The zigzag path at Highcliffe Castle is to remain closed until 2018 for a full rebuild as temporary solution is deemed insufficient.
Hopes to reopen the Highcliffe zigzag path temporarily over the summer season have been dashed as recent surveys have shown that the cliff, which was closed for public safety in March, is not secure enough for a temporary solution to work successfully. Instead a full rebuild will be carried out starting this autumn.
Having been monitored for over a year, the path was closed in March as surveys showed a failure of the retaining timber support is potentially imminent.
The council has set aside funds of £350,000 and was also recently awarded approximately £280,000 towards the rebuild as part of the Dorset Coastal Community Bid although until the work is tendered the actual cost will not be known. Specialist design work for the rebuild, which must have disabled access, is ongoing. Because of the value of the works, a full tendering process must take place once the final design is approved, and it is likely that building works will commence in the autumn. Depending on the weather, it is likely that building work will take up to six months, meaning the zigzag path could reopen in time for Easter 2018.
Matti Raudsepp, strategic director, Christchurch and East Dorset Councils, said: “We had hoped to be able to reopen the zigzag with a temporary solution for the summer season. However, recent surveys have shown that the cliff is no longer secure enough to enable a temporary solution to work successfully.
“We understand the closure has impacted on local residents and visitors but the safety of the public has to be our priority. The recent period of dry weather has further exacerbated issues in the area, and recent cliff falls locally demonstrate why it is essential we do not reopen the zigzag path until we are confident that it is safe. We would like to thank people for their patience while the path remains closed.”
The council is looking at ways to better secure the closure of the footpath down to the beach until it is once again safe to use to ensure people to not try to use the zigzag while it is closed. It is also looking at options to improve the signage for the public to alternative routes and to provide information about the closure at the start of other routes which end at the castle.