Public inquiry fear for resort developer

DEVELOPERS have warned that a £320million winter sports complex could be in placed in jeopardy if a senior MP gets his wish for a public inquiry.Bosses behind the SnOasis project in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, fear an inquiry could delay the scheme by two years and create “real uncertainty” over its future.

By John Howard

DEVELOPERS have warned that a £320million winter sports complex could be in placed in jeopardy if a senior MP gets his wish for a public inquiry.

Bosses behind the SnOasis project in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, fear an inquiry could delay the scheme by two years and create “real uncertainty” over its future.

Their warning came after Sir Michael Lord, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, called for the Government to consider the major development – taking the decision out of the hands of district councillors.


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Mid Suffolk District Council has received three planning applications relating to the SnOasis complex.

If approved, they would see the creation a new winter resort at the former Blue Circle cement works, a new railway station and 537 homes, shops and community facilities.

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The planning application also includes a 500m-long piste, a nine-hole golf course, 18 restaurants, a nightclub, an eight-screen cinema, casino, 350 self-catering lodges and a four-star 350-bed hotel.

The proposed development has split opinions locally with supporters keen to see an economic boost to the region and opponent fearful of the impact on the countryside and the creation of major traffic problems.

Now, Sir Michael has written to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, asking him to call in the proposed SnOasis development.

He said: “This is rather too big a job for Mid Suffolk District Council to cope with. I am not against the scheme, it could all be very exciting and beneficial, but I do think it needs to be looked at in greater depth.

“On the face of it this is a very interesting and exciting project which could bring employment, tourism and many advantages to the Great Blakenham area.

“However it must be looked at in the most careful way, at the highest level, to avoid making serious mistakes, which may have a long-lasting impact on this part of Suffolk.

“Nothing will be lost by calling it in. If it is a sound proposal it will get the go-ahead and everyone concerned can be satisfied it has been thoroughly examined. If serious problems are encountered then clearly everyone concerned will have to have second thoughts.''

But Godfrey Spanner, managing director of developer Onslow Suffolk, said: “Sir Michael is mistaken in saying that there is nothing to lose by a call-in - a public inquiry could take up to two years. 

“Such a delay would be very costly and create real uncertainty over the future of the project.

“Regional and local government provide the framework for the application to be properly assessed, the new planning system supports this and Mid Suffolk are perfectly capable of making their own decision.

“There is no need for the application to go to a public inquiry to test the impacts on the surrounding area as these have already been properly considered under the statutory requirements of the environmental impact assessment.

“The impact of SnOasis has also been considered by a number of regional and local organisations,  including East of England Development Agency, East of England Tourist Board, Suffolk Development Agency, Ipswich Borough Council, and Somersham and Nettlestead parish councils – all have expressed their support for SnOasis.”

A spokeswoman for the district council said: “We are aware of the views of Sir Michael Lord MP that encourage the Secretary of State to call in this planning application.

“However this procedure must follow the relevant legislation, which entitles Mid Suffolk District Council to consider the application as a departure from planning policy, and either refuse it, or state that it is minded to approve it.

“The local government office, Go East, will then have a role in considering whether to recommend to the Secretary of State whether a call-in should be made.

“Ultimately it is the Minister's decision. He can then return the application to Mid Suffolk District Council or can call a full public inquiry, held by an inspector from the Planning Inspectorate.”

n The British Olympic Association has expressed support for the SnOasis winter sport complex to help develop athletes.

BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said: "I am sure the winter sports community will see it as an opportunity to develop next generation Olympians in a range of disciplines and at the same time, raise the profile and interest in winter sport."

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