Council admits it was ‘too hasty’ and offers free parking and access for 10 days.

Torridge District Council has opened the gates at Northam Burrows.Torridge District Council has opened the gates at Northam Burrows.

GATES at the entrance to Northam Burrows will remain unlocked during the bank holiday weekend following an eleventh-hour u-turn by Torridge District Council.

Following a crisis meeting with traders today (Friday), the council has also decided to offer completely free access and parking on the Burrows for the next 10 days.

The council was widely criticised this week for installing gates on the Westward Ho! access road just days before the bank holiday weekend.

Locals were so incensed by the decision to limit access to the award winning Blue Flag beach that the wooden gate was sawn into small pieces just hours after it was installed.

Newly elected council leader Councillor Phil Collins admitted that the council had been ‘a little hasty this week’.

He said: “After a very constructive meeting with local traders, and in recognition of Westward Ho! beach attaining the Blue Flag status for the 10th year running, we have agreed to allow completely free access to and parking on Northam Burrows for the next 10 days.

“The gates at Westward Ho!, Sandymere and Watertown will be open and unmanned from now until Monday, June 3.

“I accept that we have been perhaps a little hasty this week in our actions, but having met with local residents and businesses, I hope this gesture will show everyone that we are in fact a council that actually does listen.”

Addressing the health and safety issues publicly expressed by the council previously, Cllr Collins said: “We are still concerned with the traffic congestion at the Westward Ho! gate, and especially the risk to pedestrians and families with children.

“I would urge drivers to be especially careful this bank holiday weekend and over the half term holidays.”

Local traders have welcomed the council’s change of heart.

North Devon Surf School’s Justin Hillyer called the move ‘a suitable short-term solution’.

Cllr Collins added: “We have come to a temporary solution so that everyone can enjoy what Westward Ho! and Northam Burrows have to offer over the holidays.

“But after half term we will have to lock the Westward Ho! gate while we discuss what the best permanent solution will be, what arrangements are possible, or whether the proposed car park is built with pay and display machines.

“The other vehicular access gates to the Burrows will remain open and of course this year we have reduced the fees considerably.”

Access to Northam Burrows will be completely free for all vehicles from Saturday, May 25 until Monday, June 3.