be affected should be collected.

Coastal defence

5.2.4 Data on Either the removal or the construction of coastal defences can have significant
environmental impacts on the environment, both natural and man-made. The need to conserve and
constraints and enhance the environment will be the prime objective of coastal defences in some
opportunities locations but can be a significant constraint on their design/construction elsewhere.
There is therefore a need to gather information to assess the environmental effects of
alternative management options.

The environmental attributes of the coastal zone are normally classified in five

1. biological
2. socio-economic
3. physical
4. aesthetic
5. chemical.

Each of these categories of environmental attributes is briefly discussed further below.

More detailed discussion on data collection for environmental impact assessments is
provided in Section 6.3. Biological attributes. Any scheme on the coast has the potential to cause
changes to the biology of a site or area. In some cases, the biological characteristics of
a coastal site may prove to be of critical or dominant importance in management
decision making. Biological resources that potentially might be influenced include
terrestrial, coastal and marine habitats. Other activities such as fishing or recreation
that depend on these resources might also be affected.

A broad understanding is therefore required of the types of habitat, the presence of

any rare species, and their potential sensitivity to change. As with the other
parameters, more detailed information will also be required in some areas, notably for
sites where the biological assets are protected and/or particularly vulnerable. Many
environmentally important areas will have special protection from development, for
example those in the UK being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest
(SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA) or a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). In
such cases, the designations will mean that information on the biological interests
of the site will have been well documented. Details will need to be obtained of any
existing plans relating to the management of such designated areas. On a more
general level, protection of the biodiversity of an area is important and, if there is not
already an assessment of the existing biodiversity, one will need to be made. Where it
is not possible to avoid loss of existing habitat, especially if it has been designated,
then information should be collected on areas where schemes to mitigate or
compensate for any losses may be undertaken. Physical attributes. The physical processes operating on a coast are

fundamentally important in establishing its environmental characteristics. In some
cases, habitats will depend on the existing erosion and sediment transport regime, for
example the interchange of sand between dunes and beaches. Similarly, seawater
clarity may be affected by adding fine-grained beach material, and geological interests
may depend on continued erosion and exposure of a cliff face or on the preservation of
a particular type and grading of beach sediments. These environmental concerns may
be at the site where defences are being considered or some distance away, typically
along the downdrift coastline. Particular care will be needed when defences are being
considered near a site designated for its geological or geomorphological interest.

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options Socio-economic attributes. The importance of the coastline as a recreational

asset must be recognized in any coastal defence initiative. Many coastal towns and
cities depend for their economic wellbeing on tourism and recreation which, in turn,
depends on the quality of the beach and seafront. Aspects such as ease of access to
the beach for pedestrians, or the provision of launching facilities for fishing boats,
recreational craft or inshore lifeboats will often be important. Some of the data
needed to assess the economic consequences of changes to such attributes are
covered in 5.2.3 above.

The dependence of industry or commerce on a coastal location will also need to be

considered. Ports and harbours, along with some power stations and sewage treatment
works require a coastal site for their effective operation. Data will have to be collected
on the requirements of such operations in order that they can be accommodated in a
coastal defence scheme. Similarly, there may be a need to consider impacts on
infrastructure such as roads, railways, other communications and the like. Other
socio-economic activities that may need to be considered include navigation, agri-
culture, aquaculture and wild-fowling. Aesthetic attributes. The aesthetic characteristics of a particular stretch of

coast can be extremely important in determining its use(s) and, often, its socio-
economic value. Many coastlines are still unspoilt and protected by planning policies,
including special designations, because of their landscape or heritage values. In
contrast, the coastal defences in many resorts are important features of the seafront,
and the style and landscaping of any new schemes will be carefully scrutinized by local
residents, etc. Any coastal management or defence initiatives must be developed in
the full understanding of these aesthetic values. Data on such designations and any
particular aesthetic attributes of the area will need to be collected. Chemical attributes. Chemical parameters that could potentially be affected

by coastal defence initiatives include water and land quality. Water quality can be
affected not only directly, for example by contamination with chemical substances,
but also indirectly by changes in physical processes. Potential pollutants may be
‘trapped’ behind a breakwater, or changes in dispersion characteristics due to changes
in water movements brought about by installing coastal defences. In turn, this can
cause complications with respect to the operation of wastewater outfalls, etc.

5.3 Assessing the The advantages and disadvantages of any potential defence scheme always need to be
effect of not compared with those of not intervening and allowing the coastline to evolve
intervening naturally. Assessing the effect of doing so will provide important information for:

— the choice and design of new defences, and

— a ‘baseline’ against which the economic and environmental consequences of any
proposed scheme can be compared.

It should be noted that the ‘no active intervention’ policy of shoreline management
planning (see Section 2.4) and the ‘do-nothing’ option of the economic appraisal (see
6.2.5 below) are not exactly the same. The latter is essentially a hypothetical test case
to assess the damage that might occur in the event of not installing defences or of not
rehabilitating/renewing existing ones, and must always be considered. This option
assumes one will ‘walk away’ from a situation with the absolute minimum of action,
e.g. warning notices for public safety where necessary. The policy and the option
would converge when considering the need to intervene on a substantially natural

Coastal defence

coastline. This could include one where there is currently active intervention such as
beach management, with or without recharge.

Where structures are involved it is likely that active intervention, by doing something
such as removing the structures and allowing the shore to realign, would be the only
practical strategic policy where a scheme for repairing defences or installing new ones
cannot be justified. Even so, the ‘do-nothing’ situation will still need to be assessed as
the baseline economic and environmental option. Additionally, the ‘no active
intervention’ policy does not preclude monitoring of coastal processes and changes,
which in time may indicate a different defence strategy.

Consideration of the effect of not intervening normally involves the following main

— analysing and quantifying wave conditions, tides and sediment transport rates
— assessing the present condition, performance, and residual life of any existing
— predicting the future changes in the coastline and its beaches
— evaluating the economic and environmental consequences of such changes.

5.3.1 Assessing Whether it is eventually decided to install a defence scheme, or not to intervene, it is
hydrodynamics and always useful to define, at an early stage, the waves, tides and sediment transport rates
sediment transport along the coastline. Normally numerical modelling and analysis will be needed to
rates achieve these requirements. The information typically required is as follows:

— wave conditions in the area of interest, at a location just offshore from the wave
breaking zone (this should include information on wave heights, periods and
directions, for both regularly occurring and exceptionally severe conditions)
— tidal levels including the effects of surges, with estimates of exceptionally high levels
— information on the joint probability of large waves and high tidal levels to provide
estimates of the conditions that any defence may encounter.

It may also be necessary to investigate and quantify tidal or other currents if these are
strong close inshore.

From the above information, it is important to define the combinations of wave and
tidal conditions that a defence scheme may experience, with a view to specifying the
standards of protection against flooding or erosion that it should provide. It is also
valuable to make an initial estimate of the average long-shore sediment transport rate
at the site. This is an essential first step in later assessments of coastal changes and of
the feasibility of beach recharge or recycling as a defence option.

Further details of all these procedures can be found in standard textbooks, such as the
CIRIA Beach Management Manual (1996).

5.3.2 Assessing In the UK, the choice of a new defence scheme will often be influenced by existing
existing defences defences at or close to its proposed location. Assessing these existing defences is
important because they will:

— influence the future evolution of the coastline and its beaches (see Section 5.1.3), and
— give guidance on the types of new defence that might be appropriate at the site.

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options

Knowledge of the maintenance costs and past effectiveness of existing and any earlier
defences, whether considered successful or not, will be useful when choosing a new
scheme. Extending or adapting a successful defence for use along a nearby stretch of
coast is clearly an option worth careful consideration if intervention is deemed a

Both the condition and remaining life of an existing defence need to be considered
(see Figure 16). For structures that are in poor condition, the options of
strengthening, extending or repair may be feasible at reasonable cost. Whether or
not active intervention is being proposed, the likely timing and extent of a failure of
an existing defence therefore have to be estimated. This will be an important factor in
predicting how the coastline will evolve, which is essential to determine what is
vulnerable and whether intervention is worthwhile. It will also be important in
determining the most appropriate timing of any intervention (see Section 5.3.4
below). Furthermore, the continued presence and influence of defences, e.g. a groyne
system updrift of the study area, might continue to affect the evolution of the coast
where defences are being considered.

While surveying existing defences is reasonably straightforward, there is often a

considerable problem in estimating how and when a structure may ‘fail’ and to what
extent its failure will affect the adjacent coastline. A distinction also has to be made
between functional and structural failures. The loss of a few planks from a wood

Figure 16 Coastal defences nearing end of useful life

Coastal defence

groyne will greatly reduce its functional efficiency, although its structure will be
largely intact. Conversely, a rock revetment may experience considerable structural
damage with much of its armour displaced, but it may still largely function to prevent
erosion of the cliffs behind it for a considerable time afterwards. The breaching of a
seawall or embankment would result in structural and functional failure. Further
reading on assessing the residual life of coastal defences can be found in a research
report commissioned by DEFRA and written by Sayers and Simm (2001).

5.3.3 Predicting future The prediction, with reasonable accuracy, of future changes to a coastline, with and
changes in the without defences, is essential if a sound decision on the need for coastal defences is to
coastline and be reached. The objectives are to quantify:
standards of defence

— the likely landwards recession of the shoreline or cliffs and hence land losses
— the lowering of beach levels, leading to deeper water close inshore, which may
increase the risk of flooding or damage
— likely changes in the standard of coastal defence, for example because of increased
sea levels.

In each case, such changes may lead to increased risks to assets at or close to the
shore. Changes in a coastline will inevitably depend on the wave conditions that
occur and these cannot be predicted with certainty. Increasingly, therefore,
predictions of coastal change are being made using statistical methods, providing a
range of possible outcomes.

In such an evaluation, the logical starting place is an analysis of past shoreline

changes, typically using historical maps and any beach survey data (see Section 5.2.1).
Where there have not been, and are not expected to be, any significant human
impacts on a coastline, and where the geology is reasonably consistent, then past
changes in a coast may be a good basis for predicting future changes.

In most cases, however, account will need to be taken of the effects of coastal
defences or other human interference. This will often require using a predictive model
of the coastline, usually a computer simulation, or perhaps a laboratory model. As
noted earlier, changes in the existing standards of defences as a consequence of not
maintaining them will be an important aspect in the consideration of the both the ‘no
active intervention’ policy of shoreline management planning and the ‘do-nothing’
option of economic and environmental appraisals.

5.3.4 Preliminary Once the likely changes in a coastline, and any defences, have been assessed,
economic evaluation assuming no intervention, an evaluation of the economic consequences of those
changes is needed. This involves identifying assets at risk from erosion or flooding,
and the benefits that can be achieved by preventing or delaying such losses. This
assessment will need to identify both when and where any changes or damage will
occur, so that the urgency and extent of an appropriate defence scheme can be
established. A convenient basis for determining the lengths of coastline over which
these appraisals are carried out are the ‘management units’ introduced earlier, in
Section 2.3. Further details of the methods for economic and environmental
evaluations are present later, in Section 6.2.

Using the economic appraisal of the effects of doing nothing, an initial view can be
formed on the level of expenditure on coastal defences that may be financially

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options

justifiable along any stretch of the coastline. In many cases, this will be helpful in
eliminating very expensive options that might otherwise be considered.

At a strategic level, in considering whether active intervention might be feasible, the

benefits to be gained from preventing any future losses due to flooding, or erosion of
assets at imminent risk, can be estimated for a stretch of coastline, e.g. a ‘management
unit’. The value of these benefits can then be divided by the length of coastline, and
the resulting ratio then compared with outline costs of alternative shoreline
management policies. Table 5.1 can be used to indicate the possible generic defence
options that might be appropriate from an economic viewpoint. The more detailed
economic evaluation required for the strategy and scheme design steps is covered in
Section 6.2.

It must be emphasized, however, that often the most appropriate defence scheme is
not the most expensive. Where an appropriate standard of protection can be provided
by a simpler defence option, then this may be preferable from the viewpoints of
environmental effects and sustainability.

Table 5.1

Benefit/unit length Possible defence scheme options

<£200/m No active or minimal intervention, e.g. monitoring, warning systems, short-

term and low-cost measures to delay damage and allow orderly abandonment
of assets. Minor works such as dune fencing/planting.
<£1000/m Light defence structures, e.g. groynes or low rock revetments or sills. Beach
management including recharge and recycling. Refurbishment or strengthen-
ing of existing defence structures. Cliff drainage/re-profiling.
<£5000/m More substantial defence structures such as concrete or rock revetments,
nearshore breakwaters or more extensive groyne systems together with infill
beach recharge. Rebuilding/extension of existing defences.
>£5000/m Offshore breakwaters, mass-concrete seawalls, major beach recharge
schemes with groynes or recycling. Surge barriers for inlets/estuaries.

