SnOasis given the green light using emergency powers due to coronavirus crisis

New-look artist's impression of SnOasis. Picture: ONSLOW SUFFOLK/SNOASIS

New-look artist's impression of SnOasis. Picture: ONSLOW SUFFOLK/SNOASIS - Credit: Archant

Plans for a £500million winter sports centre have been given the go ahead using emergency powers to allow local councils to continue to operate during the coronavirus crisis – leading to criticism from some councillors.

Proposals for SnOasis to be built in a 350-acre former quarry in Great Blakenham have been slowly progressing through the planning process for more than a decade but now the plans have finally been given a green light.

In March last year Mid Suffolk District Council’s planning committee approved the project providing certain measures for the public good were met.

Measures included provision for at least 75% of the centre’s energy to be met from renewable or low-carbon energy sources and a substantial upgrade of work to improve Stowmarket railway station.

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After the developer agreed to the measures, Mid Suffolk District Council’s chief planning officer used emergency delegated powers to approve the development in the absence of a planning committee due to the coronavirus pandemic.

David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “I am pleased with today’s decision by the chief planning officer, which reflects the will of our planning committee, the majority of whom voted in favour of the project last year.

“The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has stressed the importance of councils ensuring that the planning system continues to function at this time of national crisis, prioritising planning decision-making where this will support the local economy.

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“SnOasis couldn’t be a better example of this, as it will benefit not just the district but Suffolk as a whole, at a time when opportunities for employment and economic growth will be needed more than ever.”

A spokesman for SnOasis said: “This is excellent news, and we want to thank the council for their ongoing support of this exciting project. In due course, we look forward to delivering an exceptional, fit-for-purpose, state of the art visitor experience, whilst creating thousands of jobs for the local community and beyond.”

However Green Party planning spokesman Andrew Stringer said: “We still remain sceptical as to whether this proposal will ever be built. We also remain unconvinced that this is the answer to our future economic aspirations, let alone the environmental drain this proposal will have on our community for decades to come, given the vast majority of visitors to this proposal will be day trippers using cars for access with no major road improvements. We must not forget we will not be getting a new railway station to serve this development, which was part of the original traffic mitigation measures.”

The SnOasis centre will provide world class winter sport facilities including a professional level ski slope, ice rink and bobsleigh run.

It will also include an entertainment centre and there is the possibility of further development including shops, a hotel, hostel and chalets.

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