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

23 Nov 17

Highcliffe Castle – zig-zag path

You can now show your support to see the zig-zag rebuilt! Martin Stewart, Stewart's Garden Centre, has kindly sponsored car stickers and badges which are available from the Christchurch Stewart’s Garden Centre and a number of shops in Highcliffe village. They will probably will go quickly, so don’t delay!

Nigel Brooks

Zig Zag car sticker


31 Oct 17

Important update: Tuesday 31 October 2017

Full Council Meeting

AT LAST  **********SUCCESS*********** the Council voted this evening, Tuesday 31 October (by 13 votes to 6) to rescind its previous decision to close the zig-zag completely and, instead, they agreed to fully investigate alternative ways to proceed and then seek tenders for the work.

That's a really positive step forward and we'll continue to do everything we can to ensure that the Path does get rebuilt. It may not happen overnight but .... watch this space.

If you're at a loose end on Friday morning 3 November (say, around 10.30am) and would like to meet some of our team of 5 ‘retired professionals’ and perhaps have a look at the two documents we prepared for Councillors ahead of tonight's meeting, then do please pop round to the Highcliffe Castle, Castle Kitchen. If you have been actively involved in the campaign, by way of a 'Thank you for your support’ Bob Hutchings and Nigel Brooks would love to buy you a nice hot cup of something.

Best wishes


29 Oct 17

Note to supporters

Highcliffe Castle Zig-Zag re-build project

Full Council Meeting 6.00pm Tuesday 31 October
As you probably know, after Christchurch Council resolved to close the Zigzag path we set up a group (consisting of 5 retired professionals with the following skills: Civil Engineering, Construction, Geology, Surveying and Finance) to fight the decision. We have been working hard since that diabolic resolution was passed on 9 August. We've met several times for discussions with Council Officers and with various construction firms. 

We've put together a viable, affordable scheme to rebuild the path and that scheme will be shared with all Councillors ahead of their meeting next Tuesday. Our plan has been to show unequivocally that the cost reported to the Committee on 9 August was very significantly overstated. Moreover, we're showing that a good quality path (with an estimated life of 60 years) can be built within the Council's approved budget.

We will be able to share our plans shortly after they have been presented to Councillors.

So, what do we want now? We need your support at the Full Council Meeting at 6.00pm on 31 October at the Civic Offices. It is vitally important for the Council to see that people do care about the path; the more people they see at their council meeting the better. We have no active part to play at the Full Council Meeting - other than simply being there - the Council will debate a Motion (see below) calling for the previous decision to be rescinded and for further consideration to be given by the Full Council to rebuild the path. It's the most important stage yet. Please be there if you possibly can.

Thank you.

The Motion states –

  • That no action be taken in respect of this resolution (Community Committee decision on 9 August) and no works are commenced to decommission the Zig-Zag path.
  • That the decision be reconsidered by full council taking account of:
  • The Coastal Strategy Public Consultation
  • Further funding options explored
  • Alternative design and build tenders being sought and received
  • The full cost of retaining a similar on gradient path to the beach in this location be known.   

Nigel Brooks MBA MRICS Chartered Surveyor

These are the people involved in Highcliffe Castle Zig-Zag Path Rebuild Project: An Alternative Approach and Solution

Robert Hutchings IPFA OBE Auditor
A retired District Auditor for Wales and the March Counties and subsequently promoted to the Audit Commission’s Regional Director for Wales. Has held numerous Finance positions as Chairman, Trustee and non-Executive Director in the Housing, Local Government, Health and Education sector.  In 2010 awarded an OBE for services to the Voluntary sector.

Peter Fenning BSc FGS Chartered Geologist
A retired Geologist with extensive experience in the UK and Internationally, encompassing Research, Investigation, Development and problem solving of geological issues. Past appointments have included the British Geological Survey and the Natural Environmental Research Council. A Technical Papers author/co-author of some 25 papers.

Ian Nichols Construction Specialist
A retired construction Director with extensive pre-construction experience in Design Teams spanning over 40 years. Budget control of Projects to £40 million throughout the UK. Notable projects include Local Authority civic offices (including for Christchurch Council), Defence Establishments and in the Financial Sector. 

Angus Mcmillan BSc Civil Engineer
A retired Civil Engineering Director with extensive international experience as well as in the UK. Project Director of a Stabilisation contract valued at £25 million. Problem solving and relevant experience for achieving a ‘Rebuild Project’ such as the Castle Zig-Zag Path.

Nigel Brooks MBA MRICS Chartered Surveyor
A retired Chartered Surveyor in the Commercial Property Investment Sector. Past appointments as Associate and Director with leading Property Agents, Investing Institutions, Public Authorities, Facilities Management companies and a Hedge Fund subsidiary both in the Private and Public sectors.

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Highcliffe beach, Dorset