5.3.5 Preliminary At the stage of evaluating the policy of no active intervention, it is appropriate to
environmental make an initial assessment of the environmental consequences of this, or other,
appraisal management policies. This can be achieved by reviewing information on the
environmental attributes that might be affected (as discussed in Section 5.2.3) and by
initial consultations with those with concerns or hopes for the coastal environment.
The importance of the coastline as a recreational asset may be a major environmental
factor in the consideration of defences in urban areas. This is less likely in more
remote and rural areas, for example in estuaries, when the biological attributes of the
coast often become a dominating issue.

As a general guide, adverse effects on the natural environment (e.g. geomorphology,

biology) will be fewer for options such as non-intervention or beach recharge/
management. In contrast, those concerned with amenity, recreation and heritage
attributes may prefer options such as seawalls. However, such simple guidance will
inevitably be misleading in some situations, and each stretch of coast will have to be
assessed on its own environmental merits.

It is also worth noting that the introduction of a shoreline management initiative or

the construction of a coastal defence scheme may be beneficial rather than harmful to

Coastal defence

some of these environmental assets and may provide opportunities for environmental
enhancement. Examples are protecting a sensitive fresh-water resource against marine
flooding or providing erosion protection to a tourist resort.

5.4 Public As for the preliminary appraisal of environmental effects of any defence scheme, it is
consultation important to involve the public in the process at an early stage. In most cases, coastal
defences are built with the public’s money for their benefit. The knowledge and
perceptions of those living or working close to the coast are important both in the
identification of problems and in the choice of the management strategy adopted. The
objectives of any scheme will essentially comprise the requirements of people whose
representatives are likely to be among those responsible for approving any schemes. It
may not be possible to meet all the objectives, particularly where they are mutually
incompatible, and the final scheme choice and details may well require some agreed
compromises to be made.

Consultation and effective public participation in the decision making process are
therefore fundamentally important in achieving an acceptable coastal defence. In
addition, the public and the various bodies consulted are likely to have much of the
existing physical, cost/ benefit and environmental information needed to assist in
making those decisions.

Such participation should involve non-statutory groups and other interested parties,
such as non-governmental organizations and local residents, as well as statutory
agencies such as national conservation bodies, local and national government
departments, etc. To be effective, consultation needs to start early, e.g. at the
initiation of any shoreline management plan, and continue throughout the decision
making process. Where appropriate, this might extend up to, throughout and beyond
construction into post-project monitoring and evaluation (see Sections 8.5 and 9.2).

Consultation can be either formal or informal or both. Participation might be achieved

by a combination of correspondence, discussion groups, public or private meetings,
exhibitions, or similar. The involvement of interested parties through this type of
initiative will assist not only in the identification of issues or potential problems but
also in their resolution. Discussion and negotiation, based on an understanding of all
points of view (e.g. coastal defence, nature conservation, and recreation), will often
facilitate the identification of a mutually acceptable way forward. This is because
compromises are often required and imposing such solutions on those who have not
been involved in their development can lead to conflict and delays.

5.5 Assessing If at each step there is justification for proceeding with a coastal defence scheme, the
coastal defence next step will be to set out the possible options for more detailed assessment. It is
options important to consider a wide range of options, and not to dismiss any possibilities
without overwhelming technical, economic or environmental reasons.

As mentioned earlier, the likelihood in the UK is that any coastal defence scheme will
be influenced by existing defences either at a site of interest or adjacent to it. This
leads to a range of site-specific options, depending on the condition and success of
earlier schemes. These will normally be cheaper than building a completely new
defence, and will often have only modest effects on the environmental character of

Steps required in choosing coastal defence options

the coastline, for example retaining much of the same appearance and amenity of the
existing situation. The possible options might include:

— removal of some or all of the defence elements

— repair/refurbishment of structures to original condition
— replacement or rebuilding to original condition
— extending or strengthening existing structures to improve standard of defence
— addition of supplementary components to improve standard of defence.

For example, seawalls might be increased in height, have an apron and sheet-steel
piles added to counter toe scour or be protected by the addition of a rock toe berm or
a beach recharge and thus have their standard enhanced. Similarly, rock revetments
or groynes might be re-built or strengthened by addition of further rock. If the failure
of any part of a substantial length of defences would flood a single area, it will be
necessary to consider the standards and long-term commitments for the whole
frontage in a strategic manner.

For coasts where there are no existing defences, it is preferable to first consider
options that are ‘flexible’, rather than ‘fixing’ the coastline at an early stage. For
situations where beaches only experience a modest drift rate, then a beach recharge
scheme is the option least likely to cause adverse environmental effects, either locally
or along adjacent stretches of coast. This approach will only rarely be a permanent
solution to erosion or flooding problems, but this may be an advantage, for example
providing short-term protection until more information on coastal processes and
evolution becomes available.

Where beach recharge alone is not feasible, then the addition of beach ‘control’
structures such as groynes or breakwaters should be considered.

Direct protection to the hinterland might be provided by the construction of

structures such as clay embankments or rock revetments, depending on the intensity
of the wave climate. These should be assessed, perhaps with improvements to
beaches, before more expensive, permanent structures are considered.

Whatever method of coastal defence is considered, so too must the sequence and
timing of any works. In some cases, some works may be profitably delayed because of
the effect on coastal processes that works on one length may have on another. This
may affect the timing of later defence works, or even the type of works that are

Finally, where defences are required for a substantial interrelated length of shoreline,
or where works will need to be phased over several years, then a strategy for their
implementation will be necessary.

6. Choosing a preferred

Selecting the best scheme for managing or defending a coast is often a difficult task.
As it should be clear from Chapter 5, it is important not to choose a single option at
too early a stage. Much effort in detailed design may be wasted if unforeseen
difficulties arise later, e.g. a major environmental objection, or increases in the cost of
materials. Similarly, new opportunities may arise; for example, availability of dredged
material suitable for beach recharge, influencing the selection process. The selection
of a preferred option is best achieved by eliminating options until a shortlist of the
feasible ones is achieved. These may not all be different technical solutions, but
variations on the same solution with a range of design standards, giving different costs
and benefits. For example, a range of seawall crest heights could be investigated. The
appraisal techniques described in this chapter do not apply just to the final choice of
the preferred option. They should be used throughout the choosing of options, from
shoreline management plan through the strategy plan stage, at increasing levels of
rigour, eliminating some in the process. A preferred option is likely to be subjected to
the most rigorous appraisal.

The purpose of appraisal is to assess the suitability of various coastal defence options
in terms of technical, environmental and economic criteria. It is also necessary, at this
stage, to assess the various risks associated with each option in detail. The appraisal
process leads to the selection of a preferred option or scheme. It may be that the
preferred option is clearly evident but, where this is not the case, further more
detailed studies will be required to select the preferred one (e.g. physical model
studies, ecological monitoring, contingent valuation survey/analysis).

Sometimes, a type of defence can immediately be ruled out on technical grounds. In

many other cases, however, economic or environmental considerations lead to pos-
sible options being excluded from further detailed consideration. In some cases, it may
be that differences in risk, perhaps of risk of failure, of damage to the environment or
cost certainty may sway the final choice.

These four aspects of appraisal are now described in turn, although it must be
emphasized that they must be viewed together. A perfect solution is virtually
impossible and the preferred option must be a balance between acceptability on all
four counts.

Choosing a preferred option

6.1 Technical The technical appraisal of existing or proposed coastal defence schemes has to address
appraisal four main issues:

6.1.1 Introduction — functional effectiveness; will it work? Does it meet the objectives set for it?
— durability and residual life; will the scheme continue to perform its intended
purpose for the projected scheme life?
— sustainability; will it prejudice the attainment of objectives in the future?
— ‘constructability’; can the scheme be built safely, and at reasonable cost, at the
particular site of interest?

To successfully undertake the technical appraisal, some aspects of preliminary

design for each of the options may need to be undertaken, as described in Chapter 7.
Each of the above four points is discussed further in the following sections
(6.1.2 6.1.3).

6.1.2 Functional The functional effectiveness of a coastal defence is measured primarily by its ability to
effectiveness reduce flooding (sea defence) and/or erosion (coast protection). The appraisal will
consider whether an option adequately reduces the probability of failure of a defence.
This should include estimating both the chances of structural failure, and of func-
tional failure, i.e. of severe conditions causing overtopping or damage. The perform-
ance of a defence depends upon its ‘hydraulic profile’ (e.g. the seawall height, slope
and roughness; or beach volume, slope and porosity) and on its plan shape (e.g. its
alignment to the incident wave crests and to the shoreline). The technical appraisal
has to determine the effectiveness of the scheme for various sets of design conditions
of waves and water levels. It is unlikely that a solution that will totally protect against
flooding or stand up to any storm on the open coastline will be economic. There must
be a balance between the cost of a scheme and the benefits gained in reduction of
damage (see Section 6.2, Economic appraisal).

It is also important to realize that the assessment of functional effectiveness should

include an appraisal of changes in the conditions at the defence and the design para-
meters. There may be changes in the environment, for example an increase in mean
sea level or a change in the wave climate. Often, however, it is a lowering of the level
of the beach, or the shore platform, just in front of the defences that is most import-
ant. An increased water depth at the toe of the defence will allow larger waves to
reach it, and may lead to scour and subsequent damage to the structure. An estima-
tion of how beach levels could change during its lifetime, and subsequent calculations
of the effectiveness of the defence under these conditions, is therefore an essential
part of the design process.

The effectiveness of a coastal defence scheme is sometimes expressed in terms of the

‘standard of defence’ it provides. The standard of defence is defined by the probability
of exceedence of an extreme water level, extreme wave condition, or combination of
both, during which the defence would fail to provide effective protection. An
advantage of this approach is that the required level of protection can be related to
design water levels, or wave conditions, whose individual or joint probability can be
specified in advance of the design of a coastal defence structure.

The concept of ‘standard of defence’ can be readily applied to flood protection, in

which the standard refers to the probability of an event that would result in
inundation, either by overtopping or by a breach. The same idea is sometimes applied

Coastal defence

to coastal protection works, although with greater difficulty. Such a standard can, for
example, be evaluated in terms of the probability of an event that would cause rapid
erosion of a beach thus exposing hard defences behind, or that would cause failure of
a structure or a major cliff-top recession. However, the evaluation of this type of
response is generally more difficult than predicting whether given combinations
of water level and waves will overtop a flood embankment.

There are various ways of expressing the probability of an event. Although the return
period, e.g. one in 100 years, has often been used, this terminology can cause
confusion to those who think that if an event of one in 100-year return period has just
occurred, it will not occur again for another 100 years. Current research is examining
ways in which such risks can be most appropriately communicated. In advance of
these findings, it is preferable to express an event in terms of its annual probability of
occurrence, for example a 1% chance (or probability of 0.01) of occurring (or being
exceeded) in any year.

It may also be helpful to calculate the likelihood of an event exceeding a particular

standard of defence in the lifetime of the structure. For example, there is a 39%
chance that an event with a one in 100-year return period, or a more severe one, will
occur during a scheme service life of 50 years. As will be seen later, such information
is crucial to the assessment of damages that can still occur with a new or replacement
defence in place.

6.1.3 Durability and New coastal defences are planned with an operational or service life typically of about
residual life 50 years, and the technical assessment has to address the durability of the scheme and
its components over that time. When assessing existing defences, the same principles
apply but the objective is to determine the residual life, i.e. the remaining part of the
useful (service) life of the structure (see Figure 17). The concepts of service or design
working life, and of residual life, are very important in the economic assessment of
coastal defence. They determine the benefits of early intervention and thus form the
basis for determining appropriate future expenditure on maintenance and/or capital

Damage rates to structures such as seawalls and beach control structures (settlement,
abrasion, armour instability, geotechnical instability, etc.), and to soft defences
such as beaches or saltmarshes (profile erosion, long-shore realignment, degradation
of saltmarsh surface, etc.) have to be estimated. Alternative techniques and materials
have to be considered as part of the technical appraisal process; indeed it is usually
required to demonstrate to the funding agencies that variants have been properly
considered in the whole appraisal process. These may result from structural
changes, for example as a rock revetment suffers cumulative damage over a number
of years.

The durability of a given defence also depends on the maintenance programme that
should form part of the overall defence scheme. In the case of a beach recharge
scheme, ‘maintenance’ by way of future recharge operations (to make good sediment
losses) is usually a pre-requisite and essential component of the project. The choice of
options may need to be made between schemes that have high and low maintenance
requirements. In addition to the relative economic differences, consideration needs to
be given to the likelihood of maintenance being undertaken in an adequate and
timely fashion to maintain the required standard of service.

