Great Blakenham: Snoasis ‘unlikely’ to happen says council leader

THE �300million SnOasis winter sports complex is “highly unlikely” ever to be built, according to one council leader.

The comments by Tim Passmore, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, increase doubts about whether the ambitious project will go ahead.

Mr Passmore said that so far, an estimated �500,000 had been spent on the ongoing SnOasis planning process but he was now “very sceptical” about the scheme’s chances of being delivered.

SnOasis, planned for a disused quarry at Great Blakenham just outside Ipswich, has been seen by many as providing a huge tourist boost for Suffolk, although it has also attracted some local opposition.

Mr Passmore said: “I am very sceptical, I think it’s highly unlikely now, I do not think with the current market situation that money will be available for something like this. It’s a shame, an investment of �300m could have created a lot of wealth.”

SnOasis developer Godfrey Spanner has said he is still confident that the ambitious project will still go ahead.

But he resigned as a company director of Onslow Suffolk Ltd, the company behind the plans, after he was made personally bankrupt in March.

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“I’m surprised that it cost that,’’ he said, referring to the planning costs. ”It cost us well over a couple of million in legal costs.”

Mr Spanner told the EADT: “It will create 3,500 jobs, 2,000 full-time jobs and 400 homes, nothing comes for nothing.”

Building work can only begin at the site after a new railway station has been built and in operation in Great Blakenham for six months.

Mr Spanner has written to Ipswich MP Ben Gummer about his increasing frustration in trying to find an operator to run the railway station.

Chairman of Onslow Suffolk Ltd, Alan Barry, said: “I do not agree with (Mr Passmore’s) comments. We are confident of bringing the project to resolution.

“I’m absolutely confident that work will begin within five years. We are very excited about the project and with the prospects that it will bring.”

Mid Suffolk extended the site’s outline planning permission for an additional five years last November.

Two Government planning delivery grants of more than �100,000 each were used by Mid Suffolk District Council to pay for the �260,000 public inquiry into the SnOasis project, in 2007.

The grants were not directly allocated for the SnOasis project and so could have been used on other proposals.

A Freedom of Information request made by the EADT also revealed that between 2007 and 2011, SnOasis cost the Mid Suffolk an additional figure of more than �110,000.

Mid Suffolk has said that this cost was met in full with planning fees received at the time, which were �121,000.

Keith Willetts, chairman for action group SnOasis Concern, said: “I believe the project will never go ahead and in it’s current way, it’s economically non viable.”