Bournemouth Council is promoting its designer beach huts and using the surf reef at Boscombe as a selling point – even though the reef is closed.
The huts, known as pods, are available for sale and hire and are promoted as having a view of the surf reef on the website, boscombeoverstrand.co.uk, which is run by the Seafront Operations, part of Bournemouth Council.
The site says: “The Boscombe Overstrand redevelopment sits at the heart of the UK’s most innovative seafront attraction: Europe’s first artificial surf reef.” However the reef, which opened in 2009 had problems from the beginning and was closed down in 2011. The reef, billed as Europe’s first artificial surf reef, cost over £3 million and has been the subject of controversy and discussions between the council and the company behind the project, ASR.
According to boscombeoverstrand.co.uk, beach pod 231 has “a balcony with great views over Boscombe beach, Boscombe pier and the new surf reef.” Other sites also operated by the Seafront such as Boscombe West beach hut rentals and Boscombe East beach hut rentals says: “The beach huts situated on Boscombe West beach are just a stone throw away from Boscombe Pier, the newly regenerated Overstrand building which is home to a fantastic restaurant, surf shop and surf school, and also the innovative artificial Surf Reef; which is the first of its type in Europe!” and “Beach Huts situated on Boscombe East Beach have some of the best views on the south coast – they over look the innovative Surf Reef.”[one_half] [/one_half] [one_half_last]
The council operator Seafront Operations said that the site is not misleading and that they make it clear to consumers that they can not use the reef and that the reef is closed. This is made clear on the location page of boscombeoverstrand.co.uk by linking to a one-year-old site saying the reef is currently closed. It is not however, made clear at the time of publishing this article, on Boscombe West beach hut rentals or Boscombe East beach hut rentals that the reef is closed. Charmaine Denny, service developments officer at Seafront Operations said: “The surf reef was a selling point when the beach pods were being redesign and redecorated back in 2009/2010. When the reef is back in use it will again be a selling point.”
After the reef was damaged in 2011 the council looked into insurance claims and for ASR to come and fix it. Two years later the surf reef is still closed to the public. Council spokesperson, Tina Stokes, said: “We can not answer any questions about what is going on with the reef at this moment.” The council says new plans for the reef included: “Commercial dive centre, a try-dive facility and a dive and snorkel trail around the existing reef, with additional submerged artefacts for more experienced divers.”
Ms Denny from Seafront Operations said: “The Reef may not be performing as well as it should be. However, it is the focal point for the regeneration of Boscombe Seafront. If the Reef had not been built then it is unlikely that any of the other regeneration would have taken place.”[one_half] Urban Reef cafe, Sorted surf shop and a £2.4 million restoration project done to the Boscombe Pier.
The Beach Pods are rented out with prices varying from £64 a week in October up to £310 a week for the last weeks of August, or sold from £17,995.
Bournemouth Trading Standards agent Zara Fulmer said: “There have not been any complaints from people feeling mislead,” and that they will not take any criminal or civil action. “It is common knowledge around that the reef is closed,” she continued and when asked by The Breaker about people from other places finding the information online she said that: “If the operators asked for our advice about what to put on the site, we would advice them not to say anything about the reef, because it potentially could lead to criminal or civil lawsuits. But there has not been any complaints so there is really nothing for us to do.”
Read the Breaker’s background feature on the surf reef: Boscombe Surf reef- What went wrong? or listen to people’s thoughts on the reef.