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24 September 2014

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What have we learned - and where to now?

Seaside image from this programme

In this programme we look back at some of the highlights of our journey, exploring the future of our coast and what it'll mean for us as an island nation.

Climate change

wave on shoreThere is growing evidence that the world's climate is changing, and this will have a significant effect on the UK, particularly our coastal areas. Experts within the scientific and academic communities have expressed grave concern about the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Many believe global warming is inevitable if we don't change our ways and reduce our desire for fossil-fuelled energy.

Nick Crane travels to Fairlight Cove in East Sussex to meet the Environment Agency's Merylyn Hedger and debate the impact of climate change on our coast.


puffinMiranda Krestovnikoff travels to Lundy in the Bristol Channel, where there is a scheme looking at the future of good sea management. Lundy is home to the only statutory marine nature reserve in England and also has the UK's first compulsory "No Take Zone", where no living natural resource can be taken from the sea.

sealIt is only in its second year and is already showing signs of success. Those championing the Marine Bill point to Lundy as an example of how good management can help sea creatures thrive.

Miranda also takes a look at how rising sea temperatures and an increase in acidity will affect life in our seas a century from now.

Who owns our coast?

As an island nation, we all rightly feel some sort of ownership over our coast. But how much of our 12,000 miles of coastline is open for us all to enjoy? Mark Horton travels to Wembury near Plymouth to try to discover who really owns the coast. He learns some surprising facts about the public's right of access.

Wembury is typical of our coastline. The beach is owned by three different landowners including the Crown Estate who own the biggest chunk of our coast with 55% of the foreshore (the area between high and low water) under their control. Around the corner from Wembury’s beach is Wembury Point. Since the 1940s this has belonged to the Ministry of Defence and has been used as a naval gunnery with restricted access for the public.

There are good safety reasons for closing off many Ministry of Defence coastal sites but Wembury Point is about to be re-opened permanently to the public. This is thanks to the National Trust who have bought the site. It's their latest purchase in a 45 year campaign to buy up the best bits of our coast to stop development and allow free access.


The government has made a pledge to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5%, and carbon emissions by 20% lower than the 1990 levels by 2010 - then a further 40% by 2050. One way they hope to meet this target is through the development and implementation of renewable energy sources. Britain has the best potential resources in the world for wind, tidal and wave power.

Alice Roberts travels to North Hoyle to the UK's first offshore wind farm. Wind power is a growing force in our energy sector. There are currently enough offshore sites in the building or planning stages to supply 7% of our electricity needs in the UK.

The coast is also home to the nuclear power industry, an important source of carbon free electricity. By 2023, however, all but one power station will be decommissioned, wiping out nearly a quarter of our electricity supply. Whilst renewables are currently unable to fill this void, the government is deliberating on its decision to replace the old sites with new streamlined plants which produce 90% less waste.

Alice meets with advocates of both power sources to find how our choices in energy supply will affect the look of our coast.


Blackpool Tower is perhaps the most iconic structure on the British Coast. For many people Blackpool epitomises the UK seaside experience: sea, sand and a fun day out. The Pleasure Beach is the biggest tourist attraction in Europe. But competition from cheap package holidays is tough, and Blackpool - like much of the coast - has lagged behind the regeneration of our cities.

Blackpool is fighting back with a bid to develop the UK's first super casino, and if it wins it will undergo a major Las Vegas-style facelift. There are also plans for Spanish steps leading to the beach. The council's aim is to develop modern high quality facilities whilst retaining its historic quarters. Neil Oliver travels to Blackpool to investigate development on the coast.

Giant's CausewayBlackpool has capacity to expand, but coastal development is not always possible or appropriate. In Northern Ireland the Giant's Causeway, the UK's first World Heritage Site, could lose its status unless a solution is found to the problem of maximising its tourist opportunities whilst protecting the unique nature of the site.



Coast Series 1

Dover to Exmouth
The Frontline

Exmouth to Bristol
The Wild West

Bristol to Cardigan Bay
Times and Tides

Cardigan Bay to the Dee
The Travellers Coast

Liverpool to Solway Firth
Shifting Sands

The Northern Ireland Coast
The Troubled Coast

West Coast of Scotland and Western Isles
Islands and Inlets

Cape Wrath to Orkney
Life on the Edge

John O'Groats to Berwick
The Working Coast

Berwick to Robins Hood's Bay
The Pioneering Coast

Robins Hood's Bay to The Wash
The Inventive Coast

The Wash to Dover
The Vanishing Coast

Highlights Programme
What have we learned and where to now?

See Also

Meet your Coast experts:

Neil Oliver
Alice Roberts
Mark Horton
Miranda Krestovnikoff
Nicholas Crane
Hermione Cockburn
Dick Strawbridge


Coastal Habitats
Coastal Plants
The UK's Coastal Wildlife Hotspots
Finding Coastal Wildlife
BBC Weather: Climate change
BBC News: Climate change

On the rest of the web

Environment Agency: Climate change
UK Climates Impact Programme
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
Lundy Island virtual tour
DEFRA: Marine environment
National Trust
British Wind Energy Association
Country Guardian: Against wind farms
Vision for the future of Blackpool

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