Hard and soft coastal engineering



Coastal engineering is a type of management where strategies are put in place to protect areas from the effect of coastal erosion, transportation and deposition. Coastal engineering strategies can be categorized as being either 'hard' or 'soft'. Have a look at the following images - what coastal engineering strategies can you spot? [Hint: There are at least four in the image!]

Hard and Soft Coastal Engineering



Hard engineering

Sea walls

Sea Wall - Coastal Erosion Management, Criccieth, North Wales, UK

Rock armour (Rip-Rap)

Marine Drive - Sea Wall, Rip-Rap and Accropodes


Groyne - Coastal Erosion Management, Criccieth, North Wales, UK



Cliff face strategies

Coastal Management - Mappleton Cliff Regrade

Soft engineering

Beach nourishment

Beach Nourishment

Managed retreat


'Do nothing'

Hemsby Beach

Coastal engineering case study: Mappleton, United Kingdom

Mappleton is a village on the Holderness coast, north-east United Kingdom. In 1991, coastal engineering strategies were put in place to protect the village from coastal erosion. The Holderness coastline is one of the most rapidly eroding areas of the UK. The cliffs have been eroding at a rate of 3.2 yards (2.9 m) per year. The building of the coastal engineering strategies caused controversy due to the slowing of the rate of erosion to the north of the groyne and the possible speeding up of the rate of erosion to the south.

Click on the placemarks on the map below to get a feel of the situation - think about how different people in the Mappleton community may feel about the building of the coastal engineering strategies.

Each of the lettered placemarks represents a different member of the Mappleton community. Read about the background of each and then discuss the opinion you think they might have about the building of the coastal engineering strategies.

  • Farmer A who has pastoral agriculture business plus he rents out several of the barns he has converted on his farm to tourists.
  • Farmer B who only has a large agriculture business. Most of his fields border the coastline cliffs. His farmhouse is currently just 50 metres from the eroding cliff edge.
  • Business Person C who runs a haulage business. Her business is based upon supplying the transport needs for the various businesses between Hornsea and Withernsea.
  • Councilor D is on the local council. He was voted onto the local council before the coastal engineering strategies were built. He supported the building of the defences.
  • Residents E are a retired couple who sold their house in Hull to move to be by the coast. They don't like the sight of the coastal engineering but are happy that their insurance company will continue to insure their home.