THE three main Boscombe surf reef contractors have not been paid by ASR and are considering legal action.

Jenkins Marine, Force Dredging and Specialised and Commercial Diving say they are owed a total of more than £60,000.

ASR claims it made verbal agreements to pay out when work milestones were reached.

The crisis throws the whole future of the crippled surf reef into doubt and one councillor said: “This is the end of the story.”

ASR used the contractors to try and repair the £3.2m reef from August last year.

They employed Force Dredging Systems of Portsmouth, which has been in the underwater business for more than 20 years.

Projects manager Jeff Noakes said the company has not been paid £30,000 and it was company policy to chase a debt.

He said his firm would pursue ASR through i t s offices in both New Zealand and America.

“The legal papers are being drawn up under advice from our solicitors,” he said.

Dan Jenkins, director of Poolebased Jenkins Marine, which has 25 years in the business, said the firm was owed £30,000 for supplying the barge that was used for six to eight weeks during the autumn.

He said he had not heard back from ASR for “several weeks”.

When asked about legal action, he told the Echo: “It really depends on their response.

“When people stop commenting you have no other option but to get your legal team involved to write official letters requesting their response.”

Phil Richards, director of Ferndown-based Specialised and Commercial Diving said: “We do have money outstanding and we are pursuing it at the moment.”

When asked what legal action he might take, he said: “There’s a number of different routes because of where they are based.”

He said all work was done on a day rate basis, with no ‘milestone’ agreement.

ASR has already lost a County Court Judgement to a firm called Ram Plant. It was ordered to pay £7,286 in November for work that dated back to 2009.

Tony Williams, the council’s executive director for environment and economy, inset, said the new dispute was “a matter for both parties concerned to resolve”.

He said: “With regards to ASR returning to complete their work, we are in communication with ASR and are waiting for further information.”

ASR’s former technical director, Shaw Mead, told the Echo the man who managed the autumn operations, Brian Keare, no longer works for ASR.

Cllr Ben Grower, a long standing opponent of the reef, said: “I think this is it, it’s the end of the story.

“There’s no way ASR are going to be coming back to do any more work. The reef is just lying there on the floor and it’s a danger to the public and we are going to have to the find the money to remove it.”

ASR’s head of marketing Chris Jensen said the firm made verbal agreements with the contractors that they would only be paid on a milestone basis as repair work is completed.

He said: “They are not going to get paid until we get paid.

“What we said to them is that they need to work under the same terms and conditions we have and they will be paid when we are, when we continue work in the spring of 2012.”

The ASR story so far

ASR started building the reef in 2008 and the price doubled to £3.2 million by completion in 2010.

The company was due to get a final £150,000 retainer (one tenth of the original price) only if the reef worked properly.

However an independent expert rated it ‘4/10’ on performance.

ASR was asked to come back and reshape the sandbags, but then, in spring 2011, the council discovered one of the reef sandbags had completely collapsed.

The council closed the reef as a potential danger to the public and it remains out of bounds.

ASR said the collapse was caused by a boat strike.

However the council has admitted the evidence is not clear cut.

The council decided to use the £150,000 to pay ASR to repair the bag to try stop the reef deteriorating further over the winter.

It made the decision in anticipation of a successful insurance claim from Zurich for the collapsed bag, hoping the insurance money could then fund a bag reshaping in the future.

The council and ASR’s negotiations delayed the start of the repair work until August. Then, a run of autumn bad weather meant the repair work was not completed in time for the winter.