CONTRACTORS are to be paid £150,000 to repair Boscombe surf reef this summer, leaving no funds in reserve if improvements fail.

The Daily Echo can reveal how a council decision earlier this year to withhold part of ASR’s contract payment has been overturned, despite assurances that the final instalment would only be handed over if the reef was performing properly.

An integral part of Boscombe seafront regeneration scheme, the £3million reef opened in November 2009 after lengthy delays and running over budget.

Following criticism for only meeting four out of 11 performance criteria, the council agreed to withhold £150,000 until wave quality improved.

But the attraction closed in March after being damaged by a boat propeller and an inspection revealed changes to the reef’s shape.

Cllr Rod Cooper, cabinet member for economy and tourism, said: “The decision to use the retained funds to undertake these repair works represents the most practical way of ensuring the immediate and urgent protection of the reef.”

But Labour group leader Cllr Ben Grower said: “Nothing should have been paid until the work had been carried out successfully. It’s going to be a waste of money whether the council pays now, or later, because the reef is never going to work.”

Independent group leader Cllr Anne Rey said: “ASR are in a win-win situation. The reef project has been a total disaster and mismanaged from the start.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Roger West said: “It concerns me that we will forever be putting money into what has turned out to be a money pit. I can’t see the reef ever performing in the way it was envisaged.”

In a statement ASR’s managing director Nick Behunin said improvement works would start next month, at the same time as reef repairs.

He added: “This remains our flagship project and, as ever, we are committed to delivering a right-hand wave that Bournemouth and ourselves can be proud of.”

Bournemouth council’s tourism director Mark Smith said: “Following the recent damage caused to the reef by a boat strike it is imperative that repair works are carried out before the winter season.

“The decision to use the remaining £150,000 ensures the immediate and urgent protection of the reef whilst maintaining the council’s commitment to stay within the allocated budget.”