Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs Interest Group

About us

Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs (FOHBAC) was founded on 7th May 2016. Our initial campaign was to stop Christchurch Borough Council (CBC) allowing the building of 12 large overnight Beach Retreats that were to be sited on the cliffs between Highcliffe Castle and The Cliffhanger Cafe as part of a competition being run jointly by CBC and Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, produced by Plum Pictures Ltd.

We are pleased to announce this was achieved on Monday 8th August 2016 when after extensive pressure from the residents of Highcliffe Plum Pictures Ltd ended their agreement with Christchurch Borough Council for the beach retreat competition.

FOHBAC would like to thank everyone for their tremendous support and efforts to help put a stop to the competition.

To carry on with the campaign to protect the SSSI cliffs at Highcliffe from any type of development being located along this beautiful piece of coastline we have now formed The FOHBAC Interest Group. The steering group members, Nigel Brooks, Richard Chatterton and Josephine Pollen have filled the three principal offices on the Committee together with Susan Chitty and Peter Fenning. We are all working tirelessly, on your behalf, to protect our beautiful coastline.

We invited author and Natural History writer for the Guardian, Patrick Barkham and Highcliffe resident and author Joy Shellard to be our patrons. We are delighted to announce that both have agreed.

Patrick Barkham’s first book ‘The Butterfly Isles’ was shortlisted for the 2011 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje prize. This was followed by ‘Badgerlands’ and was quoted as “a must read for all Britain’s naturalists” by Chris Packham and again shortlisted for both the 2014 RSL Ondaatje Prize and the inaugural Wainwright Prize for Nature and Travel Writing. In April 2015 Patrick’s book ‘Coastlines’ was published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the National Trust’s campaign to save the British coast.

Our local author Joy Shellard wrote ‘Highcliffe’s Pot of Gold’ which was published in 2013. This tells about the 120 different species of wild flower to be found on our cliffs. A quote from her book ‘we are indeed extremely fortunate to have an almost unbelievable variety of flowers in such a small area’. Joy’s other books include ‘A child of the Home Front: 1939-1945 published in 2003 and ‘My Jurassic Playground: From First to Second Childhood’ published in 2011.

If you would like to become a member of the FOHBAC Interest Group please sign up to our mailing list.

For your information you can read and download FOHBAC Interest group constitution pdf.

PDF download

Download Interest Group Constitution


Contact us

To contact us about the campaign, please email [please enable scripting to view email address]

The Campaign

Christchurch Borough Council were proposing to site 12 overnight beach retreats on SSSI cliffs at Highcliffe. Each beach retreat would have accommodated up to 6 people to live in for a week’s holiday at a time. However the beach retreats would have no running water or mains electricity and there were no shower or toilet facilities on site.

A competition was being run by CBC who teamed up with the TV production company, Plum Pictures, Channel 4 and celebrity architect George Clarke (of programmes such as ‘Amazing Spaces’ and ‘Shed of the Year’). The competition was open to all and the winning designers were each to be given a budget of £8000, of tax payers money, to spend on material to build their “innovative and exciting” beach retreats.

The competition ended on 1st May, the winners were due to be picked on 13th May and the winning designs completed by 28th August, when the 12 designs were to be transported to Highcliffe. The installation process would have taken place during the week beginning 5th September.

CBC were and are still adamant that planning consent is not required as overnight beach retreats or day huts can be classed as having ‘permitted development rights’. This has been vigorously contested by experts and residents and we are still contesting this at the highest level.

CBC, who own the cliff face site acted with secrecy throughout. CBC’s Resources Committee agreed the proposal at their meeting on 2nd December 2015 but excluded the public and press from accessing any knowledge of what was going on and the financial implications.

Highcliffe residents only became aware of this proposal from an article in the Bournemouth Echo (online) on Wednesday 23 March featuring Councillor Vicki Hallam and CBC’s Community and Open Spaces Manager Matt Reeks with a photo of them pointing at the potential cliff face locations. However, the competition was being advertised to those in the know by Plum Pictures as early as 16th March.

The cliff face is part of a SSSI which is protected in law for its geology and CBC have been given stark warnings by a Professor of Geographical and Environmental Sciences that interference with the cliff face and drainage would give rise to significant long term risks in respect of stability and erosion.

CBC failed to answer any of our questions or respond to most emails and we, the residents, were not happy. The conclusion many of us came to was that this was the wrong location for these beach retreats and CBC should bring the proposal to an end straightaway.

The council continued to proceed with the plan until Monday 8th August when Plum Pictures served Christchurch Borough Council with notification of termination of the Agreement to run a competition for overnight beach retreats at Highcliffe cliffs.