Choosing a preferred option

Figure 17 Assets at risk from cliff recession

6.1.4 Sustainability A commonly accepted definition of sustainability is that of Bruntland (World

Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) namely:

development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs

Sustainable coastal defence schemes have been defined (Ministry of Agriculture,

Fisheries and Food/Welsh Office, 1993) as:

. . . schemes which take account of the interrelationships with other defences, developments
and processes within a coastal cell, and which avoid as far as possible tying future
generations into inflexible and expensive options for coastal defence.

Consider, for example, an eroding coastline with a sea wall that protects low-lying
land from flooding. If the beach in front of the wall is progressively lowering, and the
wall itself needs raising to cope with increasing sea levels and overtopping, then this
type of defence will not be sustainable indefinitely. However, abandoning the wall and
allowing, for example, a community it protected to be destroyed would also be

If, however, one was to gradually relocate the assets at risk, while maintaining the
seawall remained tolerable (from economic and environmental viewpoints), then a
reasonably sustainable solution might be achieved.

Coastal defence

The sustainability of a scheme is not necessarily confined to the interaction between

the scheme and the environment at the site of the actual defence. It applies to
influences that are remote from it. The technical appraisal has to determine whether
the proposed scheme will be sustainable in the long term. In other words, will the
construction or operation of the proposed scheme serve to defer, displace or even
exacerbate the long-term problem? Some of the matters that have to be considered,
therefore, are:

— effects of the defences on adjacent shorelines, and on the adjacent seabed and
— effects of long-term trends (changes in design storm conditions, coastal recession,
etc.), and
— long-term availability of resources (e.g. recharge material for shingle beaches).

6.1.5 Constructability Finally, the technical appraisal has to address the constructability of the coastal
defence. This issue is also discussed in BS6349, Part 1. Amongst the items that need
to be considered are:

— availability of materials, e.g. it is often more economic to use concrete armour in

place of rock, for rock sizes greater than about 20 tonnes (although this choice
may involve ‘sustainability’ issues)
— access to the site for plant and materials; consider whether materials are to be
delivered by road (route, width and conditions of roads?) or by sea (depth of water
close to site to unload materials?) see also Section 8.1
— inter-tidal working whether working by land-based or floating plant, limitations
in the ‘tidal window’ can significantly affect the construction time and hence the
programme to meet target deadlines see Section 8.2
— risks due to weather e.g. arrangements for the works be secured in the event of an
impending storm see Section 8.3
— geotechnical suitability of the site for the proposed structure
— tolerances of work especially working below water (e.g. dredging, recharge, and
the construction of revetment toe).

The need to bear all of these factors in mind from the earliest stage in choosing
possible coastal defence schemes is crucially important, to avoid undue risk and
expense during construction and in subsequent maintenance operations.

6.2 Economic Economic appraisal is a technique to determine whether investment in coastal

appraisal defence works is worthwhile in comparison with other publicly funded projects. It also
provides a method to determine the appropriate standard of the defence.
6.2.1 Introduction
In principle, there is no difference between the economic appraisal of coastal defence
and other civil engineering projects. However, the difficulty of evaluating the
potential effects of natural events that occur in an unpredictable manner offers
challenges that are specific to this type of work. In the UK, the Treasury provides
guidance on methods of appraising public projects. Specific guidance (Flood and
Coastal Defence, Project Appraisal Guidance Notes) interpreting these requirements
for flood and coastal defence projects in England and Wales has been produced by
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now DEFRA). This series of documents
should be considered as a whole, but Volume 3 (FCDPAG3) deals specifically with
economic appraisal.

Choosing a preferred option

6.2.2 Present values/ Discounting is a standard technique used to obtain the present value of both costs
discounting incurred and benefits generated throughout the appraisal period. This provides a
common basis for analysing alternative solutions that offer very different standards of
protection or those that involve different timing of investment. For example, it may
be necessary to compare a high-standard, high-cost scheme with one that offers a
lower standard of protection at significantly lower cost. The same approach can also
be applied to compare, for example, a beach management solution involving high
recurrent expenditure for recycling with one involving a large capital investment in
beach control structures.

The time-span considered in an appraisal will usually extend to the end of the
operational or service life of any major capital works (the time when they would be
expected to need complete reconstruction or major rehabilitation). Where continuing
expenditure is planned, an appraisal period of at least 50 years ensures that, through
discounting, changes outside the appraisal period are unlikely to have a significant
economic impact on the final decision. In the UK, the discount rate for investment in
public works is set by the Treasury, and similar arrangements may be in place
elsewhere. Where there is no set rate it may be necessary to assess what effect changes
in the discount rate would have on the economic appraisal of options.

6.2.3 Costs The costs of alternative engineering or management options should include capital
works as well as all ongoing maintenance expenditure required to provide the
determined standard of service for the whole of the appraisal period. Often the timing
and extent of this expenditure cannot be estimated accurately; so it may be necessary
to undertake a probabilistic assessment. If, for example, a beach recharge is likely to
be required within a particular five-year period, it may be appropriate to develop a
probability profile for this activity and multiply the costs by the appropriate probability
factors to determine an expected value. All costs over the appraisal period have to be
discounted to a common time-base, i.e. at the start of the appraisal period, to
determine the total present value cost of the scheme.

6.2.4 Benefits Because coastal storms that cause flooding and erosion incidents are chance events
whose time of occurrence is not predictable, an expected annual damage must be
derived for economic evaluation purposes. This is derived as the integration of all
possible damage events, multiplied by their respective probabilities, to give the
expected damage in any one year. In practice, a damage/probability graph is
constructed using discrete events and the expected annual damage is calculated as
the area under the curve. Annual probabilities may change over time. For example, if
a seawall is deteriorating, or a beach is reducing in width, then the probability of a
breach will increase year by year. Alternatively the probability of different water levels
may change over time due to combined land-level movements and sea-level rise. The
present value of damage for any scenario is the sum of expected annual damages
discounted over the project life to the appraisal date. A similar probabilistic approach
should be adopted for the timing of potential erosion events.

In the UK, standard tables are available to evaluate damage to property for different
building classifications and depths and durations of flooding (see Parker et al., 1987
and Penning-Rowsell et al., 1992). These publications also give methods for calculat-
ing other tangible economic losses. These may include disruption to roads or railways,
damage to public amenities and reduction or loss of recreational opportunities.

Coastal defence

Intangible elements of damage, such as changes to natural habitats, may not be so

readily amenable to evaluation. Some techniques such as contingent valuation
methodology (CVM) may be applied but require specialist advice and input (see
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 1999).

Where damage can be caused by a combination of different factors, such as waves and
high tidal levels, then a joint probability analysis must be carried out. It is important
for the economic and performance analysis of the defence that the probabilities
assigned are a true representation of the damage probabilities from whatever combina-
tion of events (see Owen et al., 1997).

In assessing benefits for all publicly funded projects, it will usually be necessary to
ensure that all benefits and ‘disbenefits’ are taken into account and that the benefits
are expressed in economic rather than financial terms. For example, improvement in a
beach at one resort may attract tourists from a nearby one with little real economic
gain and arguably a net overall loss. Such ‘disbenefits’ should also be included in any

6.2.5 Economic The starting point for any economic appraisal is consideration of the ‘do-nothing’
comparison of options option in which existing defences are abandoned and no further works of construction
or maintenance are undertaken (see Section 5.3). The resulting damages provide a
baseline against which other options can be evaluated and to give a measure of
absolute economic return. A sufficient range of other scenarios should then be
considered to derive an optimum solution. In the case of publicly financed defences,
where there is a scarcity of overall funding, this is usually defined as the solution with
the highest ‘benefit/cost ratio’, provided that this exceeds unity. The benefit/cost ratio
is the total present value of benefits of the scheme divided by total present value of
the costs of the scheme.

However, this general preference for a scheme with the highest benefit/cost ratio
should be considered in relation the standard of defence provided (see FCDPAG 3).
In general, the ‘marginal benefit/cost ratio’ of a higher-standard option (the additional
benefit derived from providing the higher standard divided by the extra cost of
providing that standard) should be considered in relation to the benefits that could be
gained by investing the extra money elsewhere.

As with all aspects of project appraisal, the results and assumptions should be
subjected to appropriate sensitivity testing to determine whether the resultant
decision is robust. It is also important to look at other decision techniques where, for
example, there are major differences between options in terms of impact on environ-
mental or other assets that are not amenable to accurate economic evaluation.

6.3 Environmental An environmental appraisal for a coastal management or defence initiative can be
appraisal undertaken at different levels of detail depending on the procedures being followed
and the sensitivity of the affected site. In support of the final choice, and in the case of
6.3.1 Background and some strategy plans, a formal environmental impact assessment leading to the
need for environmental production of an environmental statement may be required. The relevant legislation
appraisal governing environmental impact assessments for coastal defence works in the UK is
given in the box below.

Choosing a preferred option

For schemes where Planning Approval is required, The Town and Country Planning
(Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 SI 1999
No. 293 will apply. This will include all coast protection works and new sea
defence works.
For sea/flood defence improvement works, for which there is deemed planning
consent, The Environmental Impact Assessment (Land Drainage Improvement Works)
Regulations 1999 SI 1999 No. 1783 will apply.

At a less formal level, an environmental appraisal will be required. This follows the
same general procedures as a formal environmental impact assessment, but the
coverage might be more targeted or less rigorous, or for example, alternative options
might not be covered in detail. Further details on wider aspects of environmental
appraisal, including dealing with designated sites of international importance, and on
valuation, are covered in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now
DEFRA) publication: Flood and Coastal Defence, Project Appraisal Guidance Notes,
FCDPAG5 Environmental Appraisal.

A formal environmental impact assessment will usually be required by the permitting

or licensing agency (either directly or following a request from another statutory body)
if the proposed development has the potential to significantly affect one or more
environmental characteristics (see Section 5.2.3). This is most likely to be the case
where the environmental parameter(s) concerned are particularly sensitive. This may
be on an undeveloped coastline and/or in areas designated as being of special
importance (e.g. a nationally or internationally rare species of flora or fauna). In this
case, detailed investigation will generally be required. Conversely, an environmental
appraisal might be carried out as a check to confirm that there are no significant
impacts, to resolve a particular problem, or simply as a matter of good practice.

Finally, it should be noted that the purpose of either an environmental appraisal or

impact assessment is to identify the option with the least adverse environmental
impact. It is not supposed to be used as a damage limitation exercise. Wherever
possible, the technique should therefore be applied early, at a stage where a range of
options is being assessed. It should not be used simply to reduce impacts and hence try
to make a pre-selected option more environmentally acceptable. Wherever possible,
environmental enhancement should be sought in conjunction with keeping
environmental impacts to a minimum (see Section 6.3.5).

6.3.2 Scoping Scoping is potentially the most important step in the environmental appraisal process.
Scoping is the mechanism by which potential issues related to any of the
environmental parameters discussed in Section 5.2 are identified. An initial appraisal
is then undertaken in order to ensure that potentially significant impacts are
identified. Properly carried out, scoping should help to ensure that the correct level of
consideration is given to those impacts that require careful investigation and that
resources are targeted accordingly. It should help to establish whether or not a
particular resource is particularly sensitive and whether there is sufficient existing
information to ensure a satisfactory evaluation of the potential impact(s). Used
effectively, scoping can therefore help to facilitate the production of a robust report,
which deals directly with the issues of consequence, but at minimum cost to the
promoter of a coastal defence scheme.

Coastal defence

Scoping can be carried out in a number of ways. Site visits and a literature search will
usually be important initial steps. Experiences from previous or similar initiatives
should be identified and drawn upon. Consultation with interested parties, both
statutory and non-statutory (see Section 5.4), will also be useful, not only in identi-
fying issues of concern (and hence potential objections should these issues remain
unresolved), but also in highlighting any existing data held by that organization or
others. Using existing data can be especially cost-effective in environmental appraisal
both because it reduces the cost of original survey work and because it provides a
‘historical perspective’ which cannot otherwise be obtained without potentially
significant delays to the proposed scheme.

6.3.3 Environmental The scoping exercise will have identified (some of ) the data requirements for the
surveys environmental appraisal and given some indication of the priority of obtaining data on
different parameters. The data collection undertaken in the preliminary stages should
identify any existing data that may be useful, such as any that might be held by
statutory agencies (in the UK for example, the Environment Agency, Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, English Nature, Countryside Council for Wales,
etc.). Universities, NGOs, voluntary groups, and others may have collected other
data. Existing information, provided it is reliable (data collected by students, for
example, should not generally be relied upon unless it can be demonstrated that
controls on its collection were very tight), can provide an invaluable input to the
Environmental Appraisal process as indicated above. Existing or historic trends or
changes can be identified, time and money can sometimes be saved if new data do not
need to be collected, and a more robust analysis is possible.

