SCOPAC Coastal Landfills Study

Coastal Partners (formerly Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership): £70,000 (2016-2018)
Funded by Southern RFCC and Wessex RFCC local levy (£67,000) + a contribution from LGA SiG (£3,000)

The Final Report is now available and includes case studies following permission from the Local Authorities involved. The infographic below summarises our findings.

Project Team

Dr Matthew Wadey (PM), Tim Kermode, Sacha Neill, Samantha Cope

Project Summary

There are a number of old landfill sites across the SCOPAC region that have previously been protected from the sea, but are now eroding due to deterioration of the original protection, and are threatened by sea level rise.
The nature of the problem is long-term as it is likely that the landfill sites contain some of the early plastics. Given that these can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, it will be necessary to continue to contain the sites for the foreseeable future, as removal is unlikely to be a feasible option.

There is therefore a need for a long-term plan that is technically feasible and affordable. The Shoreline Management Plans and Coastal Strategies form the basis of this plan, however at present, as far as protection of landfill is concerned, they are aspirational as there is no appropriate funding mechanism. Given that the landfill sites are often undeveloped, they do not qualify for Flood Defence Grant in Aid funding.

This project builds upon previous work by Coastal Partners (formerly East Solent Coastal Partnership) to identify landfill sites that are at risk of erosion and flooding. The C718 CIRIA Guidance (2013) was applied to confirm the distribution of hazard, consequence and shoreline responsibilities. This investigation has been extended across local authorities in the Central Southern England SCG and SCOPAC region where it appears there are many landfill and contaminated land sites with an unclear understanding of impacts, liability, or costs involved in resolving future problems. This is a national problem and the problem will get worse as landfill contents become increasingly exposed due to degradation of defences and linings, and due to impacts of climate change such as sea level rise. Vast quantities of waste are theoretically at risk of being released (into the sea and onto nearby land) which will pollute the marine environment and pose hazards to the public and wildlife.

The project primarily aims to raise the profile of this issue, particularly the apparent lack of funding and/or strategy to deal with the problem. The scope of the project is to identify coastal landfills at risk of flooding/erosion in the region, as well as the possible funding sources. The project is engaged in communicating this issue to the coastal engineering and flood management community, as well as politicians and other decision-makers.

Key achievements

  • We have completed a systematic review of possible funding sources (for remediation of coastal landfill problems). Funding was identified, but we have found that there is presently no satisfactory funding arrangement (i.e. lots of small, hard to attain sources which do not meet needs for larger capital works).
  • We wrote a letter and corresponded with senior EA managers who raised the issue at a national EA meeting of Area Flood & Coastal Risk Managers (September 2017). This, in effect confirmed our own findings and consensus amongst Risk Management Authorities (RMAs) that there is a lack of access to specific funds to protect landfills from flood and coastal erosion risk.
  • We produced a presentation that was presented at a Coastal Chairs meeting in November 2017. Policy and funding were identified as key issues, and it was acknowledged that this is a real problem that is ‘creeping up on us’, and it was suggested that this needs to be framed as a public health issue.
  • We have developed a GIS database of landfill sites at risk of erosion and flooding. This is using the EA’s Historic Landfills database, augmented with site-specific information gained from workshops with Contaminated Land Officers in the ESCP region, as well as joining data from Flood Zones, Shoreline Management Plans (policy and erosion rates) and the Medium-Term Plan (MTP) Database to determine which sites will be defended/undefended.
  • We have undertaken a series of case studies for which the majority are a HTL SMP2 policy, with a couple of interesting exceptions. These identify site specific problems such as neighbouring landfills with contrasting funding prospects – linked to scorable Outcome Measures in the Partnership Funding system (we have demonstrated this with PF scoring for each area). They also highlight leaking waste (including plastics), and uncertainty over the content and extent of landfills in the EA’s Historic Landfills database. The case studies are 1-2 pages per site and include a collation of photos and information.
  • We have liaised and shared information with the NERC-funded University of Southampton landfills project and are subsequently attending CIRIA steering group meetings; and as part of this contributed to support for a further NERC bid led Queen Mary and Westfield University.
  • A summary infographic has been produced, highlighting key statistics about the coastal landfills project and lack of a clear funding mechanism to protect or remediate.
  • We have disseminated our findings to the LGA SiG (autumn and winter meeting); Southern Coastal Group (SCG) and SCOPAC, and the RFCCs. The chairman of the SCG and SCOPAC also continues to raise the profile of the issue at the national chairs meetings.
‘A toxic legacy? Coastal landfill – erosion, flooding, legality and funding’

A copy of the presentation ‘A toxic legacy? Coastal landfill – erosion, flooding, legality and funding’ made to the national Flood and Coast conference 2018

Download the presentation (PDF, 3Mb)

Further information

LGA Coastal SIG Coastal Landfill Working Group at

Next steps

We continue to take any opportunities to raise the profile of the issue by liaising with staff at the Environment Agency.