EUROPE’S first artificial surf reef will not be completed until next September.

Work on the major tourist attraction at Boscombe seafront has been suspended for the winter and will not resume until April.

There had been hopes the £2.68 million reef would be finished this autumn. Just last month the borough’s tourism chief, Mark Smith, told the Daily Echo: “The contract is still for the project to be completed by the end of this year.”

Yesterday the council confirmed construction work had been halted “as the shorter days and winter weather do not permit long enough working sessions for safe and effective construction on this major underwater project”.

A spokesman added: “Difficult weather conditions over the summer months brought about a later than anticipated start to the project.

“This has inevitably had a knock-on effect to the anticipated completion date and the contractor, ASR Ltd, believes the expected weather conditions over the winter months will make it impossible to complete the reef this year as originally planned.”

Dr Shaw Mead from ASR said: “Although conditions recently have been good and the base layer has been completed to design, the late start to construction has really set us back.

“The days now are short, the sea temperature is getting colder and there are stronger currents, meaning we have to limit the amount of time our divers can spend underwater.

“With the crucial base layer now complete and the onset of winter weather it makes good sense to pause now and allow the base layer to settle into the sea bed.”

Cllr Beverley Dunlop, cabinet member for economy and tourism, stressed that while the reef scheme was delayed, the rest of the Boscombe Spa Village regeneration scheme was progressing, despite the looming national recession.

Local companies are among those which have submitted tenders to invest heavily in the new leisure facilities in the Overstrand building which is currently being refurbished.

But Boscombe councillor Phil Stanley-Watts said he was disappointed by the reef scheme delay. He said: “The first I knew about this was when I heard it at a Boscombe traders’ meeting.

“The business community is understandably dismayed and I am determined that the seafront won’t be left looking like a building site all summer.”

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