Europe’s First Artificial Reef Does Not Wash

May 23, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Sandbanks in Poole, near Bournmouth. Before the credit crunch the area was one of the most expensive on the planet. Properties sold for tens of millions of GBP. Since prices plunged, some homeowners have seen their homes repossesed. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Sandbanks in Poole, near Bournmouth. Before the credit crunch the area was one of the most expensive on the planet. Properties sold for tens of millions of GBP. Since prices plunged, some homeowners have seen their homes repossesed. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
LONDONEurope’s first artificial reef, built in Dorset six months ago,  doesn’t work.

It has generated the equivalent of £10 million in publicity, amid claims it would create a surfing paradise on Britain’s south coast.

According to research by the University of Plymouth, the surfing at the reef in Boscombe is worse than the natural waves on the nearby beach. Dr Mark Davidson of Plymouth University found that surfers use the beach more than the reef.

The reef was designed and constructed by a New Zealand firm called ASR Ltd at the behest of the local council.

The company’s consultants are now being brought back to reshape part of the reef, as the council is withholding £150,000 from the firm under a performance-related payment clause in the contract.

For months, locals have been complaining about the poor quality of the surf. One Boscombe surfer told the Telegraph: “The reef is not what it ought to have been – the waves were better before – but it’s been fantastic for Bournemouth.”

Despite the reef’s short-comings, the hype around it has generated enough buzz to drive up the town’s popularity as a water sports haven.

The council estimates that the reef has generated the equivalent of around £10 million in publicity, which has attracted a large number of people to the area.

Roger Brown, of Bournemouth council, told the Telegraph: “It is clear that the reef is capable of producing surfable waves.

“However, these waves are extremely challenging, do not give the length of ride we would expect, and are not as frequent as required.”

He said the project had seen a 32 per cent increase in visitor numbers since installation of the reef, with house prices increasing by 25 per cent.