Balloon 'to show SnOasis height'

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the £320million winter sports complex SnOasis are launching a helium balloon in a bid to show just how high the ski dome will be on the skyline.

By John Howard

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the £320million winter sports complex SnOasis are launching a helium balloon in a bid to show just how high the ski dome will be on the skyline.

Mid Suffolk District Council has recently given the complex, at Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, outline planning permission.

It is one of East Anglia's biggest developments for years and the council was told the complex, at a former quarry site, would include a main 475metre-long ski slope, golf course, ice rink, casino, nightclub, hotel, railway station and hundreds of new homes.


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But the development still has hurdles to overcome, and is waiting to hear from Government office GO-East whether a public inquiry needs to be held.

Keith Willetts, chairman of sNOasis Concern, which has helped organise the balloon launch, from Baylham, near Needham Market, said: “One of the most enduring misconceptions regarding the SnOasis site is that it is an ugly, derelict and abandoned quarry.

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“That's the myth that the developers would like to perpetuate and it's the picture you see whenever you read an article in the press or see a report on television. In fact, the site is a beautiful wildlife haven.

“The actual ski-dome will be 73metres above the surrounding land - that's 242ft- the height of 14 double-decker buses.

“The Civil Aviation Authority will not permit us to fly at a height of over 60metres, so our balloon will actually be 13metres (around 40ft) short of the actual height.

“Nevertheless, you will get a good impression of how SnOasis will totally dominate the Suffolk skyline.

“And while our balloon is 20ft long the actual snow dome will be nearly 700ft long and 200ft wide, as well as being 242ft high above the skyline. We will launch the balloon on Sunday afternoon.”

But a spokesman for the SnOasis project, led by developer Godfrey Spanner, said last night that the balloon launch was simply a publicity stunt, without any scientific basis.

He said: “This will not be flown at exactly the location for SnOasis and a lot of the ski slope will be below ground. This is a publicity stunt and is unscientific.”

Although there are serious concerns about the development from some local people, many others have welcomed it, not least as a huge boost to the region's tourism economy.

A spokesman for GO-East said it was still deciding whether a public inquiry was necessary and the original decision deadline of June 22 may be extended to allow further consideration.

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