Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment

As it published research showing that 60% of its 1,130km of coast could be affected by coastal erosion within the next 100 years, the National Trust pointed to the urgent need for coherent, long-term planning to address the massive impacts of future sea level rise.

Tony Burton, director of policy and strategy at the National Trust, commented: 'Over the next few decades, extensive coastal change - especially flooding and erosion caused by sea level rise and more frequent storms - appears inevitable. The UK cannot ignore the issue, and all sectors must plan how to adapt to a future of advancing seas.'

Today's publication - Shifting Shores- is a wake-up call to recognise that planning for the inevitable, and potentially extensive, impacts of coastal change is now essential.

Shifting Shores draws on the Trust's experience as the UK's largest owner of accessible coastline. Over 1,130km - nearly 10% of the coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland - is now in the care of the National Trust.

With sea level rise of up to 0.86m predicted over the next 75 years, the National Trust forecasts that 608km of its coastal holdings could be affected by erosion over the next century and that nearly 15% of its coastal landholdings could erode by over 100m. Already, 126 National Trust coastal sites, covering over 4,000 ha, are at risk of flooding and a further 33 could be affected by tidal and river flooding within the next century. A regional breakdown is provided below and more details of affected sites are available.

Tony Burton continued: 'As the UK's largest owner of coastal land, the National Trust is at the forefront of the debate about how to deal with the impacts of sea level rise. The scale of the impacts we are facing will be mirrored across much of the UK's coast. We are a barometer of coastal change and we wish to share our experience to kick-start a wider debate on how all sectors of the UK need to begin planning co-ordinated responses on how to adapt to the inevitability of sea-level rise before it is forced upon them'.

Tony Burton's comments accompany the opening today of an important seminar organised by the National Trust, exploring responses to coastal change. Leading opinion formers - including representatives from the insurance industry, research centres, government departments and agencies - have been invited to share their views on the ways in which the UK can adapt to climate change and sea level rise.

With the publication of Shifting Shores and today's coastal change seminar, the Trust is emphasising that a new approach is needed to plan for and manage the future coast. It is highlighting some key challenges facing society:

  • Raising public awareness and understanding - there is currently no mechanism for the public to find out if their home or business lies within a zone at risk of coastal erosion.

  • Simplifying decision making - with over 30 agencies and authorities currently involved in coastal management, achieving coherent and accountable solutions is difficult.

  • Moving with the coast and the forces of nature - with the scale and pace of coastal change, a universal 'hold the line' approach through ever increasing sea defences is unaffordable and in many cases, counter-productive, creating even greater problems for communities and the environment elsewhere.

  • Finding new financial mechanisms - innovation is needed in financial products e.g. insurance and compensation to enable vulnerable communities and the environment to adapt cost effectively and equitably.

    Tony Burton concluded: 'Our changing coastline demonstrates that the impacts of climate change are being felt today and are close to home. This should strengthen the call for action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to adapt to the changes underway, working with the forces of nature wherever pos sible, to secure a better long term future for coastal communities and the environment.'

    For further information:

    Contact Julian Lloyd, Head of Media; Tel: 020 7447 6756; 07768 700976 or email

    Copies of Shifting Shores are available on:

    Images available on request


    1. The Coastal Risk Assessment

    To gain a better understanding of how coastal change will affect National Trust properties, the National Trust commissioned Halcrow Group Ltd to study how erosion and flooding might affect its coastal sites over the next 100 years. Using Defra's FutureCoast data and the Environment Agency's Indicative flood risk maps, together with the UKCIP predictions of sea-level rise due to climate change, the National Trust Coastal Risk

    Assessment has strengthened the Trust's awareness of both the immediate and long-term effects on its sites and has identified the following areas of Trust-owned coast at risk from erosion and flooding over the next 100 years:


    Kilometres of Trust coast affected by erosion

    Hectares of Trust land at risk of flooding

    South West



    South East



    East of england






    North West






    North East









    169 sites along some 608 kilometres (60%) of National Trust-owned coastline could lose land by erosion.

    10% of this loss could be between 100-200 metres inland.

    5% more could be losses of over 200 metres inland.

    126 sites with land covering 4040 hectares are currently at risk from tidal flooding.

    33 further low-lying sites are at risk of combined tiidal and river flooding within the next 100 years.

    Important National Trust properties affected by erosion and/or flooding include:

    Golden Cap, Dorset

    West Wight, Isle of Wight

    Formby Sands, Cumbria

    East Head, West Sussex

    Porlock, Somerset

    Studland, Dorset

    Case studies of these sites are available at

    2. Coastal management

    The Trust's approach to coastal management is based on working with the natural processes of coastal erosion and accretion wherever possible. Flexible management solutions which can adapt to the processes of coastal change are key to this and to this end, the Trust favours coastal realignment as a response to sea level rise wherever this can reasonably be accommodated.

    The Trust will only support interference with natural coastal processes where it believes there is an overriding benefit to society in social, economic or environmental terms and will only support development on the coast which has taken proper account of coastal change and sea level rise, as well as environmental, cultural and landscape considerations.

    As far as is practicable, the Trust will continue to conserve valued coastal habitats and cultural features threatened by coastal change - some may need to be relocated or recreated but the Trust accepts that some will eventually be lost through natural processes and that their long term management needs to address this. The Trust will consider the acquisition of coast where it is the best option to support the principles of adapting to ongoing coastal change.

    3. The Neptune Coastline Campaign

    The Trust now owns over 1,100km of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, much of it acquired as a result of the Neptune Coastline Campaign which is currently celebating its 40th anniversary.

    Since it started in 1965, the Neptune Coastline Campaign (originally named Enterprise Neptune) has provided a 'fighting fund' to enable the National Trust to buy outstanding natural or historic coastal land, to increase public awareness of the value of the coast and the pre ssure it faces and to support sustainable coastal ownership and management practices.

    Through the generosity of the many thousands of people who have helped the campaign over the years, Neptune has raised over£45 million and more than 665 km of coastline have been acquired.

    As a result of Neptune, the Trust has been able to protect a wide range of landscapes from inappropriate development, open them up to public access and manage them as areas of natural coastline where natural processes and ecosystems are able to operate unimpeded.

    Find out more about the Neptune Coastline Campaign here.

    • Comment

    Have your say

    You must sign in to make a comment

    Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

    Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.