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

25 Sep 19

MCA Site at Steamer Point

You may be aware that a Planning Application has been made by Penny Farthing Homes for the development of the old MCA site on the clifftop near Friars Cliff. This will impact on Steamer Point as well as the coastline itself.

FOHBAC feels the present plan to have a 4 storey block of flats is not in keeping with the area and is one of the major points that should be flagged up to the Council.

Unfortunately FOHBAC's objection to this only counts as one. Individual objections are therefore very important. We would appreciate as many supporters as possible log their objection before the 4th October 2019.

Directions to the Planning Application Comments page are below. Please feel free to make as many or few of the suggested points listed below.

  1. Go to:
  2. On the next page click on "online planning register"
  3. Click on " search by application number" and enter 8/19/1172/FUL
  4. Click on "view this application " and either enter your own comments or part or all of the following:


  • Apartment Block - 4 Storeys are inappropriate given the existing homes and situation of this site plus this block is set at the highest point of the site increasing its dominance (ENV9) As such it is contrary to saved Town Plan Policies ENV9, points 2, 3, and 4 and also contrary to H12 points 1 and 3. These policies state the development must be appropriate in scale and character with neighbouring buildings and landscape and ensure that the existing skyline is not broken. Nearby buildings are 2 storey dwellings. The Core Strategy Policies HE2 has similar requirements
  • Cliff top location - A scheme on this scale will dominate the landscape (again ENV9 is applicable). Both Town Plan Policy ENV9 and Core Strategy Policy HE3 deal with the need to protect and enhance landscape quality such as important views and the protection of existing natural features.
  • Nature Reserve - directly adjoining the Steamer Point Nature Reserve therefore causing noise and disruption to wildlife including disruption of light levels (NB SSSI designated area).
  • Nature Reserve Tree line - Cutting back of trees on the eastern end of the site will spoil the appearance of the Nature Reserve.
  • Southern Boundary - The proposed 2.0 metre high brick walls will be visually intrusive and spoil the openness of the area and coastal path.
  • Security - Houses 1-6 have rear access gates which area are a security risk and visually undesirable.
  • Vehicle Access - Large vehicles will not be able to turn round within the complex.
  • Pathways - Concern over pedestrian and vehicle access affecting Penny Way.
  • No Affordable Housing Statement - There does not seem to be an Affordable Housing element within the plan.

Once again FOHBAC would like to thank you for all your support.

19 Apr 19

Zig Zag Path People's Opening Event

Cutting the Tape

Earlcote Construction completed the path right on schedule for a Good Friday ‘People’s Opening Event’. The ‘Residents Group’ (Bob Hutchings, Nigel Brooks, Ian Nichols, Angus Mcmillan and Andy Rogers) who led the campaign to see the path rebuilt were joined by many hundreds of supporters and well-wishers, and enjoyed a stroll to the beach.

The BCP Council with Highcliffe Castle are planning a formal opening event of the refurbished Castle east wing together with the Zig-Zag path on Thursday 30 May, when the Duke of Gloucester will be the guest of honour.

17 Apr 19

Zig-Zag path - Highcliffe Castle - OPENING EVENT!

We are counting down the hours! As you may have already learnt from BBC News South or on social media, the path is set to reopen on Good Friday. 

Earlcote Construction are set to complete the new path ‘bang’ on schedule!

The ‘Residents Group’ (Bob, Nigel, Ian, Angus and Andy), who led the campaign on behalf of residents to persuade the Council to rebuilt the path, are holding a ‘People’s Opening’ event at 10.30am on Good Friday morning at the head of the path in the Castle grounds. A bit like a ‘flash crowd’!

It is hoped that two of our ‘less able’ residents will be able to ‘lead us off’ down the path!

If you are one of the 3,200 folk who signed the petition back in 2017, you are more than welcome to come and share a ‘glass’ of Prosecco/orange, or at least until the bottles run dry!

Everyone is of course welcome to the event to celebrate the achievement of residents working in partnership with Christchurch Borough Council.

Have your say

Highcliffe beach, Dorset