New gate sawn off in protest over council’s move to close Northam Burrows access at Westward Ho! without prior consultation.
TORRIDGE District Council has been slammed by local residents for closing an access road to one of Westward Ho’s main car parks just days before the bank holiday weekend.
One person even displayed their anger at the closure of the Westward Ho! entrance to Northam Burrows by sawing the newly installed gate into small pieces.
Yesterday morning (Thurs) Torridge District Council discovered the secondary gate it had installed 150m from the entrance had been left as a pile of sawn-up wood.
A police spokesman confirmed the incident had happened sometime between 10pm on Wednesday and 8am on Thursday.
The damage to the £130 gate was logged by officers and is being investigated.
The council said the narrow access road to Northam Burrows was closed this week for ‘health and safety reasons’ to avoid collisions between traffic going in and out.
It claimed a number of ‘near misses’ had occurred on the road which posed a risk to vehicles and pedestrians.
But businesses and residents have complained to the council stating there had been no public consultation and the near misses were a ‘fabrication’.
Justin Hillyer, owner of the North Devon Surf School, said the first he knew of the closure was when he spotted officers locking the gate and putting a sign on it.
“I thought it was a practical joke at first,” he said.
“When I asked what was happening they told me it was council cut backs and that they didn’t have the funding to staff the gate.
“Then a couple of days later they said it was closed because they were going to develop the car park.
“Now they have come out with this health and safety line.
“We’re here practically 24-seven and have never seen any near misses in that time.”
Mr Hillyer said the closure would have an effect on the amount of passing trade the surf school gets.
“I’ve also had a number of restaurants ring me up saying they don’t know where they’re going to send their customers to park now,” he said.
“On a sunny day in Westward Ho! the car parks will be full by 10am; people are going to be parking all over the roads and it will be a nightmare for residents.”
Councillor Barry Mason, the mayor of Northam, said he only found out about the closure when he received a letter from a residents’ association through his door.
“I was quite angry at the time and didn’t know the full details,” said Cllr Mason.
“But having looking into it more I now feel the situation is totally unjustified.
“There has been a complete lack of communication between Torridge District Council and Northam Town Council.
“I have had meetings, and more meetings, and I have another meeting together with Torridge’s leader this afternoon.
“I want the gate reopened and for there to be a proper consultation.”
Rob Braddick, who owns several businesses in Westward Ho! said: “Personally I think it’s a bit upsetting; we’ve just got a blue flag award for the 10th year in a row.
“Now they are shutting the one main entrance to the beach.”
Mr Braddick said he did not use the road much but did not think it was dangerous.
Torridge District Council confirmed the gate could potentially be closed for the rest of the summer.
A spokesman dismissed rumours of cut backs and said that was not the reason for the closure of the gate.
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.”