Dig out your skis and goggles

DIG out your skis Suffolk and break-out your snow goggles because SnOasis is closer to being approved than ever before.The government today told SnOasis' thousands of supporters the news they had eagerly awaited - that it too supported the £300million winter sports complex at Great Blakenham.

Grant Sherlock

DIG out your skis Suffolk and break-out your snow goggles because SnOasis is closer to being approved than ever before.

The government today told SnOasis' thousands of supporters the news they had eagerly awaited - that it too supported the £300million winter sports complex at Great Blakenham.

The Department of Communities and Local Government wrote to the parties on either side of the SnOasis divide today indicating the secretary of state Hazel Blears was in favour of a new railway station for Great Blakenham, a 421-home housing development in the village and was “minded to approve” the SnOasis winter sports resort as long as a few final environmental hurdles could be overcome.

Onslow Suffolk, the company behind SnOasis and the railway station plans, told The Evening Star today was a “great day” for Great Blakenham.

However, the announcement fell short of the final green light SnOasis' supporters had been hoping for.

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Onslow Suffolk will now have to address a series of issues, predominantly linked to sustainability and wildlife, by July 30.

It is a further delay after the government previously asked for more information and admitted it needed longer to consider the applications.

After the July 30 deadline passes, the government will then spend 21 days consulting all the parties before the secretary of state makes what all involved hope will be the final announcement on September 17 - four years after the battle for SnOasis began. Today's announcement was seen as good news for Onslow Suffolk, which said it was certain it could provide the government with the information necessary to get the full green light in September.

Godfrey Spanner, the company's managing director, said there was “absolutely no question whatsoever” that SnOasis would now go ahead.

He said work would now begin on creating areas for great crested newts on the former Mason's Quarry site and also work to protect badger setts.

He added: “The secretary of state has said yes to SnOasis subject to conditions - we always knew they would have conditions.

“This is a great day all round, in particular it's a great day for Great Blakenham.

“We shall be dealing with the newts before we do anything else. We've always planned a six-month ecological process.”

Mr Spanner said the protected newts on the site remained central to the government's few last concerns.

He said: “The condition is that we satisfy English Nature on handling the newt position. It will come down to two ecologists deciding that we've done the right thing.”

John Williams from the SnOasis Community Alliance - a grouping of parish councils against the ski slope - said the opponents would not give up in their fight to have it scrapped.

He said: “We will continue to fight. I still think there is hope it could be turned down.

“I still think it is very difficult for government to pass something which is such a giant refrigerator which uses power in the way it does.

“We will never stop fighting for the communities we represent.

“We will now look at it in great detail and respond.”

Facilities which would be included in the SnOasis resort:

Indoor ski slope

Nursery slope

External ice rink

100m dry run bobsleigh track

Cross country ski run

Speed skating/ice track

16m ice climbing wall

Multi-purpose sports hall

Health and fitness centre

Outdoor sports pitches

Roller blade track

National winter sports academy with 100 apartments

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