NEWS a popular coastal footpath is to be closed for the entire summer season has sparked concern among St Helens residents and businesses.

The footpath will be closed between St Helens Duver and the Mill Warehouse from Monday possibly until the end of October, enabling renovation works to be carried out to ensure the continued use of the building as a workshop by a boat building firm.

Concerns have been raised about the impact on tourism, and businesses have said the closure would damage their popularity this summer.

Paul Knowlson, owner Baywatch on the Beach, said: "Closing the footpath will have a profound effect on my business.

"We only open from April to October and the footpath is one of the main ways people access Baywatch — it's the only level walk from some areas of the village."

Permission was given to close the path by the IW Council and although notice of the closure was available on the council's website, residents said a sign was only put up at the site six days before the path was due to be closed.

Mike Curtis, vice-chair of Bembridge Parish Council, said: "A yellow sign appeared suddenly on Tuesday.

"It gave people six days' notice for a six-month closure of a footpath that tens of thousands of people use in the summer."

IW Council officers and members are due to meet with stakeholders next week to discuss concerns about the closure.

Cllr Dave Stewart, leader of the IW Council, said: “The landowner already has approval for the development and has consent to close the path to undertake the works, but we will be exploring options to reduce the impact on local walkers, especially as this closure would happen during the summer season.”

St Helen's Parish council chairman, Joe Roberston, said: "We appreciate the importance of the proposed restoration work but are seriously concerned about the disruption that will result and the impact this will have on the local economy.

"We are seeking urgent discussions with all parties involved."

The planning application was submitted by Kate Gatenby, who has recently bought a number of large properties in St Helens, including the castle.

She has been blogging about her project to restore the Victorian house and garden by the sea at icapturethecastle.org.