Freshwater West – Sustainable Visitor Management Plan

Visitor Management PlanClient: National Trust

Freshwater West is a beautiful beach of golden sand backed by dunes on the Castlemartin Peninsula in a remote, rural location in south west Pembrokeshire within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

It is arguably Wales’ premier surfing beach and is much loved by local people and visitors, popular with beach-goers, dog walkers and surfers alike. Its use as the location for filming the Shell House and Dobby’s grave for the Harry Potter movies has led to it being a destination for many of the book’s fans.

There is limited visitor infrastructure – toilets, a small car park (with overflow) and mobile catering operation (the previous mobile operator was a key attraction in its own right – generating coverage in the national media). An activity concession operates from the beach in respect of watersports uses and the RNLI has had a life-saving station on the beach during the peak season recognising the popularity of the beach and the strong rip tides that occur here. There are two memorial stones commemorating the loss of 37 Royal Marines who were drowned in an accident offshore in 1943. The dunes are designated as a SSSI due to the high quality of the habitat and the rarity of the species that are found here.

Freshwater West has become very busy – which has accelerated because of the filming of Harry Potter and due to the COVID pandemic. Additionally, the growth in the use of motorhomes and campervans has placed more pressure on the parking spaces available. Visitor pressure has also been placed on the environment with erosion of the sand dunes, creation of ‘new informal paths’, beach fires and littering.

The result is that visitor pressure exceeds capacity on a growing number of days. This has led to traffic congestions at peak times. This also presents difficulties in terms of road access for local people, farmers and the emergency services. All of which impacts on the quality of the visitor experience and local host communities.

Planning Solutions Consulting were commission to carry out a feasibility study and prepare a sustainable visitor management plan for Freshwater West. The feasibility study and sustainable visitor management and development plan needed take into account existing designations and the local planning policy frameworks.

A range of key stakeholders from the National Trust, through to the County Council, Community Councils, Natural Resources Wales, RNLI, local communities and businesses, landowners, the MOD and visitors (both local and tourists) were engaged throughout work. This included face-to-face meetings, online group discussions, online meetings, ‘pop-up’ sessions at Freshwater West and two visitor surveys which generated just under 5,000 responses. This helped to provide a strong evidence base for the development of the sustainable visitor management and development plan.

The solutions focussed on an identified a range of costed actions which when combined will help to address a number of key issues. The actions had to take into account the implications of climate change, ensuring that any environmental impacts are minimised or offset and that the landscape characteristics are maintained.

How can we help?
If you are thinking of developing a visitor management and would like to the discuss this on an informal basis please feel free to contact Richard Linington on 07866 742628 or via email: