Prior to the formation of the existing seven strategic coastal groups of England management of the country’s shoreline had for some years been the remit of 16 regional groups that worked with Defra, the Environment Agency (EA), local authorities and other organisations.
Central southern England was served by The Standing Conference on Problems Associated with the Coastline (SCOPAC, established 1986).
On 22 June 2007, the former Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Ian Pearson, announced new arrangements for the Environment Agency’s overview role on the future management of coastal erosion and sea flooding in England.
The Minister’s announcement included a statement on the proposed arrangements for the coastal strategic overview, requiring that the Environment Agency:
- Take the lead for all sea flooding risk in England, and fund and oversee coastal erosion works undertaken by local authorities.
- Ensure that sustainable long-term Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) are in place for the English coastline.
- Work with local authorities to ensure that the resulting flood and coastal erosion works are properly planned, prioritised, procured, completed and maintained to get the best value for the public purse.
- Ensure that third party defences are sustainable.
These arrangements represented an important development, meaning that, for the first time, one organisation had overall responsibility for the management of all coastal risks.
The Minister’s statement included the intention that coastal groups should become more strategic and play a stronger role in the future planning of flood and coastal erosion risk management. In addition, coastal groups would advise the EA and be represented on Regional Flood Defence Committees (RFDCs).
Defra agreed to work with Coastal Groups and the EA to develop arrangements for:
- The creation of fewer (i.e. seven), bigger and more strategic groups, effective by October 2008, and
- The promotion of the Coastal Groups as centres of excellence, ensuring that they maintain their largely technical base and encourage engagement with a full range of stakeholders.
- A review of Coastal Group boundaries having regard to River Basin Management Plans.
SCOPAC at that time comprised a Full Conference of elected members, interest groups and technical officers, with a separate Officer’s Working Group (comprising technical officers) carrying out research and providing feedback to the Full Conference.
It is the SCOPAC Officer’s Working Group that formed the Southern Coastal Group.