Mapping project reveals 50 years of land use change along the coast

One of the biggest mapping projects of the 20th century has been repeated fifty years on by the National Trust to understand how the way that land is used along the coast has changed since 1965.

On 11 May 1965, concerned about the potential impact of development and industrialisation on the coast, the National Trust launched the fundraising campaign, Neptune. That summer, as part of the Trust’s efforts to focus public attention on these threats, they investigated how land was being used at the coast.

Now, five decades on, the survey has been repeated by a team led by Professor Lex Comber, who conducted the research at the University of Leicester and is now based at the University of Leeds. They were commissioned by the National Trust to revisit the pioneering mapping project to determine the location and nature of land use change along the coast and establish how successful the Neptune campaign had been.

The new mapping report, which compares the two surveys, shows that a total of three quarters (76%) of the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland remains undeveloped providing an important resource for people and nature.

Much of the land that has remained undeveloped is now protected by landscape or nature conservation designations such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Of the 3,342 miles identified as pristine in 1965, 94% of this has some form of statutory protection.

Along with helping to ensure the coastline is protected from inappropriate development the National Trust will remain dedicated to providing access to the coast by working with others, while caring for its wildlife and heritage. Part of this will be supporting the Government’s commitment to creating a coastal footpath around the whole of England by 2020. Climate change will also accelerate the natural process of coastal change, and in November the Trust will set out its commitment to addressing this challenge.

Watch a video of Professor Lex Comber discussing the project: