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Coastal Futures: CPN Highlights

There were a great number of diverse presentations at Coastal Futures this year, centring around three main themes; ‘Brexit & the Environment: Bills, Plans and Economics’, ‘Building Social Capital: People, Partnership and Pioneering’ and ‘Protecting & Managing the Marine Environment’. Presentation topics ranged from the 25 Year Environment Plan, Natural Capital, the Marine Pioneer, the SDGs and Environmental Net Gain to plastic pollution, MPAs, National Marine Parks, sustainable fisheries and the Fisheries Bill. There were also talks on the Commonwealth Blue Charter, blue carbon, marine data, offshore wind and Marine Planning.

The Coastal Partnerships Network was pleased to have a 3 minute quick fire presentation slot to give an update on the CPN 10 Year Review Process. The first audit of Coastal Partnerships was published in 2008 (Stojanovic & Barker, 2008). Since then two other surveys have been completed, one commissioned by the Marine Management Organisation in 2012 to investigate how Coastal Partnerships could assist with marine planning engagement, and one other in 2014 as yet unpublished. Our 10-year review builds on the original 2008 survey to look at how Coastal Partnerships have fared over that time: changes, challenges, opportunities and aspirations. A report will be published later this year and we plan to make an annual review of CPs part of the Coastal Partnerships Network Annual Forum. In the meantime, our headlines from the research are as follows:The number of Coastal Partnerships has increased – partnership working is still needed and actively sought by funders. Diversity of work portfolio and governance has increased. Public sector austerity has led to some loss & amalgamation of partnerships. Work is driven by availability of funding – CPs have become more project focused, with less core work.There is lack of central Government funding in England and Wales – and lessons to be learned from Scotland.

From a CPN perspective, talks that we found particularly engaging were Emma McKinley’s update on the Marine Social Sciences Network, the CPN’s own Natasha Bradshaw giving an update on the progress of her PhD research ‘Coastal Governance – Future Insights’ and Alice Tebb and her presentation on the Agents of Change Project, engaging communities with their MCZs. More information on the content of these talks can be found below in the write up from the CPN Annual Forum.

Bill Parker, from Coastal Partnership East and the Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group (LGA Coastal SIG) gave a brilliant presentation on ‘Partnerships for the Coast: The power of national, regional and local approaches’. As we all know, partnership working is central to all sustainable progress, whether it be social, environmental or economic - marine or terrestrial. Bill challenged delegates to think about the degree of partnership occurring within their organisations and working practices. There is a sliding scale between basic co-existence, to co-operation; an early recognition of the mutual benefits and opportunities in working together, co-ordination; adjusting work to avoid overlap and confusion, collaboration; agreeing to work together and all contribute to achieve a shared goal, and the ultimate goal of co-ownership; where parties commit themselves wholly to achieving a common vision, making the necessary significant changes to how they operate. It was great to have the whole auditorium thinking about nuances of partnership working, how it can improve working across all scales, and the importance of having interconnected partnerships to extend positive influence beyond the individual network through a multilayered web structure. 

Veronica presenting the SeaScapes Project to the auditorium.

Veronica Rudd, from Durham Heritage Coast Partnership spoke to delegates about the upcoming SeaScapes Project. SeaScapes aims to conserve the past of the post-industrial seascape of the Magnesian Limestone coast between the rivers Tyne and Tees in North-East England. Supported by HLF & Partners, the project will deliver 30 interconnected projects to conserve the natural environment and rich maritime heritage. Working collaboratively across disciplines it aims to ensure the natural, cultural and historical heritage of the seascape as a whole, creating opportunities for local people and visitors to engage with their coast and its heritage.

The CPN’s Graeme Smith, Teignbridge District Council, presented on Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management and the practical challenges of adapting to climate change. He spoke of the challenges Local Coastal Authorities face in navigating the management of the coastal zone. The second-generation Shoreline Management Plan process and resultant policies (SMP2) set out the strategic approach to long-term management (they consider coastal risk management over a 100 year timescale) but, whilst the intention to produce a unified national approach is laudable, implementing far reaching policy objectives in such a mutable environment is demanding work in real world coastal communities, sediment cells and ecosystems. Examples were drawn from implementation of the South Devon and Dorset SMP in Slapton, Dawlish and Sidmouth – increased engagement, informed debate and understanding of the requirement to adapt to change is needed. At a time when all Coastal Local Authorities are about to be engaged in a review of the 20 current plans under SMP2, now is the time to consider the strategic alterations that are needed to create a flexible and future-proofed framework that will work successfully on the ground. This should incorporate insights from the Committee of Climate Change’s Managing the Coast in a Changing Climate report and align with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). We would like extend a big thank you to Bob Earll, along with Jayne Onions and Diana Hunt atCMS, for organising yet another fantastically engaging conference. We certainly look forward to Coastal Futures every year!

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