North Devon’s MP has said car parks should have been open to prevent the parked chaos scenes at Woolacombe yesterday (Wednesday, May 20).

The main car parks in Woolacombe, which are privately owned, have been closed despite a surge of visitors. Picture: Selaine SaxbyThe main car parks in Woolacombe, which are privately owned, have been closed despite a surge of visitors. Picture: Selaine Saxby

Selaine Saxby said the situation would have been far better if car parks and toilets had been open, and North Devon was clearly not ready to welcome tourists back yet.

There were scenes of parking mayhem yesterday as visitors double parked, plus parked on double yellow lines and the clear way to Marine Drive at Woolacombe, in fact any spot they could find, making access difficult for locals and emergency vehicles.

The influx appeared to be due to the good weather but also good surf conditions.

Police said ‘every double yellow from Woolacombe to Mortehoe was covered’ and wardens handed out 70 fixed penalty notices.

Cars parked along the Esplanade at Woolacombe all the way up to Mortehoe after the influx of visitors. Picture: Selaine SaxbyCars parked along the Esplanade at Woolacombe all the way up to Mortehoe after the influx of visitors. Picture: Selaine Saxby

They said visiting vehicles had come from all over the country.

Ms Saxby also called on visitors to use common sense and to stay away because North Devon was not ready to receive them.

She said: “Whilst it is disappointing to see such an influx of visitors, the risk to public health if social distancing is adhered to is low.

“However, I have again written to the Prime Minister raising serious concerns about the speed at which we are unlocked and particularly the risks of opening up tourism too soon.

“The situation today would have been far better if all of our car parks and public toilets were open and we clearly are not yet ready to welcome people back to North Devon.

“Slowly releasing the lockdown is going to be difficult, but opening our tourism sector too soon when businesses and local residents are not ready to deal with the necessary measures required, could have serious consequences for our local NHS.”

People are not meant to stay away from their main residence overnight and Ms Saxby said the police had asked that anyone staying overnight in North Devon be reported by calling 101.

She said: “Fines can, and will, be issued to those who are in breach of the no overnight staying guidance, and for those committing offences on our roads by parking illegally and speeding.

“Today has demonstrated that unfortunately not everyone is able to apply common sense to their choice of exercise venue and have put residents at risk by blocking roads.

“People behaving in this manner, pandemic or no pandemic are not welcome in North Devon.”

Elsewhere, the private car parks at Saunton beach and Putsborough were open by closed around lunchtime due to the huge volume of traffic and visitors. It is understood Downend car park also closed.

Last week, Mortehoe Parish Council issued a joint statement with Parkin Estates and Woolacombe Bay Hotel to say since shops and businesses remained closed, the car parks would not be reopening.

It is understood the council is meeting today (May 21) to consider it further.