A TOURISM chief is insisting that Boscombe surf reef will one day be used for its intended purpose.

The message comes despite new plans to use it for snorkelling and as part of a dive trail.

Earlier this week communities secretary Eric Pickles announced £2million funding for a new national coastal tourism academy in Bournemouth.

A vital part of the Bournemouth University -based ‘virtual’ academy will be the UK’s first coastal activity park at Boscombe beach.

Spanning a square mile on land and at sea, the park will boast water and land-based sports as well as leisure facilities.

The reef will be used for leisure snorkelling “during calm water periods” and there are plans to create “a dive trail of submerged artefacts”.

Tourism director Mark Smith , inset, stressed that the scheme did not mean the council was giving up on the reef which closed last spring amid safety concerns.

Damage to its sand-filled sandbags, caused by a propeller, is now the subject of an insurance claim which is expected to be settled later this year.

Mr Smith said: “When the claim has been settled we will be able to specify the schedule of works and appoint contractors. No additional taxpayers’ money will be spent on enhancing the reef’s performance for surfing.”

The contract for ASR to carry out remedial work on the reef expired on May 31 this year.

Mr Smith added: “The reef remains a key part of the offer at Boscombe and integral to the coastal activity park. We are determined to make the reef continue to contribute to the regeneration of the area.”

He added: “We know from before the reef closed that it is being used for much more than just surfing.”

As well as being used by surfers and body-boarders he said the reef had become a magnet for kayakers, stand up paddle-boarders and snorkelers “keen to catch a glimpse of the teams of marine life that have now colonised the reef”.

He said: “The innovative dive trail will add to the interest we already know exists in the structure.”