SnOasis outcome 'a great day for Suffolk'

SNOASIS will be built at Great Blakenham as long as the developers can convince the government on a few remaining sustainability and wildlife issues, it was revealed today.

Grant Sherlock

SNOASIS will be built at Great Blakenham as long as the developers can convince the government on a few remaining sustainability and wildlife issues, it was revealed today.

The government announced it was minded to approve the £300million winter sports resort after a planning inspector recommended it should go ahead.

The Department of Communities and Local Government wrote to the parties on either side of the SnOasis divide today indicating the Secretary of State was in favour of a new railway station for Great Blakenham, a 421-home housing development in the village and was “minded to approve” the SnOasis winter sports resort as long as a few final environmental hurdles could be overcome.

Onslow Suffolk, the company behind SnOasis and the railway station plans, told The Evening Star today was a “great day” for Great Blakenham.

However the announcement fell short of the final green light SnOasis' supporters had been hoping for.

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Onslow Suffolk will now have to address a series of issues, predominantly linked to sustainability and wildlife, by July 30.

It is a further delay after the government previously asked for more information and admitted it needed longer to consider the applications.

After the July 30 deadline passes, the government will then spend 21 days consulting all the parties before the Secretary of State makes what all involved hope will be the final announcement on September 17 - four years after the battle for SnOasis began.

In a letter to interested parties the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Inspector recommended that planning permission be granted for all three applications, subject to conditions.

“The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector's conclusions, except where stated, and is minded to agree with his recommendation.”

With regards to SnOasis - referred to as application A - the Secretary of State concluded the development would have a “very positive” impact on employment numbers and the local economy.

She also thought it would be well served by public transport and that the applicant's visitor forecasts formed a reasonable basis on which the application could be determined.

However she did say the development “was likely to have some adverse impact on the landscape” and expressed concerns about the wider sustainability of the proposal.

Despite this she felt the concerns were “capable of being addressed” if the applicant could ensure the highest possible energy efficiency and a reduction in emissions.

The letter said: “In the circumstances, the Secretary of State has decided to issue a minded to grant planning permission for application A, which is subject to the applicant being able to provide a firm commitment to secure 100% of the development's energy supply from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy, unless it can be demonstrated that this is not feasible or viable.

“If it can be demonstrated that 100% is not feasible or viable, the applicant should set out what level could be secured to ensure the outcome sought, and provide a firm commitment to secure this through a Section 106 agreement.”

With regards to the plans for the railway station - application B - the Secretary of State concluded it was an independent development and should be assessed on its own merits.

“She considers that there is nothing at all to suggest that the opening of a station at Great Blakenham would result in the closure of Needham Market station,” the letter said.

The Secretary of State also gave the go-ahead for the residential development - application C.

“The Secretary of State considers that the development would meet identified housing requirements, and would represent the efficient use of land,” the letter said. “She considers that the illustrative layout suggests that no difficulties need arise in relation to density, design, layout and car parking provision, and agrees that the size of the proposed development does not raise any serious objection in terms of community or social cohesion.

“She considers that the application would bring something akin to a village centre, with a police station and the opportunity for one or two shops or other community facilities.

“The Secretary of State also considers that the development would be reasonably well served by public transport, even if the railway station or the SnOasis bus service did not go ahead.”

TODAY'S announcement was seen as good news for Onslow Suffolk, which