New delay hits £320m SnOasis scheme

TOURISM bosses warned last night Suffolk was facing a "huge lost opportunity" if plans for a £320million winter sports complex collapsed.They were speaking after it emerged a scheduled planning meeting to move the SnOasis project a step further had to be postponed due to a lack of information – the latest in a series of delays.

TOURISM bosses warned last night Suffolk was facing a "huge lost opportunity" if plans for a £320million winter sports complex collapsed.

They were speaking after it emerged a scheduled planning meeting to move the SnOasis project a step further had to be postponed due to a lack of information – the latest in a series of delays.

It comes days after Godfrey Spanner, managing director of SnOasis developer Onslow Suffolk, warned that further setbacks in getting the go-ahead for the scheme in Great Blakenham could jeopardise the project.

At its hub are plans for a 475m long piste, a hotel, restaurants, casino, cinema, golf course and 537 new homes and community facilities.

A council meeting to discuss three applications relating to the scheme was due to be held on April 26, 27 and 28.

But Roger Saunders, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, admitted yesterday it had been postponed with no new date set.

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"I have been told by the planning consultant and by our head of planning control that in fact the information requested from various people still has not been submitted and therefore there will not be the information needed to have a proper and fair planning hearing," he said.

"It's a matter of regret to us all because we want to start to resolve these issues but in fact if we don't get the information we need to present a fair case to the committees then it's not going to be justice for anybody.

"We keep setting targets to work to and we desperately want to get on with this. We are not deliberately delaying this we want to get on with it. We want a fair result but there are all sorts of things to be considered. We cannot just have a massive thing like that as an island that no-one can get to."

Last night Scott Dolling, destination marketing manager for the Suffolk Development Agency, said the agency had done everything it could to help the planning process.

"We have pretty much done what we can and we want the planning process to be dealt with as quickly as possible," he said.

"It will put Suffolk on the international map, not just the region and the UK - this is bigger than that. If somewhere else were now chosen it would be sending out the wrong sort of message.

"It would be a huge lost opportunity from marketing Suffolk as a tourist destination."

Last week the Suffolk Preservation Society called on councillors to defer a decision on the complex until more research was carried out.

The organisation is concerned about the impact on the A14 route if the Great Blakenham resort is given planning permission – particularly after the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said it was unlikely to be able to provide a new railway for the complex.

Mr Dolling said: "If the case is that they are holding it up for the greater good of the project, then that is very important. If it's something like the rail connection that has held it back we are very sympathetic to that particular area.

"We do want to encourage people to travel to Suffolk with the least damaging impact on the environment.

"The potential of SnOasis to Suffolk is significant and it is essential that the planning processes are managed equitably but with the minimum of delay."

In an interview with the East Anglian Daily Times last week, Mr Spanner said his company would seriously have to think of other uses for the former Blue Circle Cement Works site if there was any further delays.

"Our people are working with the SRA. We anticipated we would be in to planning by March last year, and it would be intolerable if we were delayed any further," he said.

Yesterday Tim Rowan Robinson, chair of the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, gave his full support to the project.

He said: "SnOasis will make the world of difference to the profile of Suffolk as a tourism destination. We will become intrinsically linked to a world class tourism operation which will be good for the local economy, good for British sport and provide significant benefit for other local tourism and food production businesses."

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