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

16 Oct 17

Update 16 October 2017

A lot has been going on ‘behind the scenes’ with Christchurch Council, Bob Hutchings (Rothesay Drive Residents Association) and Nigel Brooks (Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs) have put together a team of experienced retired professionals with geology, civil engineering and construction project management backgrounds, all Christchurch residents.

We have met with David McIntosh, Christchurch Council’s (CBC) Chief Executive and his ‘top team’ as well as held ‘Technical Meetings’ with Lindsay Cass CBC Head of Property and Engineering, and colleagues, and put forward, what we believe, is a viable rebuild solution within their ‘signed off’ financial budgets.

We have also introduced to CBC’s Property and Engineering team a national specialist ‘design and build’ contracting company that we believe can deliver a rebuild project. These discussions are continuing.

CBC’s Consulting Engineers, AECOM, solution and CBC’s own ‘build up’ figure £1.25m is the Council’s ‘back stop’ solution. We know Council Officers as well as Council Members will not support it on financial grounds.

Our next step is to talk to Councillors to convince them that at the next Full Council meeting on Tuesday 31 October at 6.00pm, they must rescind the decision to abandon the path and agree to properly investigate the alternative solution we have proposed.

Meanwhile we keep ‘pressing our case’! We will update you again in due course.


22 Aug 17

Highcliffe Castle Zig-Zag path

Local Residents Associations and FOHBAC have campaigned and raised a petition to be presented to Christchurch Council as follows: 

‘We, the undersigned do not accept that the zigzag path should be closed. In particular, we believe that:

  • There needs to be a full investigation into the alternative routes for an ‘on gradient pathway’ to the beach from the castle grounds;
  • Notwithstanding the above, if the existing route is still preferred then the reported cost of £1.25m, is by no means certain as it has not been fully proved by tendering.
  • Whatever the likely cost of the zigzag there are further funding options that have not yet been fully explored.
  • In the light of the above we believe detailed investigations and costings are required for a second report to be presented to the Council’s Community Committee for further consideration’

Thank you if you have been able to sign the petition, which has been rapidly organised following the Community Committee decision on the 9th August. We are looking to have the petition heard before the full council meeting on Tuesday 5th September, commencing at 6.00pm. Well over 2,000 signatures have already been collected, with many more being added each day! 

If you are able to come along to give your support at the meeting, to be held at the council chamber in Bridge Street, Christchurch, that would be great. Please arrive at 5.40pm for a ‘photo call’ with the press and media. 

We are looking for a number of residents to ask a question at the meeting. Very straight forward, a pre-prepared question will be provided, you just need to read it out and that’s it! There is no debate, the council just give an answer. If you are able to help out with this please e-mail Nigel Brooks nigeldbrooks@hotmail.com and he will agree the question with you.


09 Aug 17

Christchurch Coastal Strategy 2018 onward

You have no doubt read about Christchurch Council’s ‘engagement’/consultation day for residents at Highcliffe Castle on 5 September. 

Whilst we believe you will be able to make comments on ‘post-it’ notes on the day we have submitted a written response so that the views of the FOHBAC Steering Group are properly recorded. You can download our comments here

We would encourage you to go along to the day and importantly also send an email response to beaches@christchurchandeastdorset.gov.uk . You may even just say you support all the points in FOHBAC’s letter to Judith Plumley CBC dated 8 August!


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Highcliffe beach, Dorset