Where necessary data do not exist and new data are to be collected, surveys must be
carefully designed and monitored. This is important, not only to ensure that the
results are both useful and credible, but also to provide a baseline against which
subsequent monitoring results can be compared. New data, which might typically be
required for a coastal defence scheme, could include information on coastal flora and
fauna, water or sediment quality, traffic, noise, or archaeology. However, information
requirements can vary significantly from site to site, and it is not therefore possible to
provide a definitive list.

Data can be collected at various levels of detail, spatial or temporal coverage, and so
on. Where appropriate, guidance on the data to be collected might be sought from the
responsible (statutory) agency. This will not only help to ensure that the responsible
body is ‘on board’, but also that the data collected is necessary and sufficient.

6.3.4 Impact Consultation and the involvement of interested parties play an important role in
identification and impact identification. So too does scientific analysis and experience. The scoping
evaluation exercise will often have identified many of the potentially significant impacts, but the
use of matrices and/or checklists at subsequent stages throughout the environmental
appraisal is still recommended.

Once identified, an appropriate level of analysis will be required in order to establish

or predict the potential significance of each potential impact. Where there is a
potentially significant impact related to coastal process changes (e.g. increased wave
energy leading to increased rates of erosion), it may be possible to draw on the
computer modelling or physical modelling carried out as part of the design process to
assist with the impact evaluation (see Chapter 7). Potential water quality impacts

Choosing a preferred option

might similarly be subject to modelling. The evaluation of other impacts, however,

might be more subjective and a judgement might have to be taken, in association with
the relevant statutory authorities if appropriate, as to the significance and/or the
acceptability of a particular impact.

Under the terms of the EC Directive that introduced Environmental Impact

Assessment requirements to the UK, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the
expected significance of an impact. Determining the significance of an impact might
be achieved through a process of comparing measured and/or predicted figures to
standards or norms. It may involve reference to previous research studies or the
results of monitoring. However, this is often very difficult, and would normally be
considered in conjunction with expertise provided by one of the statutory
conservation or countryside agencies. Impacts arising from the construction stage of
a proposed development may need to be evaluated separately from those associated
with its final state and operation.

6.3.5 Mitigation, Where a potential adverse impact is identified, options for mitigation should usually
compensation and be considered. This becomes particularly important if the expected impact is defined
enhancement as moderate or major. Environmental appraisals will indicate the expected significance
of an impact both before the implementation of any mitigation measures, and after
these measures are taken. The impact assuming the mitigation measures are
effectively implemented is referred to as the residual impact. Where potential adverse
residual impacts remain after mitigation, this could potentially threaten the viability
of the proposed development.

In addition to mitigation measures (the implementation of which might be required,

inter alia, by the conditions of a planning permission), enhancement measures might
also be investigated and recommended. The objective of mitigation is to ensure that
the present ‘condition’ of a particular attribute either in situ or elsewhere does not
deteriorate to an unacceptable extent. ‘Enhancement’ generally refers to an initiative
that is intended to result in an improvement to the existing situation.

In some cases, it may not be possible to mitigate against environmental damage by

preventing deterioration to an unacceptable extent, but the opportunity exists for a
different but equally valuable attribute to be created. For example, if an ecologically
valuable, muddy foreshore is being eroded, threatening a flood embankment, it may
not be possible to maintain that foreshore. However, by setting back the defence line
it may be possible to create an additional inter-tidal area in compensation for the loss
of the mudflats.

6.4 Risk Risk is a combination of the likelihood and the consequences of an event. It must be
considered throughout the design and construction of coastal defences. In this sec-
tion, the risks associated with scheme performance and cost that might affect its choice
and design are discussed. Risks associated more specifically with health and safety
issues during construction and use are discussed in Chapter 7.

Using a risk based approach is particularly important in coastal defence because of the
uncertainties associated with the events being considered and the major effects these
can have on performance and life of structures, and on costs and benefits. As will
have been realized from some of the previous sections of this chapter, a risk-based
approach is integral to the technical and economic appraisal of options. The

Coastal defence

probability of severe events and the structural damage they are likely to cause to a
defence are a primary consideration in the technical appraisal. Estimating the damage
avoided by protection against events of various probabilities is usually essential for
assessing benefits of a scheme. There may also be significant risks of cost increases
associated with certain scheme options. Assessments should ideally also include
sensitivity testing of the proposed defence scheme, by estimating how effective it will
be assuming modest variations in the selected design parameters. The risks of damage
to the environment should also be assessed.

These are fairly straightforward examples. Recognizing the complete range of risks
that needs to be considered is more complex, but need not be difficult. There are
various techniques available to help and, in any event, initial appraisal should be at a
broad-brush level to identify the more important risks. One such technique is the use
of either fault trees or event trees. These begin either with various modes of failure
and develop the various reasons for the failure, or with the event, and develop
through a tree the possible failure modes related to the event (see for examples
CIRIA/CUR, 1991). Probabilities can be assigned to each consequence and risks

Risk registers are a useful aid to hazard identification, which then allows recording of
the information about the risk and documentation of the decisions taken. While in
some cases it may be possible to avoid risks, it is more likely that they will somehow
have to be reduced, managed or mitigated. For example, it might be more cost
effective to adopt a safer option at a higher initial cost, than to risk problems during
either construction or the life of a scheme. The main purpose of the risk assessment at
the appraisal stage is to judge how robust each option is to the possible risks that could
affect it. This assessment should also consider how those risks might be managed or
reduced by the selection of an appropriate option. Good risk management leads to
better decision making and thus better use of resources.

Further details about the use of risk in project appraisal are contained in the Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food/DEFRA publication FCDPAG4 Flood and
Coastal Defence Project Appraisal Guidance: Approaches to Risk (2000).

7. Design development

7.1 Introduction This chapter describes the final design stage for the preferred coastal defence option.
Both an outline design and the desired defence standards will have been selected;
these now need to be refined to produce the design of the scheme that is to be
installed. This detailed design stage will be similar to the final design process for
other civil engineering projects in many respects, and these will not be covered
here. However, there are some unusual and important differences in the design of
coastal defences that do need to be highlighted, and this is the principal aim of
this chapter.

The various techniques described in this chapter may also be needed at an earlier
stage, i.e. during the selection of options, in order to determine whether a scheme is
feasible. For example, some detailed consideration may have been needed to calculate
the dimensions of a structure so the costs can be quantified for benefit/cost analyses.
Similarly, when beach recharge schemes are being contemplated, the initial volume of
sediment needed, and losses over the scheme life, may be critical to both technical
and economic appraisal. Evaluating these aspects will typically involve computational
modelling. For other types of defence schemes, less in the way of detailed design may
have been necessary to determine its technical and economic feasibility.

Note that even at the final design stage for a preferred option, the rigorous appraisal
process may reveal technical or environmental problems, or unexpected costs or risks,
not previously appreciated. Because of this, a revised review of the other options may
be required. In the quest for the best solution, such a review should not be avoided.
The final design stage will typically comprise the following components:

— refinement of structural design

— choice of materials
— safety and construction issues
— revision of environmental appraisal/assessment
— aesthetic/landscaping aspects.

7.1.1 Refinement of This will primarily involve developing such matters as the final profiles of structures,
structural design sizes of armour, heights of embankments and other details. To produce the optimum
solution, numerical or physical modelling are often used, singly or in combination (see
Sections 7.2 and 7.3).

Coastal defence

In many cases, the detailed design can require striking a balance between different
factors. For example, where a rock structure has been chosen there will be a balance
between the slope of any seaward face and the size of the rock armour. This may
be determined by the size of rock available, and the practicalities of transporting
and placing it. It would be expected that some consideration of approximate slopes
and armour sizes would have been undertaken, probably using one of the standard
formulae (e.g. Hudson, Van der Meer) to enable cost to be estimated at option
appraisal stage. At the final design stage, these will need to be refined. The refinement
might be undertaken by modelling, for example of structures with an unusual cross-
sectional shape, e.g. with a berm, or where limiting overtopping was critical. Similarly,
it may be necessary to refine the profile shape or crest level of a sea wall to optimize its
performance with regard to overtopping rates or preventing scour at its toe.

Detailed information on coastal defence design can be found in the publications listed
in Box 7.1.

7.1.2 Choice of The choice of materials used in a coastal defence may well be a matter for final design.
materials For example, choices may have to be made between rock and concrete armour units
for breakwaters, reinforced or mass-concrete for seawalls, sand or shingle for beach
recharge schemes. Much will depend on available sources and costs at the time as well
as suitability. There may be a choice of materials for use in a revetment (see 4.2.3)
depending, in part on such matters as aesthetics. Such decisions may only be finalized
at a late stage, in consultation with the appropriate planning authority.

Box 7.1 Publications on the design of coastal defences

The following publications provide details on various aspects of the design of

coastal defence structures:
— Seawall Design (Thomas and Hall, 1992)
— Beach Management Manual (CIRIA, 1996)
— Manual on the Use of Rock in Coastal and Shoreline Engineering (CUR/CIRIA,
— Revetment Systems Against Wave Attack – A Design Manual (McConnell, 1998)
— Manual on Artificial Beach Nourishment (Delft Hydraulics Laboratory, 1987)
— Guide to the use of Groynes in Coastal Engineering (Fleming, 1990)
— Coastal Dune Management Guide (Ranwell and Boar, 1986)
— A Guide to Managing Coastal Erosion in Beach Dune Systems (Scottish Natural
Heritage, 2000)
— Overtopping of Seawalls Design and Assessment Manual (Environment Agency,
— Concrete in Coastal Structures (ed. R. T. Allen, 1998).
Relevant BSI codes, especially:
— BS6349-1: Maritime Structures General criteria
— BS6349-7: Maritime Structures Guide to the design and construction of

In addition, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has also
published the following manuals, which may be of interest to those designing

Design development

coastal defence structures. These are available on the Internet at: http://
— Design of Coastal Revetments, Seawalls and Bulkheads, EM 1110-2-1614
— Coastal Groins and Nearshore Breakwaters, EM 1110-2-1617
— Design of Breakwaters and Jetties, EM 1110-2-2904.

The marine environment is very aggressive and any iron or steel components need
special attention. Extra cover needs to be given to reinforcement and a high cement
content used to lessen the risk of water penetration within concrete, even where there
is apparently little risk of abrasion. On beaches with pebbles or gravel, abrasion
problems can be very severe, leading to structural damage and danger to beach users
(see Figures 18 and 19). To reduce such damage, aggregate harder than the beach
sediments, and high quality cement, should be used. Failing to attend to these details
could lead to premature failure of a structure, or at the least, expensive repairs.

7.1.3 Safety and Designs may need to take account of the need for tidal working during construction
construction issues (see Section 8.1), or for the possibility of sudden storms. They should ensure that the
defences are not vulnerable to breaching or overtopping during construction or at risk
of serious damage or destruction when only partly complete. Similarly, access to sites

Figure 18 Stone steps abraded by beach shingle

Coastal defence

Figure 19 Abrasion of face of

concrete seawall

where defences are to be installed can be problematical and thus affect the type of
structure that can be safely built (see Section 8.1 for further discussion of this issue).

As with all construction schemes, a risk analysis should have been undertaken at
the option appraisal stage and a risk register may have been prepared. This should
be revisited at the design stage as well as consideration being given to risks during
construction and operation that can be eliminated or mitigated by appropriate design.
In the UK, these requirements are governed by Health and Safety Legislation and
the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations. Further discussion
of these regulations is presented in Section 8.7 of this guide.

7.1.4 Revision of Detailed design will also need to consider other environmental aspects of the design,
environmental some of which may have been covered by the environmental appraisal or impact
appraisal/impact assessment (see Section 6.3). These might include the need to protect certain
assessment habitats or species near the works, the need to provide access to beaches and facilities
for those using the foreshore such as fishermen. Tourism is often crucial to seaside
towns and the design of structures must be appropriate for the use of visitors. This
might involve putting a wave wall to the rear of a promenade rather than at the
fronting seawall, and ensuring the promenade is adequate to withstand the wave
action on it. Where a source of material has not been covered by an environmental
impact assessment, one may be necessary at this stage. It may be that only an outline
environmental appraisal has been undertaken when the choice of option was made, in

Design development

which case a full environmental impact assessment may be needed at the design stage
to meet with statutory requirements.

