Fear of restrictions on dogs at parts of Instow Beach have the canine community up in arms

Dog owners have turned out in force on Instow Beach to show their opposition to a ban on their four-legged friends.

Instow Parish Council is considering restrictions to exclude dogs from the beach between Lane End Road and the Quay between April 1 and September 30.

They say it would make the beach more child-friendly and that a restriction would still leave a large section of beach for dogs to enjoy.

But Joanne Bell, who has two dogs and regularly walks them at Instow, told the Gazette: "If Instow Beach was child friendly we would of course be happy to accept dog restrictions.

"However, Christie Estates, the council and DEFRA have various notices all along the beach front warning of dangerous tidal currents, quicksand, polluted water quality from outfalls and sewage discharge and farm run-off.

"This is an estuary; not a family beach. It is a really delightful place to be and I am sad that a small minority on the parish council who dislike dogs never seem to be happy unless they are causing divisions within the community."

An online poll run by the Gazette attracted more than 1,000 voters, with 63 per cent opposed to banning dogs from parts of the beach.

Holidaymaker Nichola Hegarty from Epsom in Surrey told us: "My dog gets so excited when she walks through the door when we arrive because she knows she's near the dog beach.

"This beach is one of the cleanest beaches because we are conscious of the fact that we need to pick up after out dogs."

Jeremy Bell was concerned at Instow failing the bathing water test for 21 of the past 22 years.

He said: "How can it be a dog-free beach when it never gets blue flag status? Let's talk about South West water's responsibility before we start talking about other things."

To achieve restrictions, it has been suggested by a working group that the parish council asks North Devon Council to create a 'public spaces protection order'.

The chairman of the council's Beach Management Working Group said: "Instow Parish Council has always endeavoured to ensure that there is a safe and enjoyable environment for residents and visitors whilst they are using Instow beach.

"The council is currently undertaking a periodic review of the need for some form of control on dogs on the beach.

"At its meeting in April the council considered a proposal which, if taken forward, would restrict dogs on an area of about a quarter of Instow beach for part of the year and councillors agreed to take advice from North Devon Council about the feasibility of this proposal.

"No decision has yet been taken about this proposal. As part of the decision-making procedure, consultations will be held with Instow residents and with the Christie Estate, which owns part of the area of the beach. If the proposal is implemented, there would still be a large area of the beach where dogs would be free to roam without restrictions."