Inquiry told planting not up to scratch

TREE planting schemes to minimise the visual impact of the proposed SnOasis development are “over optimistic” and will not grow quickly enough, it was claimed today.

TREE planting schemes to minimise the visual impact of the proposed SnOasis development are “over optimistic” and will not grow quickly enough, it was claimed today.

The SnOasis Community Alliance, the main opponents to the £300million winter sports complex, claim trees planted for screening the development will not grow as quickly as plans from developers Onslow Suffolk suggest.

At day four of a public inquiry into the scheme, set for the former Mason's quarry at Great Blakenham, Philip Russell-Vick was questioned on landscape and countryside issues.

He said young plants would grow to around 12m in 25 years.

But William Upton, representing the alliance, said the trees, planned for the southern boundary of the development, would not sufficiently hide the development.

He said: “You claim your trees will grow to the standard of current woodland in 15 years, which I think is unachievable, some would say 'over optimistic'.”

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Mr Russell-Vick, from consultants Enplan, said: “The principal of the proposal is to plant right along the boundary of the site with heavy standard trees, 5m to 6m in height. They would be planted dense so there is intensive cover.

“Then there would be smaller scale planting which would, in time, over take the heavy trees.

“There would be the benefit of instant screening, albeit not massively tall, and then more robust plants for mid to long-term.

“The young plants would be planted at 1m but grow more aggressively and would be 10m to 12m high in 25 years. I don't think that's over optimistic.

“Anyway, the planting is not there to screen, it's there to help the development fit into the landscape.”

Mr Russell-Vick told the inquiry that SnOasis would create a new landmark which many would see as a positive addition to Suffolk's landscape.

He said: “The ski slope is a remarkable structure and it would create drama in this landscape that would be to some extend special and memorable.

“In views from the countryside with the clay plateau it would be striking and sculptural, and while it would change the visual characteristics the physical landscape would continue to flow around it.”

Mr Russell-Vick said the 125 metre high ski slope would be the only structure that had a substantial impact on the surrounding countryside if SnOasis was given the go ahead.

The hotel, the snow dome and hostel accommodation at the centre would all emerge a small height above the former quarry, but would largely be hidden in the landscape by trees and other structures.

They would be seen from the Claydon area but Mr Russell-Vick felt this would not be a major visual intrusion on the landscape.

The inquiry at Ipswich's Corn Exchange continues.

N Do you think the complex should be given the go-ahead? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

SnOasis - the inquiry

There are three planning applications at the centre of the public inquiry. Mid Suffolk District Council gave all three outline planning approval last year but the government has ruled it will have the final say.

The first application is for the SnOasis leisure complex itself.

SnOasis would include an indoor ski slope measuring 400 metres long with a 100-metre vertical drop as well as a range of other facilities, including a nursery ski slope, ice rink, ice climbing wall, bobsleigh ride and an academy for winter sports athletes.

There would also be restaurants, a nightclub, conference centre, cinema and a range of other facilities.

Guests would stay in a 350-room four star hotel, 350 chalets or a hostel located on site.

The second application is for a 421-home Persimmon homes housing development on the nearby Blue Circle cement works site.

The third is for a £15 million railway station for Great Blakenham.