THE wait is almost over for the return of the popular Highcliffe Castle zig-zag path – more than 750 days after it was closed due to safety concerns.

Contractors are completing the final stages of the rebuild project, with the access route to the beach due to reopen to the public on Friday.

Christchurch Borough Council fenced off the sloped path in March 2017 due to structural concerns resulting from cliff movement.

Initially, councillors voted not to fund work to fix the zig-zag due to estimated costs of £1.25million in the summer of 2017.

However, a resident-led campaign, including a petition signed by more than 3,200 people, sparked a surprise U-turn from members.

The now abolished council allocated £884,500 for the project.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, who took over the management of the task this month, confirmed the zig-zag should be back in use this week.

Bob Hutchings, who lives in Highcliffe and helped lead the campaign to repair the zig-zag, said: “It has been a long road and we are delighted to virtually be at the end of it all.

“It is a very popular path down to the beach which is used by residents and visitors and they will all be thrilled to be able to use it again.

“They have done a cracking job on the work to the path and it has been timed just right for the busiest period of the year for beachgoers.

“This would never have happened if it were not for all those people in the early days coming together but it is definitely going to be worth it.

“This campaign shows that when a community feels strongly about a certain issue they can still have a genuine impact, which is great to see.”

The complete rebuild of the zig-zag by Earlcoate Construction & Plant Hire Limited involved the installation of 77 steel king posts.

After the peak summer season, engineers will return to the site to carry out a planting scheme, but the path will remain open during this period.

Fellow zig-zag path campaigner and Highcliffe resident Nigel Brooks said: “The strength of feeling to keep the zig-zag path open was clear back in 2017 when more than 3,200 people, residents and visitors alike, signed a petition presented to Christchurch Borough Council.

“The zig-zag path connection to the beach from the Grade I Highcliffe Castle has existed in various forms for probably 150 years and residents were not going to give it up easily.”

He added: “While we don’t know the final cost, it is a ‘sound investment’ which will enable residents and visitors alike to walk, without interruption, along our beautiful coastline in Highcliffe.”