Rock A Bye Clean Bandit
The question of whether the artificial surf reef at Boscombe in Dorset has generated value for money for the town is set to be examined by researchers at Plymouth University.
Academics at the institution will survey local businesses, hoteliers, fishermen and those who depend upon the marine environment for their livelihoods and their leisure, in a bid to gauge both the economic impact and social perception of the reef.
The reef, which opened in 2009, is the first of its kind in the northern hemisphere, and has attracted a great deal of interest. It has already been the subject of an independent performance review conducted by an academic at Plymouth, and is currently undergoing modification work.
Emma Rendle, from the Marine and Coastal Policy research group (MarCoPol) at the University, says the project will help to extend the debate into new territories. She said:
"All the focus so far has been on the functionality of the reef. What we can now begin to consider is the socio-economic impact: can we quantify its benefits, and if so, do they outweigh the costs of construction?"
The web-based survey has been tailored to a wide variety of stakeholders. For example, commercial fisherman are asked if their catches in Poole Bay have changed since construction began on the reef; hoteliers and store owners can report on the effect the reef has had upon bookings, customers, and revenue; and sea users - from anglers and divers to surfers - are also asked as to how the reef has impacted upon their use of the water, and how much money they spend in the town.
Not only will opinions be captured via the website, but researchers will also conduct a number of one-to-one interviews in the community. It will also be publicised via business networks, and the team has even offered to send paper copies to those people without access to the internet.
"We would like as many people as possible to get involved and to share their views on the advantages and disadvantages for the artificial reef.
"This questionnaire will enable us to detail public attitude and perception and address areas of improvement if this technology is to be used in the future. With similar projects planned in the UK and in Europe, the results of the research will be of interest to coastal planners and policy makers."
BOURNEMOUTH COUNCIL RESPONSE:
We were unaware of this survey, it was not commissioned by us and we haven't been consulted. However we already have a great deal of research to confirm the impact of the reef on the local economy.
For example, in our 2011 seafront visitor survey:
-The quality of seafront cafes/restaurants ranked slightly higher in Boscombe then any other area of the seafront
-Those in Boscombe were more likely than average to use food and drink outlets
-68% of visitors said that open space improvements and the restored Boscombe Pier were important in their decision to visit the seafront
-More people are more likely than any other seafront zone to visit this area for promenade activities (44%)
-Overall, 86% of seafront visitors were satisfied with the maintenance and up keep of seafront buildings and activities, however in Boscombe this was 92%
-Spend per head on food was greatest in Boscombe, at £5.11
-More visitor satisfaction (42%) with regards to organised sport and healthy living activities then in any other zone along the seafront.
"We would be delighted to meet with the student conducting the research to see if it tells us anything new once the fieldwork is completed."