WIPEOUT? FISHERMEN COULD SCUPPER SURF REEF PLAN

REEF THREAT: Delays may be inevitable. Picture: Corin Messer. ID: 4009588.

REEF THREAT: Delays may be inevitable. Picture: Corin Messer. ID: 4009588. Buy this photo

First published in News by

THE chairman of the British Surfing Association has warned that plans for Bournemouth to have Europe's first artificial surf reef could be scuppered following objections from local fishermen.

The reef is central to the regeneration of Boscombe, which has seen flats selling for £1 million.

But David Weight, who has been campaigning for a reef at Boscombe since 1993, said: "We still hope the reef will be built this year but time is running out.

"The geo-textile bags which will be used to create it have to be ordered very soon so construction work can start in September before the rough weather sets in.

"The sand is already in place. If that gets blown away during the winter it will be much more expensive to build the reef next year, especially as the contractor will have left the site."

Mr Weight, who lives in Poole, added: "This delay is very worrying, there are only a few days left, maybe a week at most, to press the button.

"Fishermen's worries are unfounded because the reef would actually benefit marine life.

"In New Zealand fishermen helped fund a reef when they realised its huge benefits."

Mike Walcroft, of the Sorted surf shop near Boscombe Pier said: "I've never seen trawlers where the reef is due to be. All the boats have been miles out."

Surfer Joe Hart said: "There's a remarkable lack of wildlife around the pier."

The reef, which will be created with a series of geo-textile bags filled with sand and submerged east of the pier 245 yards off-shore, is part of the £8 million Boscombe Spa Village project. Civic chiefs had hoped the £1.4 m attraction, creating waves up to 13ft high, would be ready by September.

Chris Saunders, Bournemouth's seafront and business development manager, said the council was still awaiting a decision from the Department For Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

He said: "We applied for two licences; one for the Boscombe pier scheme which came through in 12 weeks and one for the reef.

"We've been told the fishing community has objected and are awaiting a Defra response. If Defra doesn't decide soon we may have a problem with finishing the reef this year. It is all down to the weather.

"We're disappointed but hope to know more by the end of the week."

A Defra spokesman said: "We're going through the proper procedures. Normal applications take at least 12 weeks. This is quite novel and is taking longer.

"We received the application in mid-February and is being processed in a thorough way, rather than being rushed. We have no idea when it might be resolved?"

A spokesman for Poole-based Southern Sea Fisheries, which has made representations to Defra on behalf of local fishermen, said: "We can't comment at this stage."

Bournemouth Area Hospitality Association chairman Alison Gandolfi said: "We want to see the reef as soon as possible and will be disappointed if it isn't completed this autumn. But the timing has to be right and it's out of our hands."

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