RESIDENTS are planning to protest against the council's decision to permanently close the Highcliffe beach zig zag.

Two groups unhappy with the council's decision not to repair the path at Highcliffe Castle have set up a petition.

The Rothesay Drive Residents Association and Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs (FOHBAC) are calling for a full investigation into the alternative routes for an 'on gradient pathway' to the beach from the Castle grounds.

And they say the reported cost of the repairs - £1.25million - is not certain as a tendering process has not happened.

Residents who have set up the petition said there are further funding options which have not been explored and they want to see a second report presented to the council.

Bob Hutchings OBE, chairman of the residents association, told the Christchurch Times: "It was obvious as soon as the committee made their decision that this was ridiculous.

"We think much more needs to be done before this can happen."

The petition is not online but can be found in shops and other locations in Highcliffe, with members also canvassing residents on the street.

It is hoped the petition can be presented to full council on September 5.

Members of the council’s community committee decided in a narrow vote last week not to proceed with the reconstruction of the path at Highcliffe Castle, despite calls for a second opinion.

The council is now looking at options to make the site safe along with how other routes can be made more accessible.

Speaking at the meeting, the council’s chief finance officer, Ian Milner, said: “This council is in a fairly sound financial position and that’s in the face of austerity.

“But things are going to get worse and we are looking to become more and more self-sufficient.”

He said if members chose to fund the repairs from reserves, “that is a pot of money that once we have used it, it’s gone.”

He added: “I do understand it’s an emotive issue but I have to have a mind on the future and I have to advise you how best to spread our limited resources.”

Members heard the latest surveyors report revealed the path has continued to move a further 20mm in the last month.

Consulting engineers AECOM considered nine structure options for the walkway, but only one was considered realistic.

Other financial concerns around the Regent Centre and Two Riversmeet were also raised in the meeting.