ince 1992 over 40 estuary andfirth partnerships have beenvoluntarily established in theUK following the EnglishNature and Scottish Natural Heritage(SNH) Estuaries and Firths Initiatives.None receive direct governmentsupport, instead relying on partnerfinancial support. Despite this, mostcontinue to show their worth incountless ways; improving decision-making, resolving conflicts,implementing practical projects,raising awareness. Such is the noblelegacy of these partnerships. But forthose involved in their management,there is a less heroic story: last minutebudget deals; cajoling council resourcecommittees, the loss of talented core-staff and an endless struggle tomaintain funding. Critically, thisfunding dependency culture hascompromised the freedom of partnerships to challenge the policiesand practices of their funding masters.Short-termism is the order of the dayin the very policy sector that should beunderpinned and driven by the long-term issues of sustainability. Hundredsof staff years have been wasted in thepursuit of funding and a fewpartnerships have been lost alongthe way.Now a new threat looms in theunlikely shape of the Government’sMarine Bill. The objective of theMarine Bill is clear; to provide astrengthened and simplified systemfor the governance of our coastal andmarine waters, including thepossibility of a new marinemanagement organisation. The threatlies in a Government agenda thatreinforces the split between themanagement of land and sea. This willresult in the policy ‘squeeze’ of coastalmanagement between a reinforcedmarine administration and terrestrialgovernance frozen at the mean lowwater mark, DEFRA vs the ODPM.But this Marine Bill should also be anopportunity for coastal partnershipsto build themselves a secure,sustainable future. The case is simple –coastal partnerships deliversustainable development; their keyweaknesses rest with the ficklenessand fragility of their partners. Thesolution is equally simple – theinclusion in the Bill of a duty on allrelevant and competent bodies with astatutory interest in the coast andinshore waters to participate in andimplement ICZM in agreed coastalwaters of national and regionalimportance. The responsibility andthe statutory power for co-coordinating this activity would restwith a nominated local authoritywithin the area.Fanciful? Radical? Hardly. Theproposal is based on experience of asimilar policy area – the statutorilydesignated Areas of OutstandingNatural Beauty (AONBs). Like thecoast, UK AONB management hasbeen subject to stop-go initiatives forover three decades. Two governmentactions have revolutionised theirmanagement. Firstly, a few simpleclauses in the Countryside and Rightsof Way Act of 2000 imposed aresponsibility on local authorities toprepare, publish and reviewmanagement plans for AONBs in theirareas. This was backed up by relativelymodest financial incentives fromGovernment to local authorities for aguaranteed period of up to 10 years toimplement the process and establishjoint steering committees. Now allAONBs are under active managementwith national coverage of management plans close tocompletion. This approach has thepotential to transform UK coastalmanagement in a similar way to thatachieved at a broader spatial scale bythe much-praised and envied USCoastal Zone Management Act, and itsfederal consistency provisions.The 2002 EU Recommendation onICZM specifically asks Member Statesto identify in their National Strategies“sources of long term financing for
“It is easy to see,” says Don Quixote on sighting the 30 or 40 windmills on the plains of LaMancha, “…those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betakethyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.” “What giants?” saidSancho Panza.
Windmills on the plains