A GIS-based approach has been used to assess existing and potential near-future coastal habitats under different sea-level rise and management scenarios. For six local case studies on the south coast of the UK, difficulties in meeting the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive within individual case study areas were found. The most significant issues were related to intertidal saltmarsh and mudflat areas, which decline under all the sea-level rise scenarios considered. Compensation for these losses in some localities could be achieved through the creation of replacement habitat by the managed realignment of sea defences, often in conjunction with engineered sediment supply to raise intertidal surfaces to levels conducive to vegetation establishment. However, historic land use decisions will restrict this approach in many areas. In particular, managed realignment will lead to a decline in coastal grazing marsh, also a designated habitat under the Directive. However, at wider scales potential exists to compensate for lost coastal grazing marsh with fluvial grazing marsh in adjoining river catchments. Spatial planning offers the potential for future land- banking of these areas, but its implementation may require a reinterpretation of the application of the Habitats Directive.