The Westward Ho! gate has been closed this week due to concerns over health and safety, and several ‘near misses’.

TORRIDGE District Council has closed the Westward Ho! entrance to Northam Burrows after it became a ‘victim of its own success’.

The council said the narrow access road was closed this week for ‘health and safety reasons’ to avoid collisions between traffic going in and out.

A council spokesman said the decision was down to an ‘assessed risk to pedestrians and other vehicles’ which the council was ‘obliged’ to act on, after a number of ‘near misses’.

A new gate was installed at the Westward Ho! entrance to block all traffic apart from emergency vehicles and cars have been directed towards the other entrances.

Shawn Corin, senior ranger at Northam Burrows, said: “It’s a victim of its own success – as more people come to Westward Ho! and visit the Burrows, the greater the likelihood of an accident happening in that narrow lane, and even on the main road.

“There are long term plans for that part of the Burrows which include the construction of a proper car park which we believe will help alleviate the congestion and minimise any risk to the public.”

But many residents were unhappy at the move and have organised a protest against the closure on Saturday morning at the Sandymere entrance to the burrows.

Discussions have been taking place on social networking site Facebook to organise the protest.

Ray Webster, head of environmental health, housing and public protection, said: “There were real issues last year; we had some near misses because the road is now only single lane and where previously motorists could pull in to allow others to pass, that is not now the case.

“It would be irresponsible of us to allow people to be put at risk in this way.”

The council said the gate could potentially remain closed until next year when the council hopes to build a new car park at the Westward Ho! entrance.

The first 150-200 yards of the Westward Ho! entrance have been closed off with only emergency services having access to the gate.

The news comes before the busy May bank holiday weekend, and just days after Westward Ho! received its 10th blue flag award in a row.

Councillor Roger Tisdale, ward member for Westward Ho!, said: “Emergency vehicles will still have access into the burrows through the Westward Ho! gate, but other drivers who wish to take their vehicles onto the burrows will now have to use the Sandymere or Watertown entrances.

“I hope this will not discourage people from visiting our wonderful Blue Flag beach and Country Park.”

What is your reaction to the council’s decision to close the access? Contact reporter Sarah Howells on sarah.howells@archant.co.uk, call 01271 341658, or tweet us @northdevon24.