Analysis by Esri UK examines beach capacity ahead of holidays

July 03, 2020 -- Ahead of lockdown restrictions easing further in July, Esri UK has examined how many people could hypothetically fit on some of the UK's most popular beaches, following social distancing guidelines.

Following last Thursday's scenes in Bournemouth, where a reported half a million people descended onto the beach, Esri UK's analysis reveals that only an estimated 78,000 people could realistically fit.

Other beaches surveyed include Brighton (60,000 capacity), Newquay (24,000), Barafundle (3,000) and Luskentyre (24,000).

The method used placed one person inside a 2m diameter circle (following the 2m social distancing guidelines) but with an additional 2m of space between each circle, to represent a hypothetical estimation of beach capacity, allowing some space for people to move around.

Esri UK carried out the analysis using its ArcGIS software. First it calculated the area of dry sand on each beach, with the MasterMap Topography Layer® from Ordnance Survey (OS), using average high tides. Then calculated how many 2m circles could fit on each beach with 2m space between each circle.

With holiday makers in England allowed to stay away overnight from Saturday 4th July and pubs and restaurants set to reopen, it's expected that many popular beach destinations will become extremely busy.

"We wanted to examine how many people could hypothetically fit on a beach ahead of the main UK holiday season," said Sam Bark, cartographer at Esri UK which carried out the analysis. "Obviously the figures come with some caveats, as most beach goers are in groups of more than one, people don't remain static and tend to congregate at the water's edge, the back of a beach or around amenities, but spatial analysis can help give a rapid indication of capacity, for a range of different spaces under these unprecedented circumstances."

Beach capacity statistics, ranked by beach size:

Beach name

Beach area (m2)

Number of 2m diameter circles with 2m gaps in-between

Perranporth, Cornwall, England



Bournemouth, Dorset, England



Brighton, East Sussex, England



Portobello, Edinburgh, Scotland



Whitley Bay, Newcastle, England



Luskentyre, Scotland



Newquay, Cornwall, England



Weymouth, Dorset, England



Barafundle, Pembrokeshire, Wales



Durdle Door, Dorset, England





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