EFFORTS to replenish Southbourne beach have been described as "a complete disaster" by surf experts and beach lovers.

One councillor was "horrified" by the amount of flints and coarse shingle. And businesses claim they are struggling as surfers stay away.

Bournemouth councillor Roger West wrote to Geoff Turnbull, the council's chief engineer: "We were told, council members and the public alike, that it would be sand that was going to be pumped on to the beach near the Bistro On the Beach and that going east it would become more coarse. This is not what has happened."

A visit to the beach to inspect the work by contractors Van Oord had left him "horrified" and feeling "personally let down".

"There were stones all along the shoreline, most of which are broken flint, as well as oyster shells," he said. "These are incredibly sharp, causing cuts and other injuries.

"Wading in to the sea is now a dangerous exercise and the profile of the beach is now very steep when entering the water. One gets very quickly out of one's depth, which is dangerous to bathers, particularly children."

Surf lovers are demanding to know what is going to be done after "incon-siderate" dredging has left the beach unfit for surfing. They say it has been transformed into shingle since December, when replenishment began and that this could mean surf schools and shops closing due to loss of trade and may cost the borough a fortune in lost revenue.

Paul Clarke, owner of the Boscombe Surf Centre in Southbourne, claims this was the worst summer he has experienced in 25 years.

"Southbourne has always been the most popular spot for surfers and it was not uncommon to see over 100 surfers out there at a weekend. Now I have days where I don't get any visitors in the shop and the summer was a wash-out for surf," he said.

"The beach quickly regained its shape after the last two renourishments but this time it has not, even after eight months."

Dave Weight, a chartered surveyor and keen surfer who helped formulate the idea for a reef in Boscombe in 1993, said: "A recreational site has been destroyed because of the inconsiderate way that shingle has been mixed with sand and just dumped on the beach."

David Harlow, a borough engineer in charge of the project, said: "At the moment the shingle is more concentrated than in previous years. The beach is steeper than a couple of years ago but not more so than it was, say, 10 to 15 years ago.

"We have to provide coastal protection for the next 100 years. Our overwhelming priority is to focus on coastal defence because otherwise there are about 3,000 residences which could be affected by erosion."

Van Oord declined to comment.