Great Blakenham: Developer looks at alternative use for SnOasis winter sports complex
17:00 12 April 2014
Campaigners have called for action at the site earmarked for the £300million SnOasis project - after it emerged a developer had come forward with an alternative plan for the area.
There remain severe doubts over whether the winter sports complex will ever happen, despite those behind the long-delayed plans saying the improving economic climate may reignite them.
Now it has been revealed a developer has approached Mid Suffolk District Council with an alternative idea for the 350-acre site in Great Blakenham.
The nature of the proposal has not been disclosed but there were pre-application stage discussions with planning chiefs.
While it is not clear whether the idea will be pursued, the news has prompted calls for the site to finally be put to use.
John Field, county and a district councillor for Great Blakenham, said he been made aware of enquiries into alternative uses for the site.
He said: “Local people would like to see some sort of nature reserve, an area for walking and exercise to help the community particularly bearing in mind it’s close to Ipswich. Some part of the development site would need to support light industry. There have been a number of tentative approaches but it’s awfully difficult to judge whether they are extremely speculative or have a real basis.”
He added that he would like to see hi-tech companies invest in the site.
Keith Williams, is chairman of Snoasis Community Alliance, which comprises 11 town and parish councils in the Great Blakenham area.
He said: “I hope when the site is developed that some hi-tech or otherwise company would be encouraged to come in order to provide better jobs to help the location - there is a problem in Suffolk where we do not encourage people to aim high enough.
“It’s a duty of any planning authority not just to provide houses and business but to provide the best they can for younger people. To be fair that’s what we have always said for SnOasis.”
A spokeswoman for Mid Suffolk District Council confirmed it had received enquiries over alternative uses for the site. The authority’s last contact with Onslow Suffolk, behind the SnOasis bid, had been around a year ago.
Philip Isbell, corporate manager for development management at the council, said: “We had a pre-application enquiry about alternative use for the site. In real terms someone would clearly have to take a view on the market.”
He said it could cost “millions of pounds” to pay designers to flesh out the outline details of the project.
But SnOasis promoter Godfrey Spanner, who has always maintained that the project will go-ahead over its 13-year history, remained defiant last night.
He said: “We have made great strides in the funding of SnOasis since the climate has improved so much recently.”
Erica Whettingsteel, who worked on the project as a planning consultant for eight years, was not optimistic about its future.
Asked if she felt the project would ever be built, she said: “It’s very difficult to see, we are in a completely different economic climate to when it was first conceived.
“Because it’s an outline planning application – there would need to be substantial work on the reserved matters – detailed design work. Since all of that would have to be put forward – that’s a huge job before anything could happen.”
SnOasis was granted an extension to its outline planning permission which runs out in 2016.
The plans outline how an indoor ski slope, ice rink, hotels, shops and apartments would all be built. Mr Spanner has said before that the complex would create 3,500 jobs and boost the economy.
But former Mid Suffolk leader, now police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, said in 2012 that it was “highly unlikely” the complex would ever be built.
Around £500,000 has been spent by the council on the project’s long planning history.