Joy as SnOasis gets one step nearer

THERE was widespread jubilation today after the SnOasis winter sports resort at Great Blakenham moved a step closer to being approved.

THERE was widespread jubilation today after the SnOasis winter sports resort at Great Blakenham moved a step closer to being approved.

Business groups roundly welcomed news that the planning consultant handling the project for Mid Suffolk District Council has recommended councillors to give it the go-ahead at a public meeting on April 20.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the decision by planning expert John Lawson to recommend approval for the three applications related to SnOasis was a step closer to securing a jobs boost and massive investment in the county.

He said that as long as sustainability and infrastructure issues were considered, SnOasis would be a boon for Suffolk.

He said: “It's good news for the economy of Suffolk. It's going to put Suffolk on the map in terms of a tourism destination.

“It's good for inward investment and job opportunities.”

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And the East of England Development Agency also called on the district council's planning referrals committee to follow Mr Lawson's recommendations by approving applications for the £350million ski resort, the neighbouring 421-home Persimmon housing development and a new railway station for Great Blakenham.

An EEDA spokesman said today: “We would hope the committee on the 20th will approve the application and seek to obtain the most sustainable development possible.”

Paul Clement, head of Ipswich Partnership, added: “This has to be possibly the best news for Ipswich town centre for many months, if not years. It will deliver 1.5million overnight stays each year, which can only be good news for the area and for the town.”

Mr Lawson's long-awaited 400-page report into the two-and-a-half year battle for SnOasis was presented to councillors for the first time yesterday.

On SnOasis itself, he said the 1,500 full-time jobs it would create would deliver an economic boost and the recreational facilities would enhance quality of life in the area.

And, crucially, he said Onslow Suffolk, the developers behind SnOasis, had managed to overcome the bulk of environmental concerns related to the huge project.

He wrote: “The overall ecological impacts are considered to be between neutral and minor beneficial.”

Suffolk for SnOasis, a group of businesses and individuals who support the scheme, backed his stance.

Sue Wilcock, the group's spokesman, said: “It's tremendous news. It's a boost for all those who have supported the project all the way through.”

If approved by Mid Suffolk District Council, the government would have the option of “calling in” the SnOasis project to order a public enquiry before it was allowed to go ahead.

John Lawson's final reports into SnOasis, the Persimmon housing development and the proposed railway station can be viewed online at www.midsuffolk.gov.uk.

SNOASIS:

JOHN Lawson found that the main SnOasis development on the old Mason's Quarry site near Great Blakenham would benefit the local and regional economy and, on the whole, not present a damaging influence on the environment.

He wrote: “The circa 1,500 full-time jobs estimated to be generated at the site would provide a range of local employment opportunities for a wide base of skills, and would not be confined to low skilled workers as suggested in some of the representations.”

He added: “Enhanced public footpath provision and the creation of a community woodland would also contribute to quality of life issues.”

PERSIMMON HOUSING DEVELOPMENT:

On the 421-home Persimmon housing development adjacent to SnOasis, Mr Lawson wrote: “It is considered that sufficient material considerations exist to warrant a supportive approach to be taken to this application in policy terms.”

He said that as long as contamination issues associated with the former Mason's cement works site and adjoining former MOD site are overcome, the project was “capable of delivering sustainable development”.

NEW £13MILLION RAILWAY STATION:

ONSLOW Suffolk has applied for permission to construct a new railway station on the Norwich to London main line, at a cost of £13million, to ferry passengers to and from the winter sports resort.

John Lawson recommended councillors support the application by saying it would “deliver wide ranging community benefit and improved accessibility”.

OBJECTORS to the massive SnOasis sports resort pledged to fight on today despite expert recommendations that it should be allowed to be built.

The SnOasis Parish Councils group, which has led the fight for modifications to the plans, vowed to continue with its campaign for a public enquiry.

John Williams, the group's chairman, said: “We haven't finished yet.

“All we can do is represent our electorate in the way that we feel they should be. We have to do everything we can to get the best we can for all our residents.

“We're looking for a considerable reduction in the traffic numbers. We feel if that cannot be achieved the district council should say no.

“All we can hope is that the councillors will see through some of what has been produced.”

Mr Williams says the group is now feels sure that members of Mid Suffolk District Council planning referrals committee will vote in favour of giving outline planning approval when they hold a public meeting on April 20.

But they remain hopeful they will convince Go East, the government office for the East of England, to force a public enquiry.

Mr Williams said: “I think as far as the district is concerned they will say yes to it.

“(After that) we have 21 days to convince Go East that there is objection to it and we would like to prevent our case to an inspector.”

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