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Discuss the costs and benefits of managed retreat in protecting coastlines.

The command word in the questions is discuss. This means you must present key points about the different strengths and weaknesses of managed retreat as a strategy for protecting coasts.


Managed retreat is the controlled flooding of low-lying coastal areas. If an area is at high risk of erosion, managed retreat could be an option. It usually occurs where the land is of low value, for example, farmland.

An economic advantage of managed retreat is that it is cheaper compared to paying for hard engineering coastal management strategies. Despite the initial costs being high, the long-term savings can be worth this. An environmental benefit is that managed retreat can provide habitats for wildlife and a natural defence against erosion and flooding. Salt marshes are diverse ecosystems supporting many species. The strategy is also a sustainable approach to managing coastlines. Additionally, longshore drift can transport more sediment along the coast, allowing beaches further down the coast to be naturally replenished.

A disadvantage of manage retreat is that land is lost as the sea reclaims it. This leads to economic costs as landowners need to be compensated, which can cost between £5,000 and £10,000 per hectare. In some cases, relocation costs may have to be paid to those directly affected by managed retreat, which can be expensive. Additionally, Areas designated for managed retreat will become unpopular places for development; local authorities may even prohibit certain types of building on the land, knowing that it will be lost to the sea in the future. Because of this, the financial value of the land will fall, and people who paid good prices for their land will lose out and expect to be compensated for their losses.

AO2 – 3 marks

AO3 – 3 marks

C16 AO mark scheme

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