Anger over Snoasis delay

OUTRAGED developers today claimed a Suffolk council is jeopardising the £320million SnOasis project.Onslow Suffolk Ltd, the company behind Great Blakenham's winter sports resort proposal, claims it has been "hoodwinked" and "taken advantage of".

OUTRAGED developers today claimed a Suffolk council is jeopardising the £320million SnOasis project.

Onslow Suffolk Ltd, the company behind Great Blakenham's winter sports resort proposal, claims it has been "hoodwinked" and "taken advantage of".

The latest hold-up in the planning process has seen Mid Suffolk District Council set aside two dates at the end of April to hear the application.

The authority claims it is the earliest the bid can discussed because of important issues that still need to be resolved.

But the developers say it is just the latest in a series of broken promises that could bring the massive project to its knees.

It would see a former cement works site transformed into a major leisure resort, with separate bids for

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a train station and a 500-home development on Hackney's Corner coming as part of the package.

Mr Spanner said the delay creates major problems moving the site's protected great crested newts, which must not be interfered with after October.

If planning permission was granted in April, the developers would then have to wait a further three months for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to consider giving the go-ahead for their removal.

If granted, it leaves just August and September to move the species to a mitigation area set aside as part of the scheme, which takes a minimum of four months to create at a cost of about £7million.

Godfrey Spanner, the man behind the scheme, said: "This is the point they seem to disregard.

"I cannot risk spending that kind of money on something I don't know will succeed. The council doesn't consider anything as a whole. It's all bit by bit.

"If I've got to wait another year to start moving the wildlife, I'd rather do something else quite frankly.

"I feel very let down. I'm 100 per cent committed to Great Blakenham and this scheme but there is time limitations. I think they've taken advantage of me."

Mr Spanner added: "From September, we've been promised we'll get to committee in November, then December and then they promised it in January. Then, two weeks later, I'm told outrageously that it's another four months. We've been hoodwinked."

John Lawson, a planning consultant appointed to deal with the development by Mid Suffolk council two weeks ago, said it is normal for delays in a project of this size.

He said: "We've obviously told Onslow this is going to be the new timetable so they were put in the picture first.

"The reasons being this is a major development proposal that requires a lot of detailed consideration. There are still outstanding matters that need to be resolved."

These include an economic impact study, environmental and transport issues, he said.

Mr Lawson added: "We've taken stock of the situation and we think it's appropriate to give the application certainty of scale.

"I think it's unrealistic to say there's a need to grant planning permission quickly so the newts can be moved.

"There's no guarantee even if we grant permission tomorrow it will go any quicker. It may still have to be called in."

In a separate twist, elected councillors are to be trained on dealing with large applications such as this.

Mr Lawson said: "It's good practise for this to take place."

Mr Spanner said he is now faced with the prospect of disbanding his 40-strong team until April.

He estimates the earliest the scheme could now be finished is 2008, although the prospect of a call in and public inquiry may signal the end of the project.

Mr Spanner said: "If it's called in I can't bear to think what will happen. I might have to sell it or continue winning minerals and use it as a landfill site."

Do you want SnOasis to happen? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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