Strategic Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme

A national monitoring programme which collects coastal data and analyses beach topography to aid beach maintenance and coastal defence schemes.


The monitoring programme began in August 2002 and has a dataset of over 10 years. Local Authority, Environment Agency and Channel Coast Observatory are involved. Its primary aim is to provide a repeatable and cost effective method of monitoring the English coastline. All data collected by the monitoring programme are archived and managed at the Channel Coast Observatory in Southampton; where the data is freely avaliable online. 

The project provides essential information for coastal managers. Issues such as climate change and provision of sea defences that are sustainable in the long term, are reliant on good quality data. Long-term data sets (several decades) are needed to deliver these benefits. Nevertheless, there are many short-term gains already arising from the programme. These include data for scheme designs, and savings arising from collaborative working.

Many coastal defence schemes within the southeast region now involve solutions such as beach recharge and beach recycling. Whilst these techniques are sustainable, they require a considerable amount of monitoring to ensure they function effectively.

The programme involves a number of monitoring methods, including:

  • Topographic Beach Surveys conducted on foot, quad bike and laser scanner mounted onto a quad bike.
  • Hydrodynamic Data Collection such as Wave Buoys, Tide Gauges, Bathymetric Surveys
  • Aerial Flights such as LiDAR and aerial photography
Several topographic survey programmes are carried out annually by Local Authority in house survey teams. Survey grade Global Positioning System (GPS) techniques aid this process. This gives centimetre accuracy for monitoring beach levels.


The Canterbury Team are the leading authority responsible for monitoring the beach between the Isle of Grain and Beachy Head and the Worthing Team are the leading authority responsible for monitoring the beach between Beachy Head and Selsey Bill.  The Channel Coast Observatory oversee the whole area, funded by Environment Agency.  Profile surveys are conducted each Spring and Autumn, where a series of repeatable lines are surveyed to create cross sectional diagrams of the beach as it changes.  

In the Summer, continuous topographic surveys are carried out to allow plan views of the beaches to be obtained and subsequently analysed with the aid of Digital Ground Models. From this data, annual comparisons of these diagrams are presented in reports, in the form of difference models. These show erosion and accretion to the beaches.  Continuous surveying can be completed on foot or using a quad bike with the GPS equipment mounted on the front.


The beaches between Selsey Bill and Winchelsea are surveyed with the laser scanner on an ATV, with the exception of the cliffs between Brighton Marina and Beachy Head which we scan once a year with the scanner on a boat and the cliffs between Hastings and Winchelsea which aren’t surveyed.

The scanner is a ‘Dynascan’ dual antenna system from MDL, it has a 500m range and collects 36,000 points per second. As we have two NetR5’s and a NetR9 that cover the whole of coastal cells 4d and 4c, we can post-process the GPS positioning on all our surveys, which means that we can cover up to 10km a day of beach on ATV and 15km or more a day on boat for the cliffs.


If required, post storm surveys are also carried out after a storm event to detect the extent of any damage that may have been caused by storm waves.  Pre and post surveys are undertaken in the event of beach recycling or replenishment to ensure the datasets are kept up to date.

Although most of our time is spent on coastal monitoring, we have periods where we are not using the GPS equipment. As a result, we have been able to carry out numerous additional surveys for a number of other council departments, including boundary disputes, large scale subsidence surveys, and plotting pipeline routes. Most recently, two members of our survey team were involved in a rather unusual survey recording the location of lane marker buoys in Whitstable and Herne Bay for Foreshore Services. You can read more about the buoy survey on the Korec Group Blog on the Korec Website.

The major advantage of the GPS equipment is the ease of which large numbers of points can be recorded to centimetre accuracy. Point data can then be presented in various forms; typically overlain onto Ordnance Survey mapping. Precise coordinates of each point can be provided.

If you are a local authority or partner and have any surveys that need to be carried out and think we may be able to help, please contact;

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