Coasts and seas

Devon County Council recognises the importance of the coast and seas around Devon to its communities. It is only by careful and informed planning and management that we will be able to use these environments to our benefit in the long term and not degrade them. We will support discussion, leading to action, with key players both here in Devon and further afield that move us closer to the vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine environment.

The Devon coast

In the administrative area of Devon County Council, at Mean High Water, the two coasts of Devon extend to almost 700km. Generally, the north coast is less densely populated and developed than the south coast. Both benefit from extensive stretches of beautiful, open landscape and beaches, rich in wildlife and historic interest. Exmoor National Park and three coastal Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty give testament to its quality. Its rich biodiversity is recognised by a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a Ramsar Site, coastal Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, National Nature Reserves and England’s first ever Marine Nature Reserve plus Sites of Special Scientific Interest and County Wildlife Sites. In addition, geological interest is recognised through the UNESCO Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

The majority of Devon’s residents live within 20 km of the coast, many in resort towns that serve both as communities, often catering for retired people, and as places to visit. Commerce associated with the coast and sea is important to Devon and includes the hotel and catering trades, coastal attractions, fishing, angling and aquaculture, water-sports and marinas, ports, marine engineering and boatbuilding.

Devon Maritime Forum

The Devon Maritime Forum was established in 2005 as a strategic county-wide partnership that acts a ‘champion of the sea’ for Devon and the South West. Devon County Council is the host organisation for the Forum, with other funding partners including The National Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, South West Water, Plymouth Marine Sciences Partnership and the University of Plymouth. The Forum facilitates communication between a network of marine stakeholders – providing a coherent ‘voice’ for maritime Devon, raising the profile of marine and maritime concerns and promoting broad debate in order to achieve sustainability on our coasts and seas.

Marine and Coastal Access Act and marine planning

The Marine and Coastal Access Act received Royal Assent on 12 November 2009. This pioneering legislation introduced some critical new provisions for the protection and management of the maritime environment, including marine planning, coastal access, marine nature conservation, marine licensing, fisheries management and marine enforcement. The new marine planning system (a Marine Policy Statement and series of marine plans) has sustainable development of the UK marine area at its heart. Marine planning will be one of the major functions of the Marine Management Organisation, which will have responsibility for preparing marine plans in accordance with the policies and objectives set out by the government.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), together with other types of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) including European Marine Sites, such as the Exe Estuary, will form the UK contribution to an international ecologically coherent network of MPAs and help to deliver the vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. A first and second tranche of MCZ’s have been introduced, including: Skerries Bank and Surrounds; Torbay; Tamar Estuary Sites; Hartland Point to Tintagel; and Bideford to Foreland Point in Devon. Further areas are currently subject to additional detailed investigation, prior to their potential designation being confirmed.

Shoreline Management Plans and coastal defence

The Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) offers an agreed and strategic approach to managing coastal processes, particularly erosion. The two plans that cover the Devon coast have been adopted by the coastal district and unitary local authorities that are responsible, under the overall coordination of the Environment Agency, for coastal risk management.

Devon County Council supports this approach and seeks to manage key coastal assets that it is responsible for, such as roads, in accordance with the SMP. The SMP provides an opportunity to prioritise investment in coastal erosion management and to ensure that a coastal defence scheme on a particular part of the coast does not threaten or compromise the coast elsewhere. In some cases, the strategic management options outlined within SMPs are further developed through more detailed coastal strategies, such as within the Exe Estuary. These form the basis for the establishment of site specific coastal defence or beach management schemes, for which national funding will usually be sought through flood and coastal defence grant-in-aid.