Coastal areas can be protected from the effects of natural processes, for example the effects of erosion, deposition, transportation, weathering and mass movement.

The most problematic of these is erosion. There are three types of erosion: hydraulic action, abrasion and attrition which all contribute together to erode cliffs, causing the coastline to be vulnerable and weaker. The cause of erosion can then lead to mass movement for example rock fall and slumping which can affect the coastline greatly due to them changing it quite considerably. Coastal areas however, can be protected from the effects of these natural processes.

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Shoreline Management Plans are long term sustainable plans that will help to protect areas of coastline from the likes of erosion and mass movement. There are four different types: no active intervention, advance the line, hold the line and managed retreat. In Sea Palling on the North Norfolk coast, the SMP is ‘hold and advance the line’ which is needed in Sea Palling due to it becoming increasingly vulnerable to coastal flooding because as it is on the North Norfolk coast, the cliffs are made up of soft sands and clay, making them particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural processes such as erosion.

By Sea Palling being protected, this also means that the Norfolk Broads are defended as they are behind Sea Palling, protecting the growing tourist industry there. In Happisburgh there is a ‘no active intervention’ management plan, which will mean that in the next 100 years 20-35 properties, the caravan park land and 45 hectares of agricultural land will all be lost. This management plan may seem like a bad idea due to these factors, however if the coast at Happisburgh was protected it would impact significantly on the sediment transportation. Although there are implications of not protecting this area from the effects of natural processes such as loss of houses, these are not sufficient to economically justify building new defences on this area of the coast.

Within the Shoreline Management Plans, two types of engineering techniques can be put in place to protect the coast from the effects of natural processes. These are hard engineering and soft engineering. Hard engineering is where structures are put in place between the land and the sea to disrupt wave energy and protect the cliffs and coastline behind. For example, structures such as sea walls, which are curved, straight or stepped reinforced concrete structures.An example of a sea wall is in Sheringham where it is built at the base of the cliffs offshore to protect the base of the cliffs from erosion. They’re made of resistant concrete which reflects the wave energy, therefore stopping the effects of natural processes taking place on the cliff itself. Groynes such as the ones in place at Overstrand in North Norfolk are another example of hard engineering.

They are wooden, or sometimes concrete, structures designed to break waves and slow down longshore drift as they trap sediment restricting transportation and absorb the wave energy, therefore protecting the area from the likes of natural processes eroding the coast. Soft engineering techniques are also used to protect coastal areas from the effects of natural processes. Soft engineering defences are interventions on the coastal environment that attempt to work with natural processes, often based on preserving a beach.An example of this is building bars which are underwater bars put in place to reduce wave energy and therefore protect the coast from the harsh full power wave energy. Beach reprofiling is another technique used which enables the beach itself to absorb more energy and reduce erosion by changing the shape of the beach so that it can do so.

There are many different ways in which coastal areas can be protected from the effects of natural processes such as erosion, weathering and transportation. North Norfolk is particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural processes; however it is fortunate in that there are many different organisations and strategies to protect the coast from this put in place to help. Overall, Shoreline Management Plans and hard and soft engineering within them are a big help in protecting areas such as North Norfolk by absorbing wave energy and the attack of natural processes from harming the vulnerable coastline.