RESIDENTS calling for a rethink on controversial plans not to fix the zig zag path at Highcliffe Castle are presenting a petition to councillors tonight.

Signed by more than 3,000 people, campaigners are set hand it over to full council at Christchurch this evening.

It comes after members of the Christchurch council's community committee decided in a narrow vote not to proceed with the reconstruction of the path at Highcliffe, despite some calls for a second opinion.

Instead, they voted to make the site safe and investigate how to make other routes more accessible.

The path was shut earlier in the year because it is giving way.

Some council officers are thought to want to spend money on projects in other parts of the borough which they say might have more community impact.

A report on the other options for accessibility will come before the council in the autumn.

The petition was set-up by the Rothesay Drive Residents Association and Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs (FOHBAC).

The groups 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.

Chairman of the Rothesay Drive Residents' Association, Bob Hutchings, said there was a huge strength of feeling over the issue.

"There are major safety questions over this for the elderly, the disabled and for families. We believe failure to fix the path would be an awful and unnecessary decision that would heavily impact on residents and visitors."

Mr Hutching is to make a presentation at the meeting.

Cllr Claire Bath told the Echo: "I really don't think we have enough information on the real cost of repairs or indeed the economic impact of not repairing the path, to make a decision now.

"We are currently seeking the views of residents about our coastal strategy so it seems to me we should see what they say before rushing into anything. This isn't a very joined up way of doing things."

She warned: "Once the decision is made, that's it. The path is gone for good."