Wildlife group confirms SnOasis protest

THE massive SnOasis winter sports complex planned for Suffolk is to face continued opposition over wildlife issues, it has emerged.

Grant Sherlock

THE massive SnOasis winter sports complex planned for Suffolk is to face continued opposition over wildlife issues, it has emerged.

Natural England has revealed it remains deeply concerned about the fate of the protected great crested newts on the former quarry earmarked for the £300million leisure complex, which would have a giant ski slope as its main attraction.

Developers Onslow Suffolk had hoped to convince the wildlife watchdog that mitigation measures its ecologists were proposing would be enough to ensure the newts could be safely moved from the former Mason's Quarry at Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, to a specially maintained part of the property.

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However with the Government expected to rule on whether SnOasis can be built in a little over a month and despite meetings between the parties, Natural England has declared its opposition to the scheme remains.

A spokesman said: “Great crested newts are an internationally protected species and this large colony is one of regional significance.

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“From the development plans supplied to us we infer that a very high proportion of the existing great crested newt habitats will be lost.

“While there has been some useful new proposals put forward we still believe that the mitigation package does not meet our concerns.”

Natural England said it was not trying to stop the development but insisted it had a “legal responsibility” to make sure that the newts were looked after.

Under normal circumstances Natural England's opposition to a scheme would see it refuse to grant a licence for the relocation of the newts, thereby preventing any construction work to go ahead.

However if the Secretary of State for Communities, Hazel Blears, announces that SnOasis should be built then her Department for Communities and Local Government could instruct Natural England to issue a licence against its own wishes.

SnOasis's opponents say it will be a massive blight on the landscape which will effectively be act as a giant refrigerator consuming large amounts of energy.

But its supporters insist it would deliver once-in-a-generation economic boost to the area, creating hundreds of jobs and attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Onslow Suffolk was unavailable for comment.

A final announcement from the government is due by September 25.

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