Boscombe surf reef's impact on local economy assessed

The impact of Europe's first artificial surf reef on the local economy will be assessed as part of a three-year study.

The £3m structure opened off the Dorset coast in November 2009 as part of the regeneration of Boscombe seafront.

A Bournemouth University team will conduct one of the first long-term studies into the impact of the reef, as requested by the Crown Estate.

The reef has been closed off due to safety concerns after a survey found "substantial changes" to its shape.

Bournemouth Council said it was "erring on the side of caution".

Tourism spending

The reef, which ran over budget and suffered a series of delays, was created to enhance waves using 55 giant sand-filled bags which are 740ft (225m) out at sea.

It opened in November 2009 but has been criticised for not working properly.

As well as maintenance it is set to undergo refinement works by creator ASR Ltd after a report found it needed a number of tweaks.

Local traders have argued it has added to the regeneration of the once-rundown town.

Businesses and tourists will be asked a series of questions as part of the research, with results helping to estimate employment, local income and output impacts.

Professor John Fletcher, who will lead the study, said: "We will be calculating the economic impact that is attributable to the artificial surf reef, not just the money that is being spent in local surf-related shops but also other tourism spending where the prime motivation is because of the surf reef.

"Then we will be tracing this expenditure as it percolates through the local economy, not just in tourism-related shops, but all forms of tourism spending and the expenditure in local businesses to support that spending."

The council has withheld £150,000 from New Zealand-based ASR after a specialist report found the reef had not achieved all of its objectives.

It will pay £55,000 when work is finished and a further £95,000 if the improvements are successful.

ASR has denied the reef failed and said it was only one of the criteria, the wave lengths, which it had not met the requirements.

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