Shoreline Management Plan


SMP Allerdale areaThese website pages explain the main content and findings of the St. Bees Head to River Sark Shoreline Management Plan (SMP).

The 99 kilometres of coastline covered by the SMP from St. Bees Head to the Scottish Border includes important sand dune systems between Maryport and Silloth, raised mire peat land in the inner Solway and red sandstone cliffs at St. Bees Head. Settlements include the popular tourist resorts of Whitehaven, Silloth and Allonby Village, the commercial harbour port of Workington, Maryport historic town and smaller residential villages. The Solway Estuary is an important site for breeding wildfowl and supports one of the largest migrating bird populations in Britain.

Sediment movement and coastline change in the Solway Firth

The beaches, dunes and estuary channels of the Solway Firth are constantly changing. Many factors contribute to this change - principally wind, tides and currents.

The Solway Firth is fed by sediment from the Irish Sea and its tributary rivers, and this periodically affects the positions of offshore sandbanks and channels. Along the north Cumbrian coast, sediment drifts north-east from St. Bees Head, driven by the predominant wind. At Cardurnock, where sea and river-borne sediments from the Eden, Esk and Sark meet, there has been a significant build up of saltmarsh over the past 130 years.

Natural beaches and sand dunes are important coastal defences because they absorb wave energy. Following a damaging storm, dunes often rebuild naturally over a period of months, replenished by wind-blown sand. In an appropriate location they can negate the need for artificial defences. The dune systems within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are proactively managed to enhance their coastal defence, wildlife habitat, and leisure amenity value.

Coastal defences

It is not always possible to protect land using natural defences and in several areas artificial defences are necessary to protect low lying or erosion prone settlements. The SMP identifies flood risk areas and describes the existing coastal defences including their condition and any work needed to maintain or upgrade them. It also highlights work recommended to provide defence where none presently exists.

The findings of the St. Bees Head to River Sark SMP

The information and data on which the SMP is based is described in the Stage 1 documents. The SMP divides the shoreline into a series of 18 'Management Units' and sets out options for future coastal defence in each Unit. For some Units the recommended option may be 'Do Nothing', where no immediate action other than observe, monitor and review is carried out. In most Units the recommended option is 'Hold the Line', which means to maintain, improve or rebuild the existing defences. The map in this leaflet shows the recommendations for the next five years. The SMP looks forward over the next fifty years and takes account of the possible effects of climate change and sea level rise. The SMP builds on our knowledge and understanding of the coastline.

The revised Shoreline Management Plan is available to view at

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Contact us

0303 123 1702

Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