Sno joke - SnOasis faces another delay

IT has overcome a frosty public inquiry, government scrutiny and the slippery issue of the great crested newts.

Simon Tomlinson

IT has overcome a frosty public inquiry, government scrutiny and the slippery issue of the great crested newts.

Today just one three-letter word is proving the latest hurdle to delay construction of SnOasis.

Suffolk was all set to go snow crazy when the �350million winter sports complex was given the government thumbs-up in November.

But in a devastating blow it has emerged that a clause in the go-ahead could put the project on ice for two years, hindering an influx of jobs and costing a further �15million . . . and all because of the word all!

The condition states that all reserved matters - applications for the detailed design and construction - must be carried out before the first brick can be laid at Great Blakenham.

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The revelation has stunned developers Onslow Suffolk who say the wording has been lost in translation between government departments.

Godfrey Spanner, the company's managing director, said he was “totally, utterly moribund” and is pleading for help from the highest levels of government to fix what he claims is a simple error.

They claim to have agreed a phased programme of reserved matters, to be submitted to Mid Suffolk District Council, with the planning inspector during the public inquiry in 2007.

They say the inspector failed to include that agreement in his report and it did not find its way into the letter of consent by communities secretary Hazel Blears.

But the situation is in deadlock because each department is claiming that responsibility lies on the other to waive the condition.

Mr Spanner said: “It must be changed. We can't wait another two years and spend another �15million to get a shovel in the ground. We want work to begin now.

“I am asking for a meeting to find out why this error is holding up 3,500 jobs and �300million investment but no one is listening to me. No one is doing anything.”

It is yet a further delay after vociferous opposition from villagers, fears for the future of the great crested newts on site and the public inquiry.

Also, earlier this year, an investment company connected to the sports complex collapsed and Persimmon opted out of building social housing units on the planned 421-home development.

Mr Spanner is now appealing to Ms Blears and business secretary Peter Mandelson to get the project back on the slopes.

A spokeswoman from the planning inspectorate said: “The conditions which were set out do apply to the developers. It is open to them to appeal to the local authority if they want to amend the application.”

Timeline - Snoasis setbacks:-

- October 2002: Proposals for SnOasis unveiled.

- July 2004: Consortium of parish councils set up to oppose development appoints former county councillor John Williams as their spokesman.

- November 2004: Application due to be discussed by Mid Suffolk Council - put off until January 2005.

- December 2004: Developers told application will not be discussed until the end of April 2005.

- January 2007: Public inquiry into the SnOasis development begins

- May 2008: Government announces support for SnOasis, but wants a series of issues to be addressed before final consent is granted.

- November 6, 2008: SnOasis gets go-ahead.

- March 2009: Persimmon opts out of building social housing units.

- March 2009: First Equity, an investment firm linked with the project, collapses.

- April 2009: Clause in government go-ahead could delay project for two years and cost an extra �15million.