SnOasis verdict will be delayed

A COUNCIL will not deliver a verdict on controversial plans for the £320 million winter sports complex SnOasis until next year, it has emerged.And last night villagers who fear the impact that the huge development may have on them spoke of their delight at the unexpected delay, which comes as a Suffolk peer claimed the project would damage local wildlife.

By John Howard

A COUNCIL will not deliver a verdict on controversial plans for the £320 million winter sports complex SnOasis until next year, it has emerged.

And last night villagers who fear the impact that the huge development may have on them spoke of their delight at the unexpected delay, which comes as a Suffolk peer claimed the project would damage local wildlife.

Mid Suffolk District Council has been sifting through more than 120,000 pages of documentation supporting the case for the huge leisure complex, which it is hoped will create more than 1,000 jobs and be a major boost to the Suffolk economy, since last year.


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SnOasis has long been earmarked for the former Blue Circle cement works site in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, and developers had hoped that D-Day for councillors to debate whether to give the complex permission to be built would be December 13.

But John Lawson, a planning consultant dealing with the application for the council, said last night that the possible December date was now not going to happen and nothing would be decided before 2006.

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He added that the authority is waiting for more information from developers about the three linked applications for SnOasis, a new railway station to serve it, and hundreds of new homes.

Once the extra information has been gathered - including an environmental assessment and the business case for the railway station- there will be a further consultation before council papers are prepared.

Mr Lawson said: “Good progress is being made and we are working very well on this. We are optimistic that we should get to planning committee early in 2006.''

The original SnOasis application, submitted in June 2004, included a 500m long piste, a nine-hole golf course, 18 restaurants, a nightclub, an eight-screen cinema, casino, 350 self-catering lodges and a four-star 350-bed hotel.

An action group has been set up by 15 villages in the Great Blakenham area representing communities who will be affected by the development, and last night its spokesman Peter Welham said he was pleased by the delay.

He added: “We feel that the council is making sure everything is being done properly. We have no problem with the timescale, and everyone being reconsulted again.

“We feel it is important that all the I's are dotted and all the T's are crossed, otherwise the planning committee can't make a proper decision.”

Meanwhile, a Suffolk peer yesterday warned that wildlife in the way of the development could be lost on a “false premise”.

Lord Blakenham, who lives at Great Blakenham and is chairman of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, said the public perception was that the holiday village would be built on an area currently used for both landfilling and recycling waste.

However, he said the site to be developed was to the south of this - where former gravel pits now provide a haven for great crested newts and other wildlife.

“If Suffolk decides, for employment reasons or whatever, that it needs the development, I hope the present wildlife habitat will not be taken over on a false premise. The picture being put forward is a false one,” he said.

Lord Blakenham, who was making the keynote address at a conference organised by the Suffolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, said the SnOasis proposal would encroach on a good ecological area made up of ponds and species-rich grassland.

The peer added the development would be the equivalent height of a 36-storey building, only half of which would be under ground level.

He said: “It will become the highest hill in Suffolk. You will be able to see it from Bury St Edmunds, Woodbridge and the North Sea.”

Godfrey Spanner, spokesman for SnOasis developers Onslow Suffolk, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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