A GROUP campaigning to make a beach in Weymouth accessible have announced a 'major breakthrough'.

After four years’ campaigning, the Friends of Castle Cove Beach Charity say they have signed a lease which will enable the public to get access to the beach.

Contracts were exchanged on Friday and completion is 'immediate'. The Friends are now lease-holders of a beach access route for 99 years, and will be able to build steps down to the beach – once they have raised £30,000.

“This is a major breakthrough for the campaign, and fantastic news for the local community,” said Steve Elsworth, Chairman of Trustees of the charity. “Now all we have to do is raise £30,000. We will raise the money this year, and build the steps as soon as we can.”

The steps to Castle Cove Beach were removed in 2013, after being in place for 80 years. The campaign to restore them began in 2014, and has continued since then.

The campaign to restore safe access to Castle Cove Beach started in early 2014 when Clare Sutton, who is now the local county councillor, organised a petition which attracted 2000 signatures in just three weeks.

She went on to form the Friends' group.

Mr Elsworth said: “We have had support from councillors of all parties, from churches, community groups, schools, local landowners, the Co-op, national organisations such as the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers, the Prince’s Trust and the South West Coast Path Association.

“We have 850 followers on Facebook and 200 people receive our monthly newsletter. This is a very popular community campaign.”

He added: “The Friends obtained planning permission for the steps in April, and have signed the lease today. Now we have to raise £30,000.

“We are going to crowdfund, we are asking local businesses for cash, and we are asking our supporters to reach deep into their pockets. Any donations would be extremely welcome – go to our justgiving page.”

Clare Sutton said: “The signing of the lease between the Friends and the landowners is the culmination of a huge amount of work on many fronts over four years. We should all be massively grateful to the Friends’ Committee for their professionalism and dedication, but we’d never have got this far without fantastic community support, which proves just how precious this beach is to so many people. With all this support, raising the £30k needed to build the steps will hopefully not take long but I would urge people to chip in whatever they can afford. I have so many fond memories of the beach myself as a child, teenager and as a parent, and it will be just brilliant for new generations to have as much fun there as we have done over the years.”

To support the effort donate to justgiving.com – name of donation is 'Castle Cove Beach.' www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/friendsofcastlecovebeachcharity/friends-of-castle-cove-beach-campaign-steps