Coastal Protection

West Somerset Council (WSC) as a maritime council is vested the responsibility for controlling coastal erosion under the Coastal Protection Act 1949.

The Coastal Protection Act is administered by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and is broadly intended to allow coastal authorities to carry out capital works, whilst routine maintenance and general husbandry of the coast is regarded as a non-statutory local function. The Act makes no specific provisions for amenity or conservation works and is confined solely to defence structures. There are, however, numerous other regulations and European Directives that ensure environmental considerations plays a major part in the design and construction of any new scheme or maintenance works.

The Council administers the coast from the towering Exmoor Cliffs beyond Porlock Weir in the west to Steart Flats at the mouth of the River Parrett in the east.  The majority of this land is in private ownership. The Council has a duty to ensure that the defences that form part of that land are not compromised, in order to reduce the risk of flooding from the sea.

Certain lengths of the coast have man made sea defences, such as those at Minehead and Blue Anchor. These defences are the responsibility of the Environment Agency.

If you notice any change in the coastline, change to the coastal defences, require some advice on some point related to our coastline or have a point that you feel we should known about, please contact Customer Services on email or telephone 01643 703704.

Private Development on the Coast and changes to the Coastal Defences

If your property backs onto the coastline and you wish to modify, upgrade or renew the existing coastal defence, you will need planning permission, and permission from the Environment Agency before the works can go ahead. Please contact in writing the Environment Agency and West Somerset Council Planning Department, detailing what you are planning.

External Coastal Management Groups

The Council is involved with a number of different external organisations that deal with Coastal Management; these are:

  • Association of Severn Estuary Relevant Authorities
  • Bristol Channel Counter Pollution Association
  • North Devon and Somerset Coastal Group
  • Severn Estuary Partnership
  • Standing Conference of Severnside Local Authorities

For extra information on the above organisations, please view the Severn Estuary Gateway website