THE estimated cost for rebuilding the Highcliffe zig zag has rocketed to £1.25 million.

Christchurch councillors face a tough choice on whether to find the extra cash needed to complete the project, originally estimated to cost in the region of £580,000, or to scrap it.

Should it be scrapped, the authority faces a £140k bill to demolish the zig zag and restore the area to a natural cliff face, on top of up-to-£65k spent on consultants’ fees and repairs over the past few months.

Lindsay Cass, the council’s head of property and engineering, said engineering firm AECOM had identified two feasible engineering fixes for the crumbling zig zag.

The cheapest, a king post piled wall, would see steel rods driven into the cliff face with concrete poured between them, which the council would then seek to cover with timber in a bid to create a more natural look.

“When you add all this together the best estimate of the overall cost is £1.25m,” said Mr Cass.

“We are asking members to decide on August 9 whether that is a good use of public funds.

“We can’t get away from it, there are other ways quite nearby of getting down to the beach.

“It is a decision members have to make, they know the views of the community.”

Christchurch council originally allocated £300k for the work, derived from the cost of the construction of the zig zag in 2005 for some £150k, and with the expectation of a grant from the Coastal Communities Fund.

The Fund has provided a £280k grant, which the council will seek to use on another coastal project if the zig zag scheme is abandoned.

Mr Cass said the council had been unaware of the scale of the engineering challenge until the expert consultants were hired.

The zig zag was closed earlier this year after engineers found the wooden piling shoring up the cliff was failing and at risk of collapse at any time.

Although the entrance is blocked, the council says some people are ignoring warning signs and using the path, hence the need to restore the cliff if the scheme is refused.

Should councillors approve the scheme, cash could be provided from the borough’s £2.2m ‘unallocated revenue funding’, however Mr Cass said the authority may need this money to fund repairs at the Regent Centre.

Council workers have found problems with the theatre’s steel frame and the cost of repairs is currently unknown.

The area around the zig zag is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its geology, and has numerous protected trees, resulting in further engineering restrictions.

Last month two public consultations were held by Dorset Coast Forum seeking views on the design and materials proposed for the project.