7.1.5 Aesthetic/ Matters such as the aesthetics of the scheme and any landscaping and accom-
landscaping aspects modation works need to be considered in the final design, although the effect on the
landscape as a whole should have been considered by the environmental appraisal
(see Figure 20). Coastal defences should, as far as practicable, always be in keeping
with the character of the coastline. This is particularly important in seaside resorts,
where surface finishes, provision of pedestrian and vehicle access, safety rails, lighting
and the like may provoke major public interest and therefore affect the granting of
planning permission (see Section 7.4).

7.2 Mathematical Mathematical models are useful tools for gaining an appreciation of relevant coastal
modelling processes and also for determining the impact of works on the near-shore regime and
assisting in the design of coastal defence schemes. They can stand-alone or be used in
tandem with physical models, depending on the problem that is being investigated. It
should always be remembered, however, that the coastal zone is complex and
changeable. Results from models that have not been validated for the specific location
may be subject to considerable uncertainty, and the effects of potential inaccuracies

Figure 20 Landscaping behind coastal defences

Coastal defence

should always be considered in a design process. Mathematical modelling should be

regarded as an aid to understanding and quantifying natural processes, supporting not
replacing observations, measurements, engineering experience and judgement.

The types of problems that can be tackled with mathematical models are as follows.

7.2.1 Predicting wave Given a coherent time series of wind velocities, then wave hindcasting models are
conditions effective in defining the equivalent time series of wave height, period and direction.
This is achieved by the application of parametric equations that have been developed
for both deep and shallow water from measured data. More sophisticated models
which use complex wind fields to derive spatially varying wave fields are used, for
example by the Meteorological Office, to carry out wave forecasting around the
British Isles. The archived predictions are a very useful source of long-term data.

7.2.2 Wave As waves approach the shore, they change height and direction in response to the
transformation near-shore bathymetry. Wave refraction models are capable of predicting the
consequential redistribution of energy that occurs. If seabed changes are rapid or there
are surface piercing structures, wave diffraction processes can also be included. Some
models can predict the effects of wave/current interactions and/or wave reflections
from steeply sloping or vertically faced structures.

7.2.3 Tidal flows Tidal and fluvial flows can be well represented in two-dimensional depth-integrated
form so that dispersion processes associated with thermal cooling, water quality and
sediment transport can be simulated. The last of these may also incorporate wave
fields derived from wave transformation models. In estuaries, however, three-
dimensional models may be needed to reproduce density current effects, particularly if
pollutant dispersion is a factor in the problems being studied.

7.2.4 Beach and Mathematical modelling of beaches can be applied at a number of different levels
coastline response from one to three dimensions as follows.

— Beach profile models are used to simulate the short-term response of cross-shore
beach profiles to a single wave event or a series of events, typically storm or swell
conditions. These may have durations of several hours or several days and be
defined in terms of wave heights, wave periods and water levels. Empirical beach
profile models have been developed by curve fitting to field data or data derived
from physical models. They apply to either sand beach and dune systems or
shingle beaches. Process based cross-shore beach profile models include descrip-
tions of sediment transport processes driven by non-linear wave transformations
and corresponding wave driven currents in the onshore-offshore direction. Such
models have only been developed for sand beaches. Beach profile models are
reasonably accurate for the prediction of erosion during storms but less successful
at predicting accretion during calmer wave conditions, particularly swell.
— Beach plan shape models are used to simulate the movement of a single beach
contour line (so-called ‘one-line models’), or of several such lines (‘N-line
models’), over a period ranging from several months to decades. At the simplest
level, empirical curve fitting models have been derived to describe the
‘equilibrium’ beach plan-shape, for example between headlands or similar beach
control structures, in response to waves from a ‘typical’ direction.

Design development

— At the next level, the so-called ‘one-line’ models consider the long-shore
continuity of beach sediment in response to varying wave conditions. As the
evolution of a coastline may depend on the sequence of wave conditions it
experiences, the input conditions should be provided as a time series of wave
height, period and direction. These models are particularly useful when
considering the effects of a sequence of waves, for example during a storm or
several storms in succession. When beach control structures are involved, it is
often necessary to include the effects of diffraction of waves around the structures
and to include a term accounting for the effects of a long-shore wave height
gradient in transporting beach sediment. Some one-line models have been
extended to create ‘multi-line models’ that predict the position of more than one
beach contour by incorporating simplified cross-shore transport models.

Coastal morphology models are more complicated, considering hydrodynamic and

sediment transport movements both parallel and perpendicular to the beach contours.
These models use a computational grid, either orthogonal or curvilinear, over the
horizontal plan. There is a large computational effort involved in calculating waves,
currents and sediment transport rates at each point on the grid. Because of this, it is
usually only possible to study changes over a short time, i.e. a few days or weeks, and
covering smaller areas than considered in the simpler models described above.
However, research is in hand to develop approaches that can integrate impacts over
longer time-scales.

7.2.5 Seawall, Models can assist the designer of these structures by investigating one or more critical
breakwater and aspects of the performance or structural integrity of a proposed defence scheme.
revetment design Typical studies might consider:
— assessment of the occurrence of wave breaking and quantification of the breaker
characteristics, given the foreshore slope and structure face geometry
— calculation of wave run-up levels and overtopping rates, thus indicating, for
example the need or otherwise for protecting the rear face of an embankment
— the effects on wave run-up and overtopping rates resulting from changes in the
design of the geometry of the front face and crest level of a defence structure
— determining the appropriate size of armour units or rock depending on the slope
and details of a coastal structure, and on the intensity and duration of wave

Such modelling will normally be carried out for a range of wave conditions and tidal
levels, typically with each such combination having the same probability of
occurrence. This often requires a considerable amount of preliminary study into the
range of conditions that the defence may encounter, and the probability of crucial
factors occurring simultaneously (see Section 7.1.2 above).

7.3 Physical A physical model is a powerful technical and public relations tool in a field where
modelling many physical processes are poorly understood, and not described accurately by
mathematical formulations.

Coastal physical models are typically scaled according to Froudian similitude, where
the time-scale is the square root of the length scale, i.e. a model at 1 : 100 scale
horizontally and vertically will require a time scale of 1 : 10. However, certain aspects
such as the sizing of model beach sediments, may require alternative scaling

Coastal defence

relationships. The model dimensions should be selected to minimize scale effects and,
for wave models, should be undistorted, i.e. equal vertical and horizontal scales. Tidal
models, however, are often established and operated with different vertical and
horizontal scales. Typical model types include:

7.3.1 2D wave-flumes Used to examine aspects such as wave run-up and overtopping, the stability of rock
and concrete armoured structures, wave impact loadings, toe scour and beach profile
response. Model scales are generally larger than 1 : 40. All models should utilize
random waves, i.e. with a realistic sequence of varying wave heights and periods, and
the bathymetry should be moulded out to deep water to ensure that the correct wave
heights and directions are produced at the shoreline or structure. Wave flume models
should only be considered for situations where the wave approach is perpendicular to
the test section, and the structure exhibits a consistent hydrodynamic response over
its test length.

7.3.2 3D wave basins These models allow waves, again ideally with realistically varying height and period, to
be generated from a range of directions. The waves generated in the model may be
either long or short crested, i.e. with or without a variation in wave direction. These
models are of three basic types.

1. Fixed or rigid bed models are used to examine problems associated with wave
agitation in harbours and marinas, wave/structure interactions, and wave overtopping
and structural stability, particularly for complex design layouts. If required, dye and
sediment tracers can be used to evaluate the impact of developments on wave-
induced currents and sediment transport pathways. Typical model scales will range
between 1 : 40 and 1 : 120, with structural response investigations requiring larger
scales and wave agitation studies usually carried out at smaller scales. Tidal/fluvial
currents and tidal cycles can be incorporated within wave models but at considerable
extra cost.

2. Mobile bed models are used to examine the interactions between beaches and/or a
mobile seabed and engineering structures (see Figure 21). These models are generally
limited to the representation of non-cohesive materials. Scales usually need to be
greater than 1 : 50 for sand beaches and greater than 1 : 80–90 for shingle beaches in
order to ensure the correct reproduction of beach response and sediment transport. It
is possible in such models to consider the effects of varying wave directions on a
coastline and its defences. However, because of the time and expense involved in
altering wave directions in a wave basin, it is normally only possible to study a limited
number of wave conditions, either individually or cumulatively in order to represent a
short wave sequence.

3. Tidal models allow the interaction of structures and flow fields, usually within
estuaries, to be investigated. Mathematical models have nowadays largely superseded
tidal physical models for large areas of estuaries or tidal inlets where small scale,
distorted models were traditionally used. However, physical models still have a useful
role in the study of smaller areas, especially where flows in the vicinity of a complex
structure are of interest. Such models may reproduce the continuous accelerations
and decelerations associated with the flood and ebbing of a single tide, or be run for a
fixed-stage during that cycle. More rarely, the changing tidal ranges during the 27-day
spring to neap cycle are used. Sediments may also be included in a tidal model,
although the typical model scales used mean that it is unlikely that accurate transport
rates or changes in morphology can be produced.

Design development

Figure 21 Laboratory model of

beach with detached

Wherever possible, models must be calibrated and validated, for the existing situation,
against field data. Often 3D physical modelling will be undertaken interactively with
numerical modelling. The physical model is used to optimize the detailed response of
a scheme to short-term events while the numerical model assesses resultant far-field
effects and longer term performance of the scheme.

It is important to make the point here that the use of numerical modelling of a
proposed coastal defence scheme should not rule out the possibility of using a physical
model as well, or vice versa. Indeed there is often a good reason to employ both types
of technique, at least for major and/or novel coastal defence schemes. Often the
advantages of one modelling technique will compensate for the weaknesses of the
other; for example a physical model can be used to study localized but complicated
areas, while mathematical models are able to deal with much longer stretches of
simpler shorelines.

7.4 Scheme While this aspect of installing a coastal defence is not strictly part of the detailed
promotion and design, it usually needs to go hand in hand with it. This is because the scheme
approvals promotion and approvals process can influence the design itself. As well as securing
necessary consents and agreements, finding the money to fund the scheme and
negotiations with the constructor may also have an influence on the design.

Coastal defence

In the case of all coastal works, there is often a need to consult and satisfy a wide
range of bodies with specific responsibilities such as navigation, marine pollution,
nature and built heritage conservation, military operations, etc. These will wish to
ensure they are not adversely affected or that there are sufficient safeguards to protect
the interests for which they are responsible.

There may be consents required to cover broader issues such as local interests and
planning issues, aesthetics, etc. These may have specific requirements in respect of
detailed design, such as:

— restriction on materials that can be used or specific requirements in this respect

— access and working area restrictions, routes for materials and plant brought to site
— restrictions on working times, noise, etc.

It is often beneficial to consult the public on such matters at appropriate times as

keeping them informed and content can significantly ease the process of obtaining the
necessary consents.

Works on the coastline, both during construction and when completed, may be a
hazard to navigation and any design will need to take into account the requirements
of the authority that deals with navigation matters. It may be necessary to mark
structures in the sea. As mentioned previously, there is likely to be a requirement
for an environmental assessment and any compensation or mitigation works, or
conditions attached to that will need to feed into the design. Materials used in marine
works may be polluting and restrictions may be imposed on their use. Dredging for
nourishment materials may be restricted in certain areas due to them being fish
spawning or nursery areas for example, and again there may be restrictions imposed,
even seasonally. Consent has obviously also to be obtained from the landowner on
whose land work is to be undertaken if that is not the promoter.

If the scheme has been pursued as set out in these guidelines, those interests should
have been consulted from an early stage. The issues they consider important will
therefore be known and the design will have been undertaken with those issues in
mind. Therefore, whatever consent procedures are involved, there should be no
residual problems. Nevertheless, it is usually necessary to undertake some form of
formal consultation and obtaining consents to ensure that all signify their agreement
to a specific scheme.

Funding may be obtained from a variety of sources, which may depend on who the
beneficiaries of a scheme are. Where a scheme is being provided to protect a private
development, then the developer is likely to be providing the funding. Where the
scheme is being promoted as public works a public body may be funding the whole
cost of the scheme or may be looking again for some of the funding to come from
other beneficiaries. In the case of both privately and publicly funded schemes, central
government organizations may provide funding through grants in consideration of the
benefits such schemes bring to the nation.

Finance may be available to pay the whole cost of the scheme up-front, or it may be
necessary to obtain loans to fund the scheme and pay for it over time. Loans may be
obtained from private sources in the case of private developers, from Government
sources by public bodies, or from international sources by Governments. The cost of
loans might have a bearing on the choice of scheme option. It might be more
economic, depending on the prevailing discount rate, to undertake a low capital

Design development

cost/high maintenance cost scheme, although low maintenance schemes at a higher

capital cost may be attractive in other circumstances (see Section 6.2 above).

