SnOasis decision looms

D-DAY is fast approaching for a decision on whether a controversial multi-million pound winter sports complex should be given the go-ahead.

Lizzie Parry

D-DAY is fast approaching for a decision on whether a controversial multi-million pound winter sports complex should be given the go-ahead.

The Department of Communities and Local Government is due to make their announcement on SnOasis tomorrow , with Secretary of State Hazel Blears indicating earlier this year that she is likely to approve the project - so long as a few final environmental issues are addressed.

In a letter to the developers, Onslow Suffolk, in May she said she was “minded to approve” the £350million complex at Great Blakenham providing issues linked to sustainability and wildlife had been satisfied.

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However campaigners fighting against the proposals believe these issues have not been adequately achieved and are expecting the permission to be declined.

Keith Willetts, chairman of SnOasis Concern - part of the campaign group SnOasis Community Alliance - said the decision had gone down to the wire.

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“It is still hanging in the balance, we are awaiting the decision with great interest,” he said. “It is down to the wire.

“If the Government is really going to put weight behind what they say about the environment they have to refuse the plans, they fly in the face of their biodiversity and energy policies.

“The final decision has come down to two issues, energy and wildlife. On the basis of what the Secretary of State has asked for, we believe the developers have not satisfied the requirements, so we expect it to be rejected.

“It is not a grey area; it is black and white and based on the objective criteria we expect the decision to be refused.

“However we believed we had a strong case at the public inquiry and it didn't go our way so it is hard to predict. If there is any justice the decision will be turned down.

Mr Willetts raised further financial issues and the effects the economic downturn may have on the project, predicting the developers may have to re-think their plans.

He said: “The world has changed dramatically since the application was first submitted; financially everything is now jammed up.

“Even if permission is granted we are expecting the developers to come back with a revised scheme, it is unlikely to get the financial backing if they go ahead with the current plans.”

The 350 acre privately funded project will include a main indoor 475m long ski slope with a 100metre vertical drop, a nine hole golf course, a 350 room four-star hotel, a casino, nightclub, restaurants, conference centre, 350 chalets for guests, an ice rink, bobsleigh ride and a range of other leisure facilities.

Meanwhile permission has already been granted for a 421-home housing development near the site as well as a new railway station for the village.

Supporters claim it will bring huge economic and tourism benefits while opponents fear it will choke up roads with traffic and have an adverse environmental impact.

Godfrey Spanner, managing director of developers Onslow Suffolk, was unavailable for comment last night but a spokesman for the company said they were very confident of a positive outcome.

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