Campaigners accused of wasting money

SNOASIS opposition campaigners have been accused of wasting money on “Champagne ideas” after they asked the public for an extra £30,000 to pay for a shortfall in funds.

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By John Howard>

SNOASIS opposition campaigners have been accused of wasting money on “Champagne ideas” after they asked the public for an extra £30,000 to pay for a shortfall in funds.

The Suffolk Community Alliance needs to find the extra cash to cover rising costs, partly as it incurred extra expenses when a public inquiry into the £300m complex overran.

John Williams, chairman of the alliance which represents 11 villages and towns near the development site, is asking members of the organisation to look to see how they can help to reduce the shortfall.

If finally approved SnOasis, earmarked for Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, has long been expected to include a giant ski slope, ice rink, casino, nightclub, hotel, restaurants, railway station and hundreds of new homes.

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The development has sparked both passionate support for the boost to the local area and economy and grave fears from residents concerned about the extra traffic and intrusion on the landscape.

Despite gaining Mid Suffolk District Council's backing the Government decided to call in the plans for an inquiry that ran for several weeks in Ipswich earlier this year.

The campaigners have spent around £100,000 in their fight and so far £11,000 has been pledged to meet the £31,000 shortfall.

During a recent Needham Market Town Council evening meeting, Ian Mason, a former mayor, said he personally objected to passing any more money to the organisation and saw no reasons to justify it.

He accused campaigners of having “Champagne ideas” with other people's money, although others disagreed, and another councillor praised the hours of unpaid work given by people fighting the development.

Mr Williams said: “The Suffolk Preservation Society has paid an additional £1,000 on top of its originally pledged £10,000.

“In order to address the deficit I have requested additional funding from the parish councils and this is being raised at their meetings.

“The SnOasis public inquiry officially closed on June 19, the sittings having extended past the planned time by some 25%.

“This unscheduled overrun, and the resultant additional professional costs, plus the additional burdens, have led to the shortfall.

“Thousands of hours have also been volunteered by parish councillors dealing with this over four years. We are not paid - this is voluntary work.”

The Planning Inspectorate said that a decision might not be made until next year, although a deadline has been set at no later than January 31.

n. Do you think the campaigners should be given more money? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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