Monday, April 4, 2011

Wave goodbye! Britain's £3.2million artificial surf reef closed after only two years as it's unsafe

Daily Mail Online: Wave goodbye! Britain's £3.2million artificial surf reef closed after only two years as it's unsafe

Britain's artificial surf reef has sunk to new depths after it was declared unsafe and closed to the public.

The controversial £3.2million reef, the first of its kind in Europe, has been plagued by controversy since it opened off Bournemouth beach in Dorset, in 2009.
The underwater structure that was meant to have transformed the resort into a surfers' paradise has hardly been used because it produces the wrong sort of wave.

Now it has been declared a no-go zone after a routine inspection found 'substantial changes' to the reef's shape has started to produce dangerous under-currents.

It is thought the concern is that surfers could risk drowning by being sucked down into gaps that have appeared in the structure as a result of the changes.

The local council is now 'erring on the side of caution' and has closed the reef, which is 750ft out to sea off the Boscombe area of the resort.

It consists of 55 giant submerged sand-filled bags, which are believed to have been displaced and require repositioning.

A Bournemouth council spokesman said: 'A routine inspection carried out on March 23 shows that substantial changes have altered the profile of the reef structure

'Preliminary inspections suggested that this may alter current flows over the reef.' Tony Williams, the council's executive director, said: 'We are aware that significant changes have altered the structure of the reef.

'It is really a health and safety issue. Until we know further information we are erring on the side of caution and advising people not to use the reef.

'Given that surfing is an extreme sport and always includes an element of risk, health and safety surrounding the surf reef project has been paramount from the start.' Some surfers say the reef has become a laughing stock and have dubbed it the 'beached whale' especially after recent low-tides left it and high and dry out of the water.

Local surfer Chris Skone-Roberts, 41, claims he and colleague had snorkelled on the reef and found gaps of up to two feet wide between the sand-bags.

He said: 'Just from standing on the beach looking at it you can tell it's got a dangerous current around it.

'It is just a question of time before someone dies on it - that's not being melodramatic or sensational.

'We have gone out of snorkelled on it and found some holes about two feet wide and others big enough to fit your hand in.

'Surfers don't really use it but body boarders do the worry is that they will fall into one of the holes and get pinned down.' Workers from ASR Ltd, the New Zealand-based company that built the reef, will carry out the remedial works in the next few weeks.

They had already been summoned back to Bournemouth to conduct improvement work on the reef and tweak it so it will produce better waves for surfing.

Bournemouth Borough Council has withheld its final instalment of £150,000 to ASR after the reef failed to work.

Nick Behunin, managing director of ASR, said: 'We have only recently received the information from the preliminary inspection and we are currently evaluating it.' 'Now that the winter surf season is coming to an end work can begin.'

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