SCA 2 – Carmarthen Bay- East

Summary description 

The SCA forms the north eastern part of Carmarthen Bay where the estuaries of the Loughor and Three Rivers Complex enter the bay. The shallow waters are populated with large drying sandbanks with intervening narrow shifting tidal channels making navigation hazardous and limited to small boats. There are two major beaches. Pembrey to the north is backed by narrow dunes and coniferous forest used as a country park. Broughton Bay/Whiteford Sands to the south east is backed by dunes and conifers towards the mouth of the Loughor estuary and by low limestone cliffs and agricultural land and caravan parks to the south. There is significant nature conservation interest in the area including large populations of wading and over wintering birds, dunes and the intertidal zone is harvested for cockles and mussels. The open beaches are exposed to the prevailing winds and there are panoramic views across Carmarthen Bay to and from Gower and its coastal hills.

Key characteristics

  • Gently shelving shallow eastern edge of Carmarthen Bay with two major estuaries adjacent depositing sand and sediment into waters forming shifting sandbanks and channels.
  • Large exposed beach at Cefn Sidan and Pembrey Sands backed by narrow dunes and coniferous forest.
  • Gently concave beach at Whiteford Sands backed by dunes and rectilinear coniferous plantations.
  • Concave beach at Broughton Bay backed by low limestone cliffs and an agricultural hinterland.
  • Variety of important marine and coastal habitats forming part of Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries SAC, Carmarthen Bay SPA , Carmarthen Bay Important Bird Area, Burry Inlet RAMSAR site and SPA, Pembrey Coast, Whiteford Bay and Pendine Burrows SSSIs and Whiteford National Nature Reserve.
  • Biodiversity interest includes important numbers of waders, overwintering birds and dune systems.
  • The treacherous nature of the shifting sands and shallow seas have caused many wrecks over time mainly wooden sailing vessels from the 19th century. The distinctive disused Victorian Whiteford Lighthouse is a reminder of the area’s historical use for trade.
  • Pembrey has remnants of a Word War 1 munitions factory and World War 2 infrastructure.
  • The Pembrey Coast forms part of the Taf and Tywi estuary Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest. The coast and hinterland to the south east form part of Gower Landscape of Historic Interest.
  • The coast of Gower is covered by both a Heritage Coast and an AONB designation, and Gower Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest.
  • The tidal waters are potentially hazardous and are currently mainly used by a few small leisure/fishing craft from Burry Port or Tenby/Saundersfoot.
  • There is hand gathering of cockles and mussels, and mussel seed dredging.
  • The beaches at Pembrey and Broughton Bay with its caravan parks are moderately popular, the former for a range of activities as well as swimming including windsurfing.
  • In the less accessible parts of these exposed large beaches, there is tranquillity, with some wildlife watching.
  • The majority of the Pembrey coast is simple, very large scale and unspoilt by structures which are discreetly located in the adjoining dunes and forest, apart from the RAF control tower.
  • The Gower coast is largely undeveloped with development confined to clusters in and around Broughton Bay.
  • Long and varied views are possible across Carmarthen Bay, to and from Gower, with Llanmadoc Hill and Rhossili Down particularly prominent.

Forces for change

These can be divided into:

  • Natural processes
  • Visitor pressure
  • Marine use- commercial and leisure fishing
  • Offshore energy or minerals
  • Development pressure
  • Land management changes
  • MOD use


Initial thoughts are:

The natural forces for change are the outer edges of the adjoining estuaries which are currently sediment sinks with changing patterns of sand, beach sands which are a dynamic environment for net sediment deposition and transport, with both onshore and longshore movement, and dunes vulnerable to storm damage.

Sea level rise will greatly affect this area. The SMP long-term objectives are to manage the realignment of the coast over time. The small localised defence structures (detached rock breakwaters) at Pembrey are likely to be outflanked by the continued retreat of the dunes and so should be removed. The SMP recommends that adaption/resilience measures are developed to manage the risk of coastal erosion and flooding at RAF Pembrey Sands. In the long term, as a result of sea level rise, increased risk of erosion and tidal flooding the range may need to be relocated.

Other forces for change include:

  • Use by the MOD of the sand dunes and outer estuary for training which degrades the aesthetic and physical character of the area, reducing tranquillity.
  • Possible withdrawal of MOD with potential for improvement of character, although increased access may increase other impacts.
  • Major plans to develop Burry Port harbour & hinterland to compliment the Millennium Coast Path from Llanelli – although these plans have been in existence for several years.
  • Potential expansion of leisure facilities such as caravan parks which can be visually intrusive and reduce tranquillity.
  • Motor-based sea uses reducing tranquillity.