WORK has started to rebuild the zig zag path at Highcliffe Castle.

Engineers moved on site earlier this week to start the major scheme which will see the coastal pathway repaired to its former glory.

Contractors Earlcoate Construction and Plant Hire Ltd have been appointed to carry out the work, with vegetation clearance completed last month.

The work comes after a long campaign by residents to get the path reinstated after Christchurch council initially decided to shelve the plans in August 2017.

Concerns over the expected £1.25m cost led to members of the community committee narrowly voting to close it.

But, following a hard-fought campaign by residents, led by the Rothesay Residents’ Association, and Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs, which included a petition signed by 3,000 people, the council did a U-turn .

In February this year, £884,500 was budgeted to fund the work, and members backed a full rebuild.

The path closed suddenly in March 2017, after a similar closure the year before in August 2016.

Surveys showed the retaining timber support could collapse at any time, and the council warned the cliff was no longer secure.

Cllr Vicki Hallam, chair of the Highcliffe zig-zag task and finish group at Christchurch Borough Council, said: “We are pleased to see work on rebuilding the zig-zag path beginning.

“This is an extremely complex engineering scheme and after a great deal of hard work it is fantastic to see the contractor starting work on site. I look forward to seeing the path reopened.”

A statement from the local authority says the work is scheduled to be completed by Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Part of the beach at Highcliffe is cordoned off to allow for a works compound.

Heavy machinery is in use both on the cliff top and below, with information boards keeping people updated on the work.