Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks has defended criticisms that it is keeping its parks open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Gazette has been contacted by several people concerned that visitors from areas such as London will flock to North Devon this spring and bring the virus with them, potentially placing a strain on local NHS services. There have also been many comments on social media.

The company has three parks at Woolacombe Bay, Twitchen House and Easewell Farm but has closed its Woolacombe Bay Hotel in the village.

Kevin Darvill, sales and marketing director, told the Gazette there had been no Government advice for businesses to close.

He said; “We appreciate it’s a very difficult situation but as far as we know, every other holiday park in the area is staying open as well.

“From a local point of view, if we were to shut down we would be criticised for laying off 300 people.

“It’s a very difficult balancing act at the moment but we are conscious of peoples’ concerns.”

Mr Darvill said the park was actively encouraging customers to move their holidays to the summer, autumn or even next year at no extra cost.

Debbie Thomas from North Devon contacted the Gazette to raise her concerns. She said: “Should we be encouraging people to move around the country. I just left hospital with mum, she’s had pneumonia and neutropenia due to chemotherapy.

“I mentioned to her consultant the campsite in our village was full of people in caravans, she says it is irresponsible of the site owners for possibly helping the spreading of this virus.

“We have less cases here than a lot of the country, why are we encouraging people to come and possibly bring more virus, putting more strain on our hospitals and resources. We’re all struggling to get food in our supermarkets , because of the greed of some people, what’s going to happen when we get hundreds maybe thousands of others coming to the county, we can barely feed ourselves now.”

But Mr Darvill said the park was taking various measures in addition to closing the hotel.

The bus from parks to beach is cancelled, tables and chairs have been removed from the bars and the parks are expecting to close down their facilities such as cinemas and kids’ clubs.

He said: “What advice we have had has clearly left the decision up to individual businesses and consumers – they have not said don’t travel, they are just saying keep the social measures in place.

“We are living in utterly unprecedented times, there is no handbook for this.”