Soft engineering methods

Soft engineering options are often less expensive than hard engineering options. They are usually more long-term and sustainable, with less impact on the environment.

There are two main types of soft engineering.

Beach nourishment

  • Replaces beach or cliff material that has been removed by erosion or longshore drift.
  • The main advantage is that beaches are a natural defence against erosion and coastal flooding. Beaches also attract tourists.
  • Relatively inexpensive option but requires constant maintenance to replace the beach material as it is washed away.
A digger moving sand during beach nourishment

Bulldozers moving sand during beach nourishment

Managed retreat

  • Areas of the coast are allowed to erode and flood naturally. Usually this will be areas considered to be of low value - e.g. places not being used for housing or farmland.
  • The advantages are that it encourages the development of beaches (a natural defence) and salt marshes (important for the environment) and cost is low.
  • Managed retreat is a cheap option, but people will need to be compensated for loss of buildings and farmland.
Abbotts Hall Farm salt marshes - an example of managed retreat

Abbotts Hall Farm salt marshes - an example of managed retreat