SEVERAL beach huts collapsed into a ten-foot crater which opened up along a New Forest seafront.

The huts in Milford-on-Sea fell into a large hole below the concrete walkway just two days before emergency works were due to start at the seaside spot.

New Forest District Council was due to start work on the weakened sea wall yesterday after a groyne closest to the Whitehouse on Hurst Road collapsed on Tuesday last week.

But Mother Nature proved to be more powerful and after a high tide on Saturday night coupled with extreme wave overtopping, the beach huts at the end of the row close to the Whitehouse fell into a large void below them the following morning.

Steve Cook, coastal engineer at New Forest District Council, said: "We are bringing in two tonnes of shingle and rock to protect the wall and raise the level of the beach to prevent the structure being battered any further. There will be an investigation to assess the concrete structure once the area has been made safe."

Mr Cook said the work at the site will take at least a month to complete and the council hopes funding will become available for further sea defence work later in the autumn.

It is believed the sea wall was weakened following a severe storm in March this year, leaving a significant loss of natural beach levels to protect the wall.

It was hoped the beach material would be restored naturally this summer but when this did not happen, maintenance works to recycle material from the eastern end of Milford-on-Sea was undertaken. But a further run of bad weather resulted in the beach levels diminishing even further, leading to the collapse of the huts.