A landowner and businessman has defended closing off a popular Stewartry beach to the general public.
Farmer John McConchie has restricted Mossyard to private use only because he fears a Covid-19 outbreak.
Mr McConchie and wife Jo run Mossyard Holiday Park on their working seaside farm near Gatehouse.
At present only on-site holidaymakers have full use of the beach.
Anyone else arriving by car is being met with “beach closed due to Covid-19” signs.
Speaking to the News at Mossyard on Tuesday, Mr McConchie claimed extra visitors pose an infection risk.
He said: “We reopened the caravan park on July 18 and the site is full.
“We will have 400 people on site and our first priority is to keep our customers that are here safe.
“The car park has always been open in any normal year and people get access to the beach through our land. We are very happy to share that with them – but this year is different.
“We get 100 cars down at the beach during the summer. That’s 400 extra people to keep socially distant – and we can’t do that.
“We don’t want to put our customers in the position of having those extra people there.”
Mossyard opened up after the Scottish Government eased lockdown restrictions.
Self-catering, touring and camping pitches are already booked up for weeks ahead.
Mr McConchie added: “When the tide is in our beach becomes very small and we could not do things safely.
“All it takes is for one person to test positive and spread it to somebody else and we could be shut down. We have no means of monitoring them.
“If the beach is open we will have rubbish and faeces and all the stuff that goes with that.”
According to Mrs McConchie, the closure decision prompted a stream of verbal and online insults.
She said: “Myself and our staff are getting abuse daily because the beach is closed.
“This is all about health and safety. But all they are interested in is their right to access the beach regardless.
“When the bulk of the holiday season is past we will review the position.”
Mr and Mrs McConchie confirmed they were in discussion with the council over the issue.
A council spokesperson said: “The owner is aware that access rights apply to those wishing to take responsible access to the beach, bearing in mind the current requirement for social distancing and no restrictions are in place to stop them.
“The issue actually relates to the car park, which has historically been provided by the owner.
“It remains closed as the owner doesn’t at present have the resources to manage this effectively. This will be reviewed in September.”
Local councillor Dougie Campbell said: “I’ve been made aware of concerns raised about access to the beach at Mossyard and that signs were put up saying the beach is closed.
“However, the public have the right to use the beach at Mossyard and the road leading to the beach from the A75 is a public right of way.
“I’ve been advised by council officers that the farmer whose land the road passes to access the beach was asked both in writing and verbally to remove the signs indicating the beach is closed.
“It is of course important to remind people that we are still in the midst of a pandemic.
“All Scottish Government guidance on Covid-19 should be followed rigidly by everyone using the beach whether they are residents of the adjacent caravan park or members of the general public.”