UK Coastal Governance

“We are an island nation with our backs to the sea…we need to transition to a better and more sustainable coastal future. The complex web of governance is daunting.”

Research into UK Coastal Governance was launched in Autumn 2017 to review and explore existing and new methods to support coastal governance in the UK.

The objectives include analysis of:

  • Marine and terrestrial approaches to governance across the land-sea interface;
  • Opportunities, barriers and mechanisms to support collaboration;
  • How to improve coastal stewardship and what benefits that may bring.

The one-year data collection phase of this research was completed in Autumn 2018 and analysis of the results is ongoing. Current coastal governance arrangements which operate in the UK have been assessed, focusing on the role of participatory and collaborative governance mechanisms and their socio-legal context to improve coastal stewardship.

The main method employed by the research was an iterative process to explore areas of consensus (and dissensus) amongst UK experts about future direction, known as a Delphi method. This enabled the collection of qualitative and quantitative data using mixed methods of analysis to explore the results.

This ongoing research is being undertaken by Natasha Bradshaw as part of a PhD – funded by the International Water Security Network – at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Headline Recommendations
Initial results, based on the verification (Round #3) survey, include the following headline recommendations. Participants expressed consensus (>70%) around the following needs:

  • A single overview role for coastal matters.
  • Statutory coastal plans.
  • Champion local collaborative efforts.
  • Encourage trust by investing in local communities and communication effort.
  • We need vision – austerity is not a vision.
  • Governance should be at a scale that links people’s sense of place with the coastal ecosystem.

Further Insights
Across the five areas of investigation, here are some further insights into the results so far. These recommendations are based on the final verification survey in which 89 coastal/marine experts participated:

1. Approach to Governance

  • A stronger and clearer national framework is needed for the coast.
  • Linking bottom-up and top-down approaches should be the priority.
  • Continue to invest in bottom-up approaches.

2. Collaboration to Strengthen Governance

  • Strengthen collaborative effort across the land-sea interface, including more cross-sector and cross-boundary collaboration.
  • Effective collaboration is driven by the right skills – networking, facilitation, fairness and leadership.

3. Organisations and the Institutional Framework

  • Collaboration is mainly driven by initiatives established for the purpose of integration, planning or conservation.
  • Partnership approaches are key drivers if combined with capacity and continuity.
  • Community-driven, voluntary initiatives are effectively driving collaboration.
  • National and regional leadership is needed to strengthen local delivery.
  • The ability of government bodies/agencies to drive collaboration is limited by their sectoral duties and statutory responsibilities.

4. Marine Planning

  • The overlap between marine and terrestrial plans is not effectively encouraging collaboration across the land-sea interface.
  • Strengthen resource capacity/expertise through the existing marine and terrestrial planning systems.
  • Statutory coastal plans nested within existing marine and terrestrial plans, building on voluntary plans (where they exist) would be helpful.
  • National and regional leadership is needed to improve coastal policy, provide stronger direction, and enable support and political will for implementation at the local level.

5.  Coastal Stewardship

  • National coastal policy would help to promote stewardship.
  • Policy delivery could be enabled with a statutory duty towards net environmental gain.
  • Need for a common cross-sectoral vision, which is not provided for through austerity.
  • Focus on mechanisms which build trust in communities – communication effort instead of project-based consultations.

This is just a flavour of the results – there is much more detail which can be shared later in 2019.

Latest News from Natasha:

Further Background – Research Method
The research process was based on the Delphi method with three rounds of enquiry (three online surveys and a workshop). It enabled a group of relevant experts from disparate locations to engage in a collective dialogue and be part of the research and its outcomes. Over 170 people engaged at the outset, offering over 3,000 years of collective experience of UK coastal governance. They were asked for their opinion on:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches to coastal governance;
  • Opportunities in the future and benefits of improving coastal governance;
  • Drivers and mechanisms for collaboration and stewardship;
  • A vision for future coastal governance.

Over 50% of the 170 Round #1 participants (n=89) continued through the Round #2 survey and onto the final Round #3 verification survey in Autumn 2018, which was verified by 89 participants. Of those, 21 met in a final workshop to discuss implementation actions. The results of the Delphi process and workshop recommendations are available in a Summary Report.

At the outset of the research, over 80% of the participants said they undertook professional work relating to the coast every day or weekly (96 daily and 41 at least weekly). Their expertise is more based on marine (34%) and coastal (28%) as opposed to terrestrial (6%) experience, but 24% of respondents felt their experience spanned terrestrial, marine and coastal areas. A broad range of sectoral interests were represented, including business, commerce, conservation, extractives, fisheries, government, landscape, leisure, NGO, ports, research and utilities. Representation was sought from participants across the UK – each devolved country (Scotland, Wales, NI), and each of the four coastal regions (NW, SW, NE, SE) of England – plus a small proportion from further afield with exceptional knowledge of coastal governance in the UK.

For more information, please contact:
Natasha Bradshaw
Doctoral Researcher, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)
T: 0117 328 6919 / 07775 510362

If you’d like to sign-up to receive notifications about key milestones in the research and receive email notifications for access to the results, please email Natasha. Your details will not be disclosed to any other party and will be exclusively used for occasional updates on this research during 2018-2019 (you can unsubscribe at any time).