Bosses dismiss SnOasis protest

THE developer behind the £320 million winter sports complex SnOasis last night branded a weekend protest which saw opponents fly a helium balloon to demonstrate the height of the ski dome as a “smoke screen”.

By John Howard

THE developer behind the £320 million winter sports complex SnOasis last night branded a weekend protest which saw opponents fly a helium balloon to demonstrate the height of the ski dome as a “smoke screen”.

Mid Suffolk District Council has recently given the huge 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 475 metre-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 will be held.

Keith Willetts, chairman of sNOasis Concern, which helped organise the balloon launch on Sunday, from Baylham, near Needham Market, said that the ski-dome would be 73 metres above the surrounding land - 242ft - or the height of 14 double-decker buses.

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And he said that while their balloon was 20ft long the actual snow dome will be nearly 700ft long and 200ft wide, as well as being 242ft high above the skyline.

Mr Willetts said: “People can just not believe SnOasis will be this high, it really is quite shocking. We will leave the balloon up for a few weeks, although not at night.

“It is very, very visible from all the villages around and was launched just 100 feet away from the site, which we obviously can't get on to.

“At night when SnOasis is lit up with high intensity navigation lights people will see it from at least 30 miles away.

“You can see the Mendlesham Mast from a long, long way and that is a thin mast, this will be a fat, long slug. We are knocked out by all the support for our campaign - we are getting overwhelming support.”

The Civil Aviation Authority would not permit campaigners to fly the balloon at a height of more than 60metres, so it was launched with the intention of it reaching 13metres (around 40ft) short of the actual height to give a good impression of how SnOasis would totally dominate the Suffolk skyline.

But SnOasis developer Godfrey Spanner, managing director of Onslow Suffolk, said the balloon launch was a stunt.

He added: “We at Onslow Suffolk Ltd flew a blimp at precisely the height and location of the tip of the snow dome two and a half years ago.

”This is all a smoke screen by the concern group. Their balloon, they say is 20ft, and our slope is 200 ft wide - yes at the bottom of the quarry. At the pinnacle it half that size.

“I remind them again, Mid Suffolk District Council wanted the resort, they wanted a landmark building, and they wanted a railway station. We are delivering everything on their wish list.”

Although there have serious concerns voiced 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 last week that 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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