The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Coastal Plans and Strategies

There are many management plans and initiatives covering all or part of the Solent that address issues such as nature conservation, coastal defence and emergency planning. They operate at a range of scales from the European level down to site specific.  The main types of plans are detailed below; they are split into statutory and non-statutory plans.

Statutory Plans & Strategies

UK Marine Strategy 

The UK Marine Strategy provides the framework for delivering marine policy at the UK level and sets out how to achieve the vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. It consists of a simple 3-stage framework for achieving good environmental status (GES). Achieving GES is about protecting the marine environment, preventing its deterioration and restoring it where practical, while allowing sustainable use of marine resources. The strategy covers 11 elements (known as descriptors) including: biodiversity; non-indigenous species; commercial fish; food webs; eutrophication; sea-floor integrity; hydrographical conditions; contaminants; contaminants in seafood; marine litter and underwater noise.

Defra 25 Year Plan

The UK Government’s 25 year Environment Plan was published in 2018. Chapter 5 of the Plan sets out commitments to secure clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans. The headlines are to achieve a sustainable fisheries policy and achieve good environmental status. Key commitments that are relevant to the coast include:
  1. Setting gold standards in protecting and growing natural capital.
  2. Seeking to embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle for development to deliver environmental improvements.
  3. Expanding the net gain approaches used for biodiversity to include wider natural capital benefits, such as flood protection, recreation and improved water and air quality.

The Water Environment Regulations and River Basin Management Planning

The Water Environment Regulations, 2017 transpose a framework for community action in the field of water policy. They revoked and replaced the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003. The Regulations are implemented through the river basin management planning (RBMP) process based on river basin districts (RBDs). RBMPs aim to prevent deterioration of the water environment and improve water quality by managing water in natural river basin districts. They look at ecological, physico-chemical, quantitative and morphological aspects of the water environment and require improvements take account of economic aspects, including costs and benefits. The Solent lies within the South East River Basin District and is currently in moderate ecological status. The competent authority in the UK for river basin planning is the Environment Agency.

The Regulations recognise that some water bodies, such as the Solent, have been significantly physically modified to support various uses which provide valuable social and economic benefits. In many cases these modifications cannot be removed without having a major negative effect on the social and economic benefits that these uses bring. If achieving ‘good status’ would require changes to a water body’s hydromorphology that would have significant adverse effects on the social or economic activity, then it can be designated as a artificial or heavily modified water body. These bodies have to achieve an alternative objective of "good ecological potential" (GEP). The objective of GEP is similar to good status but takes into account the constraints imposed by the social and/or economic uses.

Please see our Clean Solent Shores and Seas page on Governance for more information.

Marine Plans

Marine plans are developed by the Marine Management Organisation. They set out priorities and directions for future development within the plan area, inform sustainable use of marine resources, help marine users understand the best locations for their activities, including where new developments may be appropriate.The Solent lies within the South Marine Plan area.

Local Plans

Local plans are prepared by the Local Planning Authority (LPA), usually the council or the national park authority for the area. They must be prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and the National Planning Policy FrameworkCoastal Change Management Areas are areas identified in Local Plans as likely to be affected by coastal change (physical change to the shoreline through erosion, coastal landslip, permanent inundation or coastal accretion). Defra encourages all coastal local planning authorities to sign up to the coastal concordat to help streamline the consenting process for coastal development.

Local authorities have a specific regard to Marine Plans in their coastal planning and decision making. Use our members directory to find the contact details of local authorities in the Solent, our planning pages provide links to local plans in the Solent.

Local Nature Recovery Strategies

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) were introduced in the Environment Act, 2021. They will be developed by responsible authorities (local authority, National Park Authority or Natural England). The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (duty to conserve biodiversity) makes provision about the duties of public authorities in relation to local nature recovery strategies.

  1. a statement of biodiversity priorities for the strategy area, and

  2. a local habitat map for the  strategy area.

National Policy Statements

National Policy Statements (NPSs) are provided for by the Planning Act 2008.  The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), also created under that Act, will be required (subject to certain statutory exceptions) to determine planning cases in accordance with the relevant NPS, once it has been ratified after consultation.  Under the present system, harbour developments are subject to harbour revision or empowerment orders under the Harbours Act 1964.  In some cases additional planning consents under Town and Country Planning legislation, and/or the Transport and Works Act, are required in parallel.  The new system will simplify applications by providing for these consents to be combined in one Development Consent Order.

Non-Statutory Plans

European Marine Sites Management Schemes

Establishing management schemes is optional for relevant and competent authorities under the Habitats Regulations; the Regulations do however place a general duty on all statutory authorities exercising legislative powers to perform these in accordance with the Habitats Directive. A management scheme can provide an effective framework for management and partnership working especially on large or complex sites such as the Solent.  Details of the Solent's European Marine Sites (SEMS) Management Scheme can be found on our SEMS website.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Management Plans

The primary purpose of the AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, with two secondary aims: meeting the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside; and having regard for the interests of those who live and work there. To achieve these aims, AONBs rely on planning controls and practical countryside management. There are two AONB plans covering the Solent:

Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs)

SMPs provide a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal processes and present a long term policy framework to reduce these risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environment in a sustainable manner. An SMP is a high level document that forms an important element of the strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management.  Many operating authorities adopt the recommendations of their SMP as a basis for the production of individual strategic plans, monitoring programmes and studies for all or part of their coastline.

The Environment Agency has the strategic overview role for managing all sea flooding and coastal erosion risk on the coast. The Solent lies within the Southern Coastal Group, which is the body that gives advice on coastal issues and influences strategic and sustainable policies,plans and programmes to best manage coastal risks.

Coastal Management Plans

Coastal management plans cover a distinct geographical area of coast and review a diverse range of issues occurring within that location, identify management measures and strategies. Plans around the Solent include:

Estuary and Harbour Management Plans

Estuary and Harbour Management Plans review the uses and issues that take place within that harbour or estuary and seek to promote good practice and resolve any conflicts. They also facilitiate partnership working for all the relevant stakeholders and develop partnership based projects.

Plans within the Solent include:


The SOLFIRE plan is the voluntary emergency plan covering maritime incidents in the Solent. The Solent is dividied into SOLFIRE West, SOLFIRE East and SOLFIRE South with command centres at Southampton, Portsmouth and Lee-on-the-Solent respectively. This plan includes SOLSPILL, the reporting system for oil spillages.

The Marine Coastguard Agency takes the lead role in all maritime pollution and search and rescue incidents. Local authorities have responsibilities for marine emergencies (such as oil pollution or stranded passengers) once they come ashore or above the mean low water mark.

Marine non-Licensable Activities

There is a statutory duty for individual Relevant Authorities to monitor marine and coastal non-licensable activities on the condition of designated sites. These activities do not require a marine licence under section 66 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The MMO is responsible for the management of marine non-licensable activities which take place within its jurisdiction (0 to 12 nautical miles). Marine non-licensable activities include activities like sailing, powerboating and diving.

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