SnOasis developer under fire at meeting

A DEVELOPER who wants to build the £320million SnOasis winter sports complex in Suffolk came under fire last night as he faced more than 240 villagers.

By John Howard

A DEVELOPER who wants to build the £320million SnOasis winter sports complex in Suffolk came under fire last night as he faced more than 240 villagers.

The public meeting, at Great Blakenham village hall near Ipswich, was called as battle lines are drawn between those who believe the massive scheme will boost the economy and those who fear it will blight the countryside and cause traffic chaos.

During the meeting, Godfrey Spanner, managing director of developers Onslow Suffolk, was heckled, called "a comedian" and told by residents he had lost their trust.

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People spoke of their concerns at the potential loss of wildlife and greenfields in the area and that many jobs would be minimum wage positions.

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

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

The planning application includes a 500m long piste, a 9-hole golf course, 18 restaurants, a nightclub, an eight-screen cinema, a casino, 350 self-catering lodges and a four star 350-bed hotel.

Mr Spanner told the packed meeting: "There have been 196 objections to SnOasis, but we have had large support from groups and organisations.

"The site is a disused quarry and we will be creating 800 staff posts.

"I still think this should go ahead, it will be a great benefit to this area – that is my belief. I would still want it to go ahead even if the majority were against this.

"You will never convince me not to go ahead. People say we must not let this opportunity go by. We need the employment. SnOasis will become part of Suffolk's identity."

Mr Spanner believes the SnOasis project could be placed in jeopardy if opposition sparks a public inquiry, which could delay the project by two years.

Lord Michael Blakenham, whose family have long-established ties with the area as farmers and residents, told residents: "There are lakes and ponds on 300 acres within the application site, There are 15 ponds of a considerable size which are largely used by birds and a fishing club.

"There are dragon flies, and a Sand Martin colony in the area. The entire development is taking place in the Suffolk countryside. This is a development slap bang in the middle of it."

The meeting was called by Great Blakenham Parish Council.

Alan Stovell, Great Blakenham parish councillor who deals with planning issues, told the meeting: "A lot of the land has been reclaimed for farming, is pasture land. A lot of people believe it is simply a hole in the ground."

Mid Suffolk District Council leader Roger Saunders told the meeting there is everything to play for.

He said: "There is an illusion it is already a done deal and Mid Suffolk agree with Mr Spanner come what may. I need to dispel that immediately. We have an open mind, have to listen to the evidence and then make a decision."

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