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Updated: Surf reef closed after inspection raises safety fears
SURFERS are being urged to avoid Bournemouth's controversial surf reef amid safety concerns.
In November, the Daily Echo revealed that an independent report found that the £3 million reef had safety risks, including the possibility of surfers drowning if they got caught in the voids between its sand-filled bags.
At that time, the council said all health and safety precautions were being taken and there was no need to close the reef.
But now, after a six-monthly inspection, it is advising people not to use it while constructors ASR carry out extra maintenance work.
The company was already due to return to carry out improvement work but the inspection has revealed repair work is also needed.
The council said "substantial changes have altered the profile of the reef structure. Preliminary inspections suggested that this may alter current flows over the reef and these need to be carefully assessed to guide the remedial works scheduled for 2011 that will improve performance and maintain health and safety."
Surfer, Chris Skone-Roberts, said: "I couldn't agree more, just from standing at the beach looking at it you can tell it's got a dangerous current around it.
"It's just a question of time before someone dies on that reef - that's not being melodramatic or sensational."
Tony Williams, executive director at Bournemouth council, said more investigations would take place.
He added: “Until we know further information, we are erring on the side of caution and advising people not to use the reef.
“We have made ASR aware of the results of the survey and have requested details on how they will dovetail with the refinement works scheduled this spring.
Mr Williams added that health and safety had always been paramount, as surfing was an extreme sport.
Nick Behunin, MD of ASR, which is evaluating the inspection findings, said: “Now that the winter season is coming to an end work can begin.”
David Weight, who came up with the original idea for the reef in the mid-1990s, said that if there were “unforeseen dangers” such as loose pieces of material, then it made sense to urge caution.