A GROUP of dog owners say they will fight any proposals by Instow Parish Council to restrict access to the beach for dogs.
The group, headed by environmental campaigner Joanne Bell, from Fremington, say they would be prepared to break the law should rules banning dogs from the Quay end of the beach during the summer season be introduced by the council.
The group fears the council may be looking to do so, after it learned it's looking to consult the public on the idea.
The council will be holding a public meeting on Thursday to discuss the idea, and will also be asking the public how it should clean the beach.
The council received several complaints during 2012 about the standard of cleaning on the beach and councillor Peter Cook, who cleaned the beach, has recently resigned - although it's not known whether he did so as a result of the complaints.
And although the council is, at this stage, only looking into the possibility of barring dogs from part of the beach Mrs Bell is incensed at what she says is a deliberate attempt by the council to keep the meeting quiet.
Holding up a poster inviting parishioners to the meeting she said: "This has only gone to councillors. There have been no posters put up or adverts put out.They want a secret meeting."
Mrs Bell also said she believes Christie's Estates, who own the beach, are unaware of the council's plans.
But Parish clerk Roger Jacob said that wasn't the case. "There's been a notice on the parish notice board since the start of the week," he said, "and it's been on the parish website. We've passed on details to all local organisations and handed out flyers."
Christie's is also aware of the meeting.
Yvonne Fellows, from Bideford, said she would be opposed to the idea of restricting access.
Mrs Fellows, who walks her German Shepherd Kia on the beach, said: "It's never going to be a Blue Flag beach anyway, because of the run-off from the land. And I go on holiday with Kia to places I know she'll be allowed on the beach. A lot of people come to Instow for the same reason.
"Stopping dogs having the run of the beach wouldn't make sense."
She also pointed out that several pubs in Instow are dog friendly, and that banning dogs from part of the beach could hit their business.
And Jeremy Bell, a dog owner who was just one of dozens on the beach this morning, said he and other dog owners would carry out a mass trespass if the rules were introduced.
"There'd be easily 500 plus dog owners here," he said.
"Dogs are free range. They need somewhere to meet other dogs, run around and communicate. Dogs love it. To keep them on a lead or in a small area would be cruel."
Anyone unable to attend Thursday's meeting, in All Saints Community Centre at 7pm, can drop in from 4pm to let the council know their views.
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