However, the more usual method is for a separate contract to be arranged for
construction, either individually for each scheme or as a longer term partnering
arrangement extending over a number of schemes. Partnering arrangements can also
be made with consultants for studies into and the design of schemes.

Box 7.2 Consultation in the UK on coastal defence schemes

In England and Wales the following consultations must be undertaken.


Consent from the DLTR under Section 34 of the Coast Protection Act 1949 for
the prevention of hazard to navigation.

Licence from DEFRA under the Food and Environmental Protection Act 1985 for
the prevention of pollution.

For coast protection works and new sea defences, planning approval from the
local planning authority. This may also require the submission of an environmental

For improvement works to existing sea defences (which do not normally require
planning approval), an environmental impact assessment may be required under
Environmental Impact Assessment (Land Drainage Improvement Works)
Regulations 1999 SI 1999 No. 1783.

For coast protection works, a notice in a prescribed form must be served on

neighbouring authorities. County Councils (where they exist), the Environment
Agency, local fisheries committees and any harbour authorities, conservancy
authorities and navigation authorities.

The notice must also be published in one or more local newspapers in accordance
with the appropriate regional Coast Protection Notices Regulations. [Regulations
being amended]


English Nature/Countryside Council for Wales/Scottish Natural Heritage

Ministry of Defence

The Countryside Commission (England only)

A contract will normally consist of three elements, the conditions of contract, the
specification and details of the work to be carried out. There are various standard
forms of these available world-wide, and which one is used will depend to a great
extent on which is most suited to the situation, in particular which is in common use
locally and therefore best understood.

Coastal defence

In the UK, those forms of documentation in most common use for coastal works are:

— New Engineering Contract

— ICE Conditions of Contract, 6th Edition, January 1991, although the 5th Edition,
June 1973 (revised January 1991) is still often used
— Civil Engineering Specification for the Water Industry, 4th Edition or
Department of Transport Specification for Road and Bridge Works, 5th edition.
Both of these may need additions and/or amendments for particular situations and
materials associated with marine works, or
— Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement, 3rd edition, published by
the Institution of Civil Engineers.

8. Practicalities of coastal
defence construction

Construction in the marine environment presents a range of problems that must be

addressed by client, designer and builder. The division of these roles is now often not
so clear as in the past when responsibilities were separated, usually across three
different organizations. Variants of the traditional forms of contractual arrangement
now being employed for coastal defence schemes include the New Engineering
Contract (NEC), ‘Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO)’ and ‘Public/Private
Partnership (PPP)’ arrangements. The main aim of these new arrangements is to
ensure that risks are placed with those in the best position to manage them, thus
reducing the likelihood and cost of contract disputes.

Whatever the contractual arrangements, however, there is a need to identify the

division of responsibilities and risks before construction starts. Methods for managing
the works should be clearly set out in the contract, as this can be a significant factor in
the allocation of risk and the avoidance of later disputes. Bad weather can affect the
coastline of the UK at any time of year, with the risk of delay or damage. Deciding at
the tender stage on how these risks, and the potential financial losses, should be
shared between the client and the contractor is also very important. Partnering
arrangements help to facilitate the sharing of risk.

The designer’s task is to produce a solution that is technically sound, cost effective
and that can be built without undue difficulty or danger. This should be based upon
techniques that can be practically achieved within the marine environment, within
the specified time frame. Simplicity of design is often the key to a successful project.
In the remainder of this chapter, numerous examples are given of situations where the
designer needs to foresee and avoid practical problems that may occur in building a
coastal defence at a particular site. However, other unexpected difficulties may arise,
necessitating co-operation between the designer and the contractor to produce
solutions. Some problems may be better dealt with by re-designing elements of the
scheme rather than making major alterations to the proposed method of construction.
This chapter of the report, therefore, is as relevant to the designer of coastal defences
as to those building them.

Practical translation of the design into the completed scheme should be achieved
without adverse construction-related effects on the stability of the completed struc-
ture, on its long-term performance or on the surrounding environment. This will

Coastal defence

require the appointment of a contractor experienced in marine works, and continuing

supervision by representatives of the client or designer. The quality of both the
supervision and the capability of the contractors are both crucially important if a
coastal defence scheme is to be installed successfully and safely. Note that some of the
new forms of contract, introduced above, will alter the normal supervisory
arrangements; nevertheless the continued involvement of client, designer and con-
tractor will still be beneficial to the success of a coastal defence scheme.

Clients, designers and contractors all have responsibilities for the safety of those
involved in the construction and any subsequent maintenance, modification and
repair of coastal defence works. Such works are specifically mentioned (as ‘sea defence
works’) as ‘Structures’ in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations
introduced in the UK in 1994. Further discussion of this important aspect of the
consideration, design, construction and subsequent management of coastal defence
structures is presented in Section 8.7 of this guide.

The following outlines some of the special factors that need to be taken into account
when building coastal defences, over and above the normal considerations for any
major construction project.

8.1 Access and Access to and from the site of a coastal defence scheme is often a significant factor in
delivery/storage the safe and efficient construction of a coastal defence scheme. Many sites will have
of materials either steep slopes or cliffs, or low-lying, soft ground on the landwards side, and water
of variable depth to seawards. Cliffs or high seawalls may cause significant problems
8.1.1 Access to the site for the delivery of plant or bulky materials, see Figure 22. This may require the design
of either a permanent access, or alternatively temporary works such as cranes or hoists
to access the works. Similarly, access to the site across low-lying areas of poor ground
may require construction of a temporary access and a careful assessment of the ground
conditions. Further problems may arise where there are coastal roads, railways, pro-
menades, footpaths or the like along the coastline just behind the site; as well as limit-
ing access, it may be necessary to preserve public access during the construction period.

8.1.2 Access along Arranging good access along a construction area, and finding adequate space for the
the site safe storage of materials, are often problems as sites are typically long and narrow. The
foreshore may be too soft or rocky to allow passage of plant, which will often be
further restricted by high tides. Examples of expensive plant becoming cut off by a
rising tide and immersed in seawater are recorded frequently around the UK (see
Figure 23). Structures such as groynes or piers can also restrict access along a coastal
frontage, and it may be impossible or damaging to remove them even temporarily.
Because of these problems, it may be preferable to incorporate an access route into the
design of the permanent coastal defences, for use during both the initial construction
and subsequent maintenance of the scheme.

Access routes to a construction site may also have to be chosen carefully to avoid
environmental damage. Such routes would typically have to be clearly marked and
adhered to, in order to protect sensitive areas of the seabed, inter-tidal zone, beaches,
dunes and the like. Similar considerations apply to the choice of areas used to store
materials and equipment.

If available within a reasonable distance of the site, delivery of materials to the site by
road can be cheaper than by sea. However, road deliveries can lead to traffic

Practicalities of coastal defence construction

Figure 22 Difficult plant access over seawall

Figure 23 Crane stranded at high tide

Coastal defence

congestion and other problems, especially in urban areas and seaside resorts. Where
materials have to be transported over large distances, on roads that are already
congested or may be damaged by heavy cargoes, the option of delivery by sea needs to
be considered carefully. This is particularly so with bulk materials such as rock
armour, beach recharge, and earth-fill. The advantages may include a lower risk of
accidents, less noise and pollution, and overall may be preferable from the viewpoint
of ‘sustainability’. However, it is also necessary to consider the possible adverse effects
of such deliveries, for example on fishing, on navigation, and on marine life. Particular
care will be needed when the inter-tidal zone, or offshore seabed, are specially
designated under the Habitats Directive, e.g. SPA or SAC sites. Where these
materials are sourced on land, adverse environmental effects may also occur along
routes to and from the quayside from where they are shipped.

Access from the sea may also be difficult due to the tidal range, geometry and
composition of the foreshore. Near-shore channels may result in fast flows that make
mooring of large floating plant difficult; near-shore reefs may make the approach to
the shoreline hazardous. The tidal range, geometry and composition of the seabed
may limit the type of plant that is suitable for delivery.

Delivery of materials by sea may take several forms. In areas where the tidal range is
large, options include bottom or side dumping of rock or beach recharge materials
from barges, or beaching delivery vessels on the seabed at high water. The placed
materials can then be recovered during subsequent low water periods. Beaching of
barges, however, requires a suitable foreshore, free from hard rock or other
obstructions. Where the tidal range is small, the construction of a temporary jetty for
unloading may be the most appropriate method. This may be particularly suitable
where the foreshore is steep, so only a short jetty is needed to reach sufficiently deep
water for the draft of delivery vessels (see Figure 24).

Supply of dredged material by pipeline is a fast, efficient method for delivery of beach
recharge material for large-scale projects. High mobilization costs make this option
less attractive for smaller projects, typically less than 100 000 m3, when road delivery
may be cheaper. The size of dredger, grading of material and distance to the shoreline

Figure 24 Delivery of rock to

temporary jetty

Practicalities of coastal defence construction

must be carefully considered due to limits on the pumping distance. Barge delivery by
bottom-dumping for low water retrieval, or pumping from a dredger directly onto a
beach (the rainbow method) can be more efficient on small-scale projects.

All these methods of delivery of materials by sea can be affected by waves or tidal
currents. For example, swell waves greater than a metre high are likely to prevent the
safe delivery of rock by barge, or connecting a dredger to a floating pipeline. Also, the
limited availability of floating plant such as dredgers and large rock barges can lead to
problems of mobilization and hence long ‘lead-in times’ for the project.

8.2 Tidal The time available for construction during the tidal cycle is often the largest
restrictions constraint on a construction timetable, and this is an important difference between
the construction of coastal defences and of inland or offshore engineering projects.
Access, and the time available for working ‘in the dry’, is restricted by the changing
water levels relative to the toe and crest levels of the defences, and by the foreshore
type and shape. The use of floating plant may also be possible only at certain stages of
the tidal cycle, for example because of strong currents or the need for a sufficient
water depth close inshore to avoid grounding.

Predicted tidal conditions may be affected by surges or wave conditions, which can
increase but more normally reduce the length of the working day. In some
circumstances, a combination of neap tides and/or bad weather may result in no
activity being possible for several weeks. Certain phases of work may have to be
completed within a single tidal cycle and partially completed sections of work may
have to be removed before work can recommence. Designers should consider the
limitations that the tidal ‘window’ will have on both quantity and quality of
construction to ensure that acceptable levels of partial completion can be achieved
within a tidal cycle. Concrete seawalls present the most complicated requirements for
phased and partial construction; simplification of design details can therefore make
significant differences to the cost and effectiveness of the construction phase.

Excavation of the foundation and toe detail of structures can cause significant
problems, depending upon ground conditions. When the structure requires an
excavation in hard rock, this can often be allowed to remain open between tidal
cycles. Excavations in sand and gravel, however, may require to be covered in order to
prevent them being rapidly infilled. At certain sites, the toe of a structure may be
below the lowest tidal level and special temporary works must be put in place to allow
safe excavation, pouring concrete and underwater construction. Temporary structures
such as cofferdams can be built but these are often extremely expensive for linear
defences and their construction may have a negative effect on the stability of the
completed structure. The time frame available for construction of a foundation will
affect the designer’s choice of materials. The design and construction of concrete
structures underwater requires special techniques that can result in significant costs.

The spring-neap tidal cycle presents both opportunities for and constraints on coastal
defence construction. High water periods during spring tides are often favoured for
delivery of materials by sea while low waters present opportunities for excavation of
toe trenches and concreting at low levels. At any site, the times of high and low
waters during the largest spring tides will be at roughly the same time of day
throughout the year, at midday or midnight in some places, and early morning/early
evening at others.

Coastal defence

8.3 Seasonal The various practical difficulties in building coastal defences can be increased or
and phased diminished depending on the time of year. For example, a delay of only a few weeks in
construction starting construction, particularly just after the end of the summer holiday season, can
mean that weather and wave conditions will have deteriorated significantly. This can
8.3.1 Seasonal working affect both the rates of working and the safety of those involved in that work. Because
of this, a number of aspects have to be considered during the planning of construction
works, as described below.

In addition, the intended timing of the construction should be clearly stated in tender
documents. It is important to consider the extra risks and hence costs of construction
during periods when there is a risk of severe weather damaging or delaying work.
Sharing or acceptance of such risks within a contract can result in lower tender prices. Working conditions. In the UK, all coastal defences would be built during
summer months if the efficient and timely completion of an engineering scheme was
the only consideration. The rate of progress and quality of work is likely to be higher
while the risk of downtime due to weather is considerably reduced, both factors
leading to lower costs. However, construction activities in summer may be unwelcome
because of the disruption they cause during the holiday season, particularly when
works are planned for popular seaside resorts. The financial advantages of
construction in good weather need to be carefully balanced against the potential
disruption to the holiday season and hence to the local economy. It is worth making
the point that, when construction take place in seaside towns, the works themselves
are often of considerable interest to holidaymakers and local residents alike.
Preventing public access to construction areas, especially beaches where access is not
usually restricted, can be an additional problem to safe working. Where summer
working is permitted, working hour restrictions are often imposed and strictly
enforced. Activities that are usually carried out on a 24-hour basis may have to be
curtailed, resulting in dramatic cost increases.