The campaign has received tremendous support from local residents and public from further afield. We are all delighted with the outcome.

Please note the campaign continues.

At the Scrutiny and Policy Overview Committee meeting held on 19th July a Scoping Group was formed whose purpose is to investigate the project from inception to delivery.

FOHBAC have asked to be kept informed of any meetings that will be taking place and requested that we are invited to attend these meetings.

It was agreed that the findings of the Scoping Group would be presented to a Special meeting of the Scrutiny & Policy Overview Committee. We believe this is to be held on 19th September 2016.

FOHBAC understands that the council is still considering future developments at Highcliffe and this may include day huts. We intend to continue to monitor this with a view to preventing any development of this kind at Highcliffe. We feel that the Christchurch area already has an abundance of beach huts, many of which are unused even in peak summer season, offering the visitor views of rows of locked huts. Highcliffe, with its special flora and fauna and its unique geology, needs to be protected from this kind of creeping development. We at FOHBAC have many ideas of what is needed at Highcliffe to attract visitors and locals alike and we intend to continue to work, hopefully with the support of the council, to implement these.

Latest news

05 Feb 17

Highcliffe Castle Tea Rooms

You may have already seen the following covered by the The Bournemouth Echo and on Streetlife for our area or perhaps have read the article in The Times on Thursday 2nd February about Christchurch Councils proposal to award a Catering Concession, following a Tender, to a US $ billion company, Aramark, at Highcliffe Castle Tea Rooms.

Many residents feel this is the wrong decision for Highcliffe, a multi-national Facilities Management company, which primarily operates in the Health, Prisons and School/Universities sector taking on a relatively small catering outlet in Highcliffe. Further many local suppliers to the existing catering concession will undoubtedly lose business, with profits going to a US conglomerate company

Accordingly a new interest group, Friends of Highcliffe Castle Tea Rooms is being formed to enable residents to have their say and so that their views can be collectively put to not only Christchurch Council but also Aramark in the UK and US.

An urgent public meeting is to held on Tuesday 7th February at 6.30pm, at the Old School House, Lymington Road, Highcliffe, by kind arrangement with the Highcliffe Residents Association.


29 Jan 17

Christchurch Council's Scrutiny and Overview Committee Interim Report

There is a short article in the Bournemouth Echo online  (Friday 27 January) about the Christchurch Council's Scrutiny and Overview Committee Interim Report about the Beach Retreats fiasco. There is a link to the Report below so you can see all the points the committee have so far recorded.

Click here to read.

The FOHBAC Steering Group are pleased to see that the total lack of consultation and transparency with residents is acknowledged. Further, at various stages misinformation about the support for the Beach Retreats was given, which has played a large part in the feeling of mistrust in Christchurch Council.

We look forward to seeing the final report, which we believe will come before the Scrutiny and Overview Committee at their March meeting.

Please note The Interim Report (item 9) will be discussed at the Scrutiny Committee meeting this coming Wednesday, 1st February  at 6.00pm.


07 Nov 16

Join our Steering Group

The campaign to stop Christchurch Council (CBC) building Beach Retreats/Huts on our precious cliffs has been a phenomenal success, but there is still work to do. 

We are now looking for several keen followers, who have already signed up as FOHBAC Interest Group members, to join the Steering Group, which has consisted of five members during the period of the campaign. 

FOHBAC are in an ongoing dialogue, as well as meetings, with CBC to ensure that, firstly, the £50,000 Coastal Revival Fund monies are productively spent on  physical improvements to the cliff paths and access routes and secondly any further grants/funding secured are ‘targeted’ at maintaining/enhancing what is already there.   

We have also been consulted and attended site meetings with CBC about the Castle ‘zig zag’ path reinstatement works, which are about to start. 

The Council Members Scrutiny and Overview committee will shortly report on their investigations into CBC’s failed project to build the Retreats in partnership with Plum Pictures/Channel 4. FOHBAC Steering Group members provided a significant file of papers and background information on the project to the Committee.    

If you are keen to become involved and feel you can, as it were, take the ‘baton’ of FOHBAC and its objectives forward, with enthusiasm, we would like to hear from you. Drop us an e-mail to: info@fohbac.org.uk , saying a bit about yourself so we have some idea about what you can contribute.

The Steering Group will now probably meet, once a month, during the daytime at a Group members home, (or more regularly if ‘events’ demand). During the campaign it was weekly. 

Looking forward to hearing from you.


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Highcliffe beach, Dorset