Somerset West and Taunton has adopted a new innovative App to safeguard visitors and residents to Minehead and other beaches around the UK.
The UK Beach Check App allows beachgoers to stay Covid-safe by checking congestion levels at popular coastal areas before visiting, and either choosing less populated zones or beaches with lesser crowding to help maintain social distancing.
The App is based on a simple traffic light system displaying congestion levels for individually listed beaches or via an interactive map as either red (crowded), amber (less congested) or green (uncongested).
Congestion updates are provided throughout the day using a mix of sources. The App predicts how busy areas are likely to become based on historic data, weather and footfall counter data.
This is supplemented with regular manual updates provided by the team at Minehead BID from overhead panoramic cameras. The cameras are not CCTV; instead they provide static images of Minehead’s beachfront on request to help determine congestion levels.
UK Beach Check App was initially launched by Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council in 2020 to alleviate overcrowding of its beaches seen at the end of the first lockdown.
The App is now being rolled-out to coastal authorities nationally and the Council has adopted it as part of its Covid-safety planning. As further costal authorities adopt the App, it will provide a comprehensive safety monitoring resource for visitors across the UK.
Executive Member for Economic Development, Cllr Marcus Kravis, said: “We decided to adopt the Beach Check App in line with our Covid-safety planning as we recognised the value it can provide keeping visitors and residents safe when planning a trip to Minehead’s seafront. It allows users to plan ahead and visit quieter areas to maintain social distancing.
“Now that the App has been officially launched, we can provide more details behind the recently installed cameras at Minehead Beach that work in conjunction with it. To allay any privacy concerns, these only send low-res distance shots on request to the Minehead BID team, enabling them to set the congestion colour for each zone displayed via the App's map.
“As the lockdown continues to ease, I encourage visitors to stay safe and download the App to check the crowding status beforehand.”
Minehead BID Manager, Andrew Hopkins, added: “Minehead BID is delighted to support this national project and to take on responsibility for updating the Beach Check App.
“Throughout the last year working with Somerset West and Taunton and other partners, we have been encouraging people to come back and safely visit our beautiful beach and town. Accommodation bookings are looking very encouraging and our many independent retail and hospitality businesses are ready to welcome new and old visitors.
“We are all looking forward to a very vibrant summer ahead and would encourage visitors planning to visit Minehead to download the App and check the congestion rating before visiting us.”
The national roll-out has been funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, including maintenance costs for the first year at no expense to local authorities.
The App is free of charge and simple to use, downloadable from Google Play or the App store, with no in-app purchases.
The key features of the App include:
Congestion status for individual beaches and via an interactive map
Management of ‘favourite’ beach locations
Information and availability of parking, toilets, cycling routes and dog exercise areas
To find out how to use UK Beach Check App, watch the video on England's Coast’s YouTube Channel.