A petition has been launched in a bid to prevent a temporary closure of Barnstaple Longbridge.

Devon County Council (DCC) has confirmed it intends to push ahead with plans to temporarily close the bridge to all motor traffic except buses and emergency vehicles.

The closure – which will be in place for an initial three-month period – has been backed by North Devon Council and North Devon MP Selaine Saxby as a way of ensuring walkers and cyclists will be able to socially distance when navigating the town centre.

But the plans have been met with fury on social media, with residents fearing huge amounts of traffic congestion in the town centre.

A petition to Devon County Council to stop the bridge’s closure attracted more than 3,000 signatures in its first 14 hours.

The petition said: “By doing this they will close a vital link to the town centre, impacting businesses. It will also increase travel time for people getting to work, carers getting to those who need support and help.

“They believe it will help reduce pollution. But this will only increase pollution with more vehicles sitting in traffic for longer times.”

DCC’s £338,000 of emergency active travel funding from the Department for Transport is being used for temporary schemes in Barnstaple, Bideford, Exeter and Newton Abbot.

The ‘pop-up’ facilities will provide more space for those walking and cycling, as well as segregating them from traffic.

Other measures in Barnstaple will see the town centre’s pedestrianised area extended to support social distancing and improve cycling links.

Councillor Stuart Huges, DCC member for highways management, said the temporary changes were about making it safe for people to move around more as lockdown restrictions ease, businesses reopen, people return to their workplaces and more children go back to school

He said: ““It’s vital that we continue to follow government guidance to help stop the spread of coronavirus, and this includes social distancing and we need to do everything we can to make that easy for people.

“We’ve agreed to support the MP and North Devon Council’s preference to introduce a temporary restriction to remove traffic, except for buses, cycles and emergency vehicles on the A3125 Longbridge.

“We’ll closely monitor the impact of these temporary measures and assess how well they are working.”