Coastal partnerships are the primary mechanism to support local and regional integrated coastal management (ICM) in the United Kingdom. This paper identifies four evolutionary stages of coastal partnership development, in which partnerships pass through stages of foundation, challenge, reflection and renewal. Through examining these stages, it was apparent that the manner in which coastal partnerships in the UK support ICM has evolved from a plan-led approach to a service-based approach since the early 1990s. In the service-based approach, partnerships support ICM through an ongoing programme of facilitated stakeholder engagement, capacity building and information exchange, rather than through the development and implementation of an outcome-based management plan. This has been prompted by a number of interconnected factors, including funding scarcity, a historic lack of national-level support and ambiguous evidence of success. Following a discussion of the benefits and burdens of the service-based approach, the paper concludes that whilst the service-based ICM support model offers many advantages and opportunities, the wider coastal governance framework in the UK may still present considerable challenges to its future success.
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