£300m ski centre bound for Suffolk

WORK to build the new £300 million Snoasis holiday centre near Ipswich could start later this year.That would be the first stage of a major project creating up to 1,000 jobs and turning Suffolk into the winter sports capital of Britain.

WORK to build the new £300 million Snoasis holiday centre near Ipswich could start later this year.

That would be the first stage of a major project creating up to 1,000 jobs and turning Suffolk into the winter sports capital of Britain.

Snoasis would be built amid the quarry that provided the raw material for the Blue Circle cement works at Great Blakenham.

The ambitious proposal, first outlined in The Evening Star last autumn, would see a new indoor ski-slope – the largest in the world – created as the centrepiece of a massive tourist attraction.

But that would only be part of the Snoasis resort, which would also have a hotel, 300 skiing lodges, an ice arena, a golf course, and other leisure facilities.

As part of the development, new homes would be built on the site of the Blue Circle cement works – and a new railway station would be built on the main line between Ipswich and Norwich.

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Mid Suffolk council is currently asking local people for their views on the proposed development as it draws up its own masterplan for the regeneration of the area.

But it has been working closely with the developer of the proposed Snoasis project, Onslow Suffolk Ltd.

If the massive new project is backed – and its developers claim it would be the largest single development in Suffolk since Felixstowe docks – Onslow Suffolk could apply for planning permission during the autumn.

If this is approved, work on the project could start before the end of the year – and be completed by August 2006.

It would open in stages and the first major component, the arena for ice skating and concerts, could be open as early as Christmas 2004.

Although it is aimed mainly at tourists, it would be the year-round base for the British Olympic winter sports team.

"The developers have been encouraged by feedback to date and reaction from their numerous presentations and look forward to reviewing the comments made to Mid Suffolk," said David Lowe, of EWS, the Ipswich-based property agents handling the project.

"If the proposals are supported, Onslow Suffolk Ltd plan to proceed with planning applications this autumn. With a three year build programme, the development could be ready for use in August 2006" he added.

Godfrey Spanner, Managing Director of Onslow Suffolk Ltd, said he was hopeful that the first element of the project, the all purpose arena, could be open and in use within a year.

As well as skating, that would attract concerts and ice hockey and would encourage local people to visit the site during the three-year construction period.

Snoasis would be an icon for the tourist industry in East Anglia – and its main market will be day visitors and those who visit it on weekend trips.

Market research by Onslow Suffolk suggests that 13 million people live within two hours' travelling time of Great Blakenham – and the good road and rail connections would make it possible for short trips.

They estimate that up to 250,000 people a month could visit Snoasis – and although many of the activities there would be seasonal, it would be open 365 days a year.

The massive new snowdome would be a landmark – although because it would be built in a quarry it would not be a blot on the landscape.

In this respect it would be similar to the Eden Project in Cornwall which has proved a major tourist attraction since it was created in old china clay workings.

Since it opened two years ago, more than a million visitors have been to the Eden Project and it has become an established tourist destination in the south west.

Developers behind Snoasis believe the same thing could happen in Suffolk – it would tap into the rapidly-expanding interest in winter sports.

At present the largest indoor ski centre in Britain is the Xscape complex at Milton Keynes, but Snoasis would dwarf that – and provide holiday accommodation.

Tourist officers have been involved in the discussions over Snoasis, although have no firm details about when it might be open.

"We are very excited about the proposals which would be a major boost for tourism in the area," said Jane Cryer from the East of England Tourist Board.

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