Coastal Protection


Barrow Borough Council has a coastline that is approximately 63km long, of which around 22km are defended against either erosion or flooding. Of this 22km, Barrow BC is responsible for maintaining about 7km with the remainder divided between various other bodies and private companies. The remaining 41km of undefended coastline consists of shingle beaches, clay cliffs, sand dunes and salt marsh.


The whole of the Borough's coastline, except for a short section on Walney Island between Hillock Whins and Sandy Gap, is designated internationally, nationally or locally as environmentally important.

In the United Kingdom, the Department of The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for the protection of the coastline from flooding and erosion.

Responsibility for the coastline is divided between various authorities in accordance with legislation. Coastal Protection authorities such as Barrow Borough Council have permissive powers under the Coast Protection Act 1949 to carry out works in their area to protect the coast from erosion.

Link to Coast Protection responsibilities of Barrow Borough Council.

The construction and maintenance of defences to resist coastal flooding is carried out by the Environment Agency in accordance with the Water Resources Act 1991. The powers derived from these acts are permissive, which means that whilst authorities may carry out works there is no legal obligation to do so. However, the Council does have a legal requirement under the EU Habitats Directive to protect and, where possible, enhance internationally important habitats.

The Council commissions an annual inspection of coastal defences. The latest inspection report can be downloaded here.

When discussing coast defence it is useful to note the following definitions to ensure understanding of  the terms being used:

  • Coast Defence a collective term used to encompass both protection from flooding and erosion caused by the sea.
  • Coast Protection describes measures used to protect the land against erosion and encroachment from the sea.
  • Flood Defence describes measures used to alleviate flooding, whether from rivers or from the sea.

The Council currently employs Capita Symonds to carry out its functions as Coast Protection Authority. If there are any queries about any of the information in this section of the website please contact:

Mark Ellis,

Principal Coastal Engineer,
Capita Symonds,
Town Hall,
Duke Street,
LA14 2LD.