PLANS to site signs connected with controversial plans to introduce fines for anyone parking overnight at a Pembrokeshire beach made world famous by Harry Potter were given the go-ahead on Wednesday, July 31.

Subject to planning permission of associated signs, enforcement action is to be introduced at Freshwater West in a bid to crack down on illegal overnight camping, with fines of £100.

In an application before Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s development management committee on July 31, the National Trust sought permission to site 10 signs on the three parking areas at Freshwater West.

The plans to introduce fines have proved contentious, with nearly 600 letters of objection received, and more than 8,000 signatures on a related online petition.

Jonathan Hughes, on behalf of the National Trust, told committee members: “We do not want to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut; we’ve tried very hard to manage it safely over a very long time, we’ve tried to enforce it, we’ve politely asked people to move on and have been met with hostility, we’ve struggled to enforce it through diplomatic means.”

He added: “We’ve tried to come up with what we consider an appropriate and proportionate approach to an issue that is only increasing every year.”

Councillor Tony Wilcox said Angle Community Council said it had not been involved in any consultation, describing it as ‘a fait accompli’ and a ‘a sledgehammer’.

He added: “Have you ever given any though to the fact that you’ve allowed blockbuster films to be portrayed down there; didn’t you realise this would attract a lot more people, people coming down to see the shell cottage [the house of two characters from the Harry Potter films]; you’ve profited greatly by this.”

Mr Hughes said: “We’re really not trying to stop people enjoying Freshwater West.

“We do not think this is a ‘sledgehammer’, we think this is a reasonable approach for a small period, this application has been arrived at in consultation, it’s not a decision which has been taken lightly.

“This is not aimed at any particular user groups, it’s overnight parking in the car parks.”

Cllr Wilcox said: “This has been called in because of local concern; it would be wrong of us not to discuss the reason behind these signs. There’s a wealth of evidence to say it’s not only obstructive, but not effective.

“There’s no data, they don’t know how many vehicles are transgressing this.

“I would really urge members not to support this, it is a sledgehammer, it’s totally unnecessary.

“They are putting the cart before the horse, they should have the information before them today, the Trust have been a little bit blasé; these signs are not required, they are not an issue.”

Members agreed to follow to recommendation for the signs’ approval for a 12-month trial period.