SnOasis boost unveiled to region

THE full financial impact of controversial proposals to build a £320million winter sports complex in Suffolk was last night revealed for the first time.

THE full financial impact of controversial proposals to build a £320million winter sports complex in Suffolk was last night revealed for the first time.

The SnOasis snowdome, which has been earmarked for the former Blue Circle cement works site in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, is expected to bring in more than £50m a year and attract around 650,000 visitors.

DTZ Pieda Consulting presented the findings at Mid Suffolk District Council yesterday as part of a study into the economic viability of the project, which includes a 500m long piste, ice rink, bowling alley, a nine hole golf course, 18 restaurants, a nightclub, an eight screen cinema, casino, conference centre, 350 self catering lodges, a four star 350 bed hotel, 430 new homes and a train station.

And finance bosses predicted that the leisure facility would bring in a total revenue of £56.8m a year, incurring costs of £33.6m and therefore resulting in an overall net profit of £23.2m.

They also said the project had the potential to become a landmark tourist attraction for the east of England and would create around 1,400 full-time jobs for people in the region, with 1,170 of these in Suffolk.

But opposition groups urged caution and warned that despite the obvious benefits they were still concerned about the impact on the surrounding area.

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Discussing the study Christopher Cobbald, director of DTZ Pieda Consulting, said: “According to our anticipated level of visitors, which we believe to be realistic, the scheme, though not vastly profitable, is viable and will be able to wash its face nicely.

“It would bring economic benefits to Suffolk and provide in excess of 2,000 jobs - around 6% of all those employed in Mid Suffolk at the moment - so it is a substantial amount.

“It will undoubtedly help in marketing the east of England and Suffolk as a tourist destination and will put this area on the map.

“It will make people aware of this part of the world and will bring in money from visitors who would not be here if it were not for SnOasis.”

However Mr Cobbald warned that preventative steps would need to be taken if the retail development on the site was not to have a detrimental impact on nearby town centres - especially Ipswich.

He continued: “We are not so worried about Stowmarket but we do have concerns that the retail facilities at SnOasis could see expenditure taken away from Ipswich, which would be contrary to planning policy.

“There is a need for some degree of protection against the adverse effects, which should be pinned down in the planning proposals, such as a threshold payment or entry fee so the development doesn't just turn into a retail destination.”

The results of the study, which was conducted in partnership with Mid Suffolk District Council, the Suffolk and East of England Development Agencies, and other local authorities, will be used to determine whether SnOasis will get the green light when planning officials discuss the proposals early next year.

Godfrey Spanner, director of SnOasis developers Onslow Suffolk, said he was pleased with the findings and promised to work with the local authorities to resolve any outstanding concerns.

“I quite understand the dis-benefits that the development will bring but everything is manageable so long as we are in agreement on how to do it,” he said. “I have been working with Mid Suffolk District Council and have enjoyed a rapport with them for a long time. It is quite right they take time to look at everything and digest the information.”

He added: “We will bring in specialised sub-contractors for the building work who will train the local workforce and therefore these skills will remain in the region when the subcontractors leave. We are also working in partnership with local colleges to see if we can be part of their curriculum and train students as future staff so there are further benefits to the economy.”

But John Williams, chairman of the SnOasis parish group, which has concerns about the impact any development will have on the local area, urged caution.

He said: “Obviously we would like something to happen because it would be a great boost to the area but the key is making sure that it is sustainable and does not have an adverse effect on surrounding villages.

“We do not want it to affect existing services because those who live in these rural areas need to support themselves.

“As regards the study I am a bit concerned by the figures because they are different to what we have been told in the original application and I would like to know where they have come from. However before we make any decisions and go any further we will have to analyse the data.”

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