There are generally few technical problems affecting construction during the summer
months. Sun and wind can have significant adverse effects on exposed areas of in situ
concrete. Adequate measures to protect the concrete, or to combat effects caused by
the rise in temperature of massive pours due to the heat of the hydration of cement,
and subsequent shrinkage may be specified. The likelihood of higher beach levels
during summer months can also increase the quantity of excavation required for toe
and foundation details.

During the winter, the reduced hours of daylight can reduce the working day, over
and above the limiting effects of tides. In addition, stormy weather and the frequent
low atmospheric pressure can mean that the useful working time on the lower part of
an inter-tidal beach is less than might be expected based on the published tide-tables.
Normal ‘land-based’ construction problems such as the effects of low temperatures,
for example on concreting, further compound the problem of winter working in the
marine environment Delivery of materials. The practicality of delivering bulky materials will vary
with the time of the year. Delivery by sea during winter months will run an increased
risk of delays and dangers, with a corresponding reduction in progress, due to the
greater likelihood of stormy weather. Hence, for each site, the difficulties of safe
navigation, mooring and unloading vessels in shallow water should be carefully
evaluated for different times of the year. Information on the meteorological and
hydrodynamic conditions likely to occur should be combined with knowledge and

Practicalities of coastal defence construction

experience of the ‘threshold’ limits, e.g. current speeds and wave conditions, beyond
which it is not safe to work.

Conversely, delivery by road during the summer holiday season, usually between April
and September, can also be a problem, with attendant increased risks of accidents and
delays. Environmental effects. Carrying out construction works at a suitable time of

year can reduce their adverse effects on the environment. For example, works in
estuaries are likely, in some areas, to be more disruptive between late autumn and
early spring, when there may be important numbers of migrating or over-wintering
birds. In other areas, it may be necessary to avoid disturbance to spawning or
migrating fish, or to nesting birds. The environmental appraisal or impact assessment
for a coastal defence scheme should have identified these possible problems and
indicated any appropriate mitigation measures, including time periods appropriate to
the works being carried out (see Section 6.3). Safety. Seasonal effects on the safety of both the construction workers and
the public should be considered. Where possible, works should be completed in short
segments to maximize the space available to the public during the construction phases
that take place during the summer months. Generally, problems in excluding the public,
and especially children, from dangerous areas are greater during the holiday season.

In winter months, the dangers to construction workers will clearly be greater. Lower
water temperatures, stronger winds and larger waves, and factors such as ice and
reduced visibility all make accidents more likely, and potentially more serious.
Seasonal effects should therefore be identified in the overall safety plan for the works
prepared under the CDM regulations (see Section 8.7). Damage to part-completed works. There is always a risk of damage to partially

completed work, since bad weather conditions can occur at any time of the year in the
UK. Such risks, however, are clearly much higher during the winter and additional
safety measures to protect works may be necessary. This may be particularly important
during the construction of rock structures that have small underlayer material
beneath the armour stone. Provision of stockpiles of additional materials to carry out
short-term emergency repairs is recommended. Such stockpiles, and parking areas for
plant, may also have to be relocated to safer areas in the winter, to avoid possible
damage or loss caused by high seas.

8.3.2 Phased Where possible, the designer should ensure that the various stages of the construction
construction of a coastal defence can be completed without significant interruption and delay, and
without affecting the overall integrity of the works. The methods of working and
sequence of construction necessary to ensure good performance during and following
construction of the scheme should be specified. For example, the construction of hard
structures such as seawalls and groynes will generally best be completed before a
recharge, to avoid double handling of the beach materials.

Because working in the inter-tidal zone is generally more constrained than above high
water, staged construction allowing completion of the lower parts of a structure may
allow faster progress than fully completing short sections of the defences. However,
the designer may need to impose limits on the construction sequence to ensure the
integrity of the works under these circumstances.

Coastal defence

Phased construction of coastal defences may be needed for a variety of reasons

including, seasonal restrictions, cash flow and to observe the performance of a pilot
scheme. Large-scale projects may take several working seasons to complete,
particularly if construction work is permitted only during part of a year. However,
such an approach to construction will often create a number of problems, and may
significantly increase costs, perhaps to an unacceptable extent.

First, special planning of the construction phases will be necessary. Vulnerable

sections of the works may require additional temporary protection measures to
prevent damage prior to completion of the scheme. If there are some months between
phases, then plant may have to be de-mobilized and mobilized again, incurring further
costs and the potential for delays. There could also be increased risk to adjacent
uncompleted sections due to effects from completed works. Further ‘overhead’
contract costs may arise dealing with conflicts at boundaries of the different phases of
a scheme, and it is best to avoid breaking down contracts into more elements than
necessary to avoid these problems.

8.4 Planning and A coastal defence scheme will usually have been submitted for, and received,
environmental planning approval and other consents prior to the construction phase (see Chapter 7).
considerations However, additional licences and permissions may be needed once the contractor has
been appointed. For example, the successful tenderer may have proposed methods for
delivery or building that were not anticipated by the designer, and which require
consents from local or national government bodies. Examples may include consents
for the disposal of material at sea (e.g. for a beach recharge scheme, to protect the
environment against pollution), or for installing temporary works off the coastline that
might be an obstruction to navigation or fishing. Construction programmes should
allow sufficient time to obtain such additional consents, especially if it seems likely
that environmental effects may be deemed sufficient to require a formal assessment
before such consents were obtained.

The construction of a coastal defence scheme may well have been identified as having
the potential for causing adverse effects on the environment. The execution of such
works should therefore be carried out with due regard to the findings and recom-
mendations of the environmental appraisal or impact assessment (see Section 6.3),
and any conditions attached to any licences and consents, for example planning
permission. For example, to maximize productivity it is often planned to work two
tidal shifts each day during certain stages of building a coastal defence. Certain
activities, such as dredging and rock delivery regularly take place on a 24-hour basis.
However, this can result in unacceptable noise levels and disturbance. If construction
outside normal working hours is unacceptable the designer and contractor may need
to consider alternative types of construction or phasing of the work, and this could
have significant cost implications.

Other conditions attaching to consents, or recommendations from the Environmental

Statement, may suggest:

— methods of working to mitigate or avoid damage

— materials selection based on environmental criteria
— arrangements for monitoring and supervision of construction activities, and
— liaison, for example with conservation organizations.

Practicalities of coastal defence construction

Liaison arrangements with the local community, and regional or national

conservation organizations, are important and efforts should be made to establish
good working relationships as soon as possible. These may include meetings to discuss
the progress of the works, and any effects on the local community, on fishing
activities, on the local ecology and other aspects such as archaeology. Early
identification of concerns, and a willingness to discuss these, may avoid disputes that
could cause delays in completing the scheme, and hence unnecessary expense.

8.5 Construction The suitability and availability of plant is an important factor in the efficiency of
plant and methods building coastal defences. This issue thus needs to be taken into account both during
the design stage and when planning the construction programme. Long sloping
structures may cause problems particularly if armoured with very large rock, when
access from the toe or crest is restricted. The combination of reach, weight and speed
of operation of the plant needs to be carefully balanced with the choice and
availability of the construction materials.

Ground conditions may present practical difficulties during construction, limiting

access to heavy plant, or limiting construction methods because of the low shear
strength of the ground. This, for example, may limit the depth of a beach recharge or
may mean that it has to be constructed in layers. If the sand or gravel used for the
recharge is to be pumped onshore, suitable locations must be found for the drainage of
large volumes of pumping water.

8.6 Measurement Measurement of construction materials in the marine environment often presents
and detailing problems, particularly when volume measurements are to be made. Measurement of
beach recharge may take place either on the beach or in the hopper. There may
however be significant losses during the construction process and payment in the
hopper will not ensure the correct volume on the beach. Dynamic structures such as
beaches must be measured soon after construction otherwise there will be a high risk
of losses of material that are not measured.

The complex nature of rock armour construction, in placing the rocks to achieve the
desired depth and permeability of the various layers as well as the design dimensions,
makes measurements difficult. These are normally made either by measuring the
weight of the rocks supplied, or the in- volume, perhaps converting this weight using a
target density, established using a trial section or ‘panel’ of the scheme. This latter
method is more difficult and a higher risk lies with the contractor in this respect.
Payment by weight provides a number of advantages and is generally favoured by the
contractor. This method provides greater flexibility in meeting the client’s brief and in
the construction of complex detail. Disputes may arise whichever method is used,
however, and clarity in the contract regarding placement and measurement methods
is important in this respect (see Latham et al., in press).

Simplicity of design detailing will also help in construction being carried out quickly
and accurately. Often this means reducing the number of different grades of rock to a
minimum. Trying to achieve complex geometry and detail using rock armour can
present considerable difficulties. Intersections of complex slopes and straight parallel
lines of armour are extremely difficult to achieve. Plane slopes achieved by use of
blocky armour can also increase overtopping beyond that normally expected from
rock armour. Balancing the stability requirements of layer thickness, placement
density and grading can result in structures that may practically be impossible to build.

Coastal defence

Tolerances stated should consider the size of materials in use. Similarly, realistic
tolerances should be given for the dimensions of a beach recharge scheme, particularly
when materials are placed in the active inter-tidal zone. Even modest wave action will
rapidly re-shape a recharged beach, so that it is the total volume of sand or gravel
placed that is the most important measure.

8.7 Construction Construction within the marine environment is an activity with high risks. Bad
risks weather can result in delays, with consequential financial losses. As noted earlier, the
designer and client will have a number of opportunities to share such risks with the
8.7.1 Financial risks contractor, and this approach should result in lower tender prices. A common
example would be the apportionment of losses arising from bad weather. Appropriate
methods will be needed to measure adverse conditions, for example by installing a
wave-rider buoy offshore from the site. The client may pay demurrage if conditions
exceed a defined sea state for a greater than anticipated period. If better weather than
expected prevails during the construction period, this would then also result in lower
scheme costs overall. Specification of reasonable tolerances in the dimensions of a
design, using equitable methods of measurement and simplicity of designs will all
reduce financial risks further.

8.7.2 Health and safety In addition to any financial risks, there are also clear dangers to construction workers
issues and the public within and around the construction site. As noted in the introductory
section of this Chapter, coastal defences fall under the provisions of the Construction
(Design and Management) Regulations, Health and Safety Commission (1995).
These place duties on all involved in the commissioning, design and construction of
such works. Some of the most important aspects of these Regulations, in the context
of building coastal defences, are briefly summarized below; further information can be
found in Simm and Cruickshank (1998).

The designer will be required to provide a statement under these regulations that
informs those tendering of the risks in building the defences that it has not been
practical to eliminate during the design process. Consideration must also be given to
the health and safety of those that may be engaged in maintenance operations after
the coastal defences have been completed, together with people who might ‘use’ the
scheme, for example, holidaymakers.

Under the tendering process, it is essential that the client ensures that any contractor
placed on a short-list is competent to carry out the required work. Once a contractor
is selected, it is then required under the same CDM regulations that the client will
not allow any construction work to be started before an adequate health and safety
plan has been prepared by that contractor. This plan will need to consider the safety
of both the public and those engaged in the executing the works.

8.8 Construction The many potential difficulties that can arise when building a coastal defence scheme
supervision mean that high quality supervision of the construction is particularly important. This
will include the supervision of both the contract and the safety aspects of the
construction, although these two responsibilities may be carried out by different
organizations. Sudden changes in weather conditions, and the common practice for
working over tidal cycles, mean that supervision will need to be almost continuous
during some stages of the construction timetable.

Practicalities of coastal defence construction

Close supervision will assist in resolving contract disputes, for example by timely
consideration of variation orders in the light of changing circumstances and
monitoring of works in progress. The supervisory staff will also have an important role
in liaison with the public and other organizations, as described in Section 8.4, and if
necessary arranging for specialist supervision from archaeologists or ecologists for
certain aspects of the project.

9. Post-project monitoring,
maintenance and evaluation

9.1 Introduction As noted in earlier sections of this guide, the cost-effective management of any
coastline, and its defences, is dependent upon a well-planned and long-term
monitoring programme. A monitoring programme will help identify and understand
developing problems along a coastline, and help in assessing the need for, and design
of a possible coastal defence scheme. When such defences are likely to be built, it is
often helpful to intensify the monitoring locally, to provide detailed information on
conditions at the site. For example, prior to a beach recharge it is worth increasing the
frequency of beach surveys so that the volume of the existing beach and the short-
term variations in that volume can be established.

