SnOasis inquiry gets underway

SUFFOLK has an opportunity to embrace a huge boost to its economy and “a truly important facility” for Britain's future, the developers behind SnOasis said today.

SUFFOLK has an opportunity to embrace a huge boost to its economy and “a truly important facility” for Britain's future, the developers behind SnOasis said today.

In their opening argument at a long awaited public inquiry into the £350 million winter sports resort, the parties representing Onslow Suffolk urged planning inspector John Gray to recommend its approval.

Rupert Warren, the barrister acting for Onslow Suffolk and Persimmon Homes Anglia, which wants to build a 421 home development near to SnOasis said: “The development will make a significant contribution to the generation of jobs and to the local and regional economy.”

In laying out the argument for SnOasis on the first morning of what is expected to be a five-week inquiry Mr Warren described SnOasis and the application to build a new railway station at Great Blakenham as “a highly sustainable package of tourism, leisure, employment and infrastructure works”.

If built SnOasis would become the worlds largest indoor ski complex. Onslow Suffolk has spent nearly six years developing plans to construct the complex, which would boast a main ski slope measuring 475 metres long with a 100 metre vertical drop on the site of the former Mason's Quarry at Great Blakenham.

The project is backed by Mid Suffolk District Council, which granted all three applications outlining planning approval last year as well as Suffolk County Council and business groups. However, it is opposed by an alliance of parish councils, Suffolk preservations societies and some local residents.

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After Mid Suffolk District Council granted the leisure complex, the nearby housing development and the railway station the green light, the government ordered a public inquiry.

John Gray, an architect with a master's degree in urban planning, was chosen to act as planning inspector and he held the first day of the inquiry today.

In his first submission as barrister for Onslow Suffolk and Persimmon, Mr Warren told Mr Gray: “The environment will be safeguarded and improved by a battery of measures aimed at the landscape, ecology and other aspects of the natural world such as drainage, flooding and the control of lighting.

He added: “It has been an objective of Mid Suffolk District Council and Onslow Suffolk to bring forward a sustainable scheme from the very inception of the project.”

Opponents say SnOasis would lead to massive transport, environmental and ecological problems. It is predicted the complex would attract 600,000 visitors each year and would directly deliver 1,470 full time equivalent jobs and indirectly another 1,170 full time equivalent jobs across Suffolk.

Mr Warren said: “It would give a huge boost to the local and regional economy including tourism”.

The SnOasis Community Alliance was due to outline its opposition to the plans this afternoon. The inquiry at Ipswich Corn Exchange is expected to last five weeks. Hearings will begin tomorrow at 9.30am.

Once Mr Gray has completed his report his recommendations will be presented to the Secretary of State for communities and local governments who will make a final decision on whether Snoasis, the railway station and the Persimmon homes development will be built.