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 spatial analysis using its ArcGIS software. First it calculated the area of dry sand on each beach, using 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 pubs and restaurants set to reopen, it's expected that many popular beach destinations will become extremely busy. Access roads to Durdle Door were closed again last Wednesday and Thursday when parking limits were reached and to ensure social distancing could be maintained at the beach.
"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. "Obviously the figures come with some caveats, as most beach goers are in groups of more than one, people don't remain static but spatial analysis can help give a rapid indication of capacity, for a range of different spaces under these unprecedented circumstances."
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