However, increased monitoring should then continue during and after the installation
of any coastal defences, so that the performance and effects of the scheme can be
assessed. In addition, no coastal defence can be expected to be ‘maintenance-free’. As
noted in Section 6.1.3, the operational life and durability of a defence depends on the
management and maintenance strategy adopted. The maintenance works undertaken,
in turn, will be based on the monitoring of the defences and the adjacent coastline.

It should be realized, however, that monitoring the coastline, and its defences, can be
an expensive task. It must therefore be carefully matched to the required objectives of
the defences and to the value of the assets protected. The frequency and extent of the
monitoring carried out, and the maintenance of defences, should both be regularly
reviewed to optimize the management of the coastline.

While some monitoring of coastal defences is often carried out as a matter of course, it
has been increasingly common in recent years to carry out a formal assessment of a
scheme, known as a ‘post-project evaluation’. Such assessments are regarded as
important, at least partly because this is an area still inadequately covered in
construction codes and European regulations. Therefore, the final section of this
chapter describes such post-project evaluations.

This chapter sets out suggestions for a number of post-project activities, divided into
the following main categories:

— construction evaluation

Post-project monitoring, maintenance and evaluation

— monitoring the condition of the defences

— maintenance of the defences
— performance evaluation (including hydrodynamic conditions experienced)
— interaction of the defence with beaches/shoreline
— assessing other environmental effects.

9.2 Construction Ideally, all coastal defence schemes should be subject to a ‘construction evaluation’
evaluation during which feedback on the conduct of the construction phase is obtained from all
parties. This should include obtaining views from the project manager or another
representative of the client, from the designer, from the ‘builder’, i.e. the engineering
contractors, and from any other parties to the contract. Where appropriate it should
also seek responses from third parties such as landowners, conservation organizations,
other interested parties and the public.

The purpose of these consultations will be to bring together experience from the
conduct of the works and disseminate lessons which should be taken into account in
any future projects, at the same site or elsewhere. In some circumstances, where
installing a defence scheme extends over a long period, it may also be valuable to start
such evaluations during the works programme. This could lead to changing construc-
tion methods or practices if better ones could be employed, for example causing less
damage to the environment or reducing risks to the contractors or the public.

The construction evaluation is also the starting point for post-project monitoring.
Complete ‘as-built’ survey records of any defences are important for evaluation of any
subsequent failures and can be invaluable when planning any upgrading or rebuilding
works later in the life of the defences. Provision should also be made to retain
accessible records of the philosophy and assumptions behind the design. This
knowledge will then not be lost because of changes of personnel and is available to
those carrying out maintenance or management activities during the life of the

9.3 Monitoring the The condition of all elements of a defence scheme should be monitored regularly.
condition of This applies equally well to beaches in front of any structures as well as the structures
defences themselves (see Figure 25) since beach levels can often affect both the functional
performance and the structural integrity of the defences.

The main purpose of this monitoring will be to ensure that early warning is available
to identify any maintenance requirements. However, the data will be important in the
assessment of the scheme performance, and any post-project evaluation. Inspection of
mechanical elements or concrete structures should be carried out routinely, for
example at the beginning and/or end of the winter and after severe storms where
damage might have occurred. Such inspections are usually carried out by visual
inspection, perhaps with photographs, during a ‘walk over’ survey. Where this reveals
significant changes in defences, then more detailed survey methods may be

Innovative methods may be required to monitor the condition of structures such as

rock revetments or breakwaters. For these, it will be important to monitor any armour
displacement or potential instability when assessing the need for, and cost of,

Coastal defence

Figure 25 Surveying of coastal defence structures

Monitoring will be an important element of all beach management schemes since in

the original design it will usually be appropriate to set critical levels, which will
probably be seasonally dependent, to trigger management intervention. However,
long term monitoring has a wider function in relation to the performance of a beach
management scheme. Without detailed records of changes in beach morphology and
its response to different events, it is impossible to assess the scheme’s effectiveness.

Whilst local beach surveys can be used to monitor individual scheme performance,
larger scale surveys on a coastal cell or regional basis will be necessary to assess the
wider impacts of any works. As a guide it is probably desirable to take beach cross-
sections at about one-kilometre intervals at least twice per year (in summer and
winter) and extend these seawards to cover as much of the active beach as possible.
For stretches of the shoreline where the functional efficiency of a defence is crucially
dependent on beach levels, surveying both before and immediately after storm events
can be valuable.

In complex areas, it may well be necessary to increase the density of surveying,

perhaps abandoning the use of simple cross-sections and taking levels over a grid to
provide a three-dimensional ‘surface elevation model’ of the beach surface. However,
careful thought should be given, in advance, about the information needed and how
to analyse the surveys to provide this.

The level of the beach at it crest is the most important single parameter in
determining the performance of a coastal defence. Since upper beach levels are
generally lowest in winter (e.g. between December and February), this is the most
important time to survey a beach. Surveys at other times in the year, for example in
mid summer (June–August) will give information on seasonal variations, and can be
extended lower down the beach profile with less difficulty. Because of this, they are
more useful for calculating the changing volumes of beach material.

Post-project monitoring, maintenance and evaluation

Beach surveys should, at least occasionally, be extended underwater to provide

information on changes on the nearshore seabed. The use of GPS/RTK (real-time
kinematic) techniques have simplified and improved hydrographic surveying. Even so,
it is always useful to arrange for an ‘overlap’ between conventional beach surveys (at
low water) and bathymetric surveying (at high water) of the nearshore seabed, to help
reduce errors in the soundings. It is unusual for such surveys to be carried out as
frequently as once a year, except perhaps when rapid changes in the nearshore seabed
are suspected.

For regional scale monitoring, consideration should be given to the use of advanced
survey techniques and methods of remote sensing such as low level aerial photography
and LIDAR. These can be used to rapidly acquire a large amount of data for wider
areas, including low-lying land behind coastal defences. They may be particularly
useful for areas where conventional surveying is awkward or dangerous, for example
inter-tidal mudflats and saltmarshes, cliffs and coastal slopes.

9.4 Maintenance Maintenance should be considered as an integral part of the design process: the
design life of a structure should be considered by reference to potential life cycle
maintenance costs. No coastal defences are maintenance free, although costs can
be very low in some cases. A generic maintenance programme cannot be pre-
scribed for each structure type, as materials and environmental conditions vary with

Concrete structures rarely require a high maintenance commitment, although

re-facing of reinforced structures may sometimes be required in aggressive
environments charged with abrasive materials. Consideration should be given to
monitoring the rate of wear of concrete and cover of reinforcing.

Rock structure maintenance costs can vary considerably, depending on the durability
of materials, whether the structure is designed for static or dynamic stability and the
environmental conditions. Use of low-grade rock may result in rapid abrasion or
breakage of armourstone, leading to significant structural damage. A broad-brush
guideline average sum of 1% of capital cost per annum is suggested for rock structures
although maintenance should not usually be required every year. This is based on
statically stable structures armoured with high-grade materials. Rock structures may
need ‘topping up’ within a few years of construction due to settlement, but generally
only require significant levels of maintenance following severe storm events.

Cyclic maintenance is often required on timber structures, as each of the elements

degrades at different rates, creating weak links. Effective planning and replacement
of less durable elements, such as bolts in a shingle charged environment, can
reduce costly replacement of timbers if effected in a timely manner. Maintenance
commitments can vary greatly, depending on the environment, from full replacement
of structures within a period of five years to minimal maintenance over 25 years.
Periodic routine inspections can identify local life cycle trends of each structure
element, which enables effective site specific planning of low cost maintenance.

Coastal defences structures of low capital cost can require expensive and frequent
maintenance (see Figure 26) and even then may only have a limited service life.

Coastal defence

Figure 26 Maintenance of gabion revetment

Beach recharge schemes often have a low capital cost, but usually require a high level
of subsequent maintenance in terms of either recycling (see Figure 27) or interim
recharge. The maintenance programme can often be fine tuned with the aid of a
monitoring programme and simple predictive models of profile response and long-
shore transport, which can be used to establish alarm conditions. Costly emergency
plant mobilization and importation of local material at premium rates following storm
damage can often be avoided if proactive planned beach maintenance is carried out.
Consideration needs to be given to optimization of interim recharge by reference to
the flooding or erosion risks to be managed, to the mobilization costs, to the timing of
works, and the relative costs of sea delivery and supply.

All maintenance records should be collated and fed back into local beach
management and shoreline management plans, to allow these strategic planning
documents to be updated.

9.5 Evaluation A crucial part of any project monitoring is the assessment of the functional per-
of defence formance of a defence. The scope of the monitoring of functional performance will
performance depend primarily on the objectives determined for the original scheme. For example,
if the objective is to limit flooding or disruption through overtopping by wave action
then steps should be taken to record wave activity during storm events. If flooding

Post-project monitoring, maintenance and evaluation

Figure 27 Beach recycling following beach recharge

occurs, records of levels and estimation of flows should be made as soon as possible
after the event. Where the defence depends on the operation of structural elements,
such as surge barriers, it is important that details such as the frequency of operation
are recorded. Any deficiencies in either physical operation or supporting operations
such as the availability of adequate warnings should also be recorded.

In addition to monitoring the performance of a defence scheme, it is very important to

keep records of the ‘environmental’ conditions, i.e. waves, tidal levels and currents to
which the scheme is exposed. Archiving of wind, wave and tidal data will enable
evaluators to compare the actual performance of the scheme against that anticipated
during the original design. This monitoring will also show whether the wave and tide
conditions it has experienced are as expected, and as used in the design of the
defences. Predicted climate changes resulting from global warming may mean that
this may become more important in future years. Information on both the functional
performance of a defence, and of the environmental conditions it has experienced,
will be important in considering any modification or redesign of the scheme, and to
improve the design of similar schemes elsewhere.

Formal performance evaluations should ideally be carried out at approximately

five-year intervals from initial commissioning of any project.

Coastal defence

9.6 Environmental Further monitoring should be directed to measurement of achievement of the original
monitoring environmental objectives of the scheme so that actual changes can be compared with
those predicted in the Environmental Impact Assessment. This may be especially
important if there were uncertainties in the evaluation of the possible effects of a
particular scheme. However, it will also be desirable for environmental monitoring to
include a number of general indicators so that unexpected effects, whether positive or
negative, can be identified.

9.7 Post-project The purpose of carrying out post-project evaluations is to assess the effectiveness of
evaluations the investment made in coastal defences and to ensure that lessons are learnt for the
execution of future works. The data required for carrying out an evaluation should
also be valuable in the proper planning of subsequent maintenance and management
activities. Although post-project evaluations are carried out for individual schemes,
they can be aggregated to provide a wider regional or national overview of coastal
defence works, to determine the overall effectiveness of the investments made.

Clearly, the detail and extent of all evaluations should be appropriate to the scale of
the original projects, taking account of the complexity of the original objectives.
Whilst it is desirable that evaluations are carried out by those outside the original
project team, and a proportion should be undertaken by independent third parties,
this would not be a justifiable requirement for all evaluations.

Ideally, the findings of all evaluations should be made available as widely as possible
though it is recognized that this may have to be handled with some sensitivity.
However, the principle should be that the lessons from each project are disseminated
effectively to others in the industry so that there is an ongoing accumulation of
knowledge and expertise.

A post-project evaluation will consist of a programme of data collection followed by

analysis, largely comparing actual conditions and results against those anticipated
during the planning and design of the scheme. All such evaluations should consider
the technical, financial and environmental aspects of the project.

9.8 Data storage, As noted earlier in this guide, monitoring of the coastline, and its processes, whether
sharing and future locally or at a regional (e.g. coastal cell) level is very valuable when:
— updating and reviewing strategic plans for shoreline management and coastal
— understanding the mechanisms and rates of shoreline change
— assessing the need for, and the possible types of, coastal defences, and
— providing information for use in the design of defences.

Ideally, such monitoring should have been started well in advance of the
consideration of coastal defences, so that much of the information needed to assess
alternative options (see Chapter 5) is available at that time. However, such
monitoring is often not started until the problems of erosion or flooding have
sharpened interest in coastal defences. Wherever possible, once collection of
information on the coast has been started it should be continued with a view to aiding
evaluation of the success of schemes and assisting in future decision making.

Post-project monitoring, maintenance and evaluation

This data may be useful in the same general area or elsewhere at similar sites. The
usefulness of any information can be considerably improved if early consideration is
given to the analysis, presentation, storage, dissemination and sharing of that
information. Millard and Sayers (2000) discuss these topics in detail in a research
report produced by CIRIA and this should be consulted as part of the planning
process for any coastal data collection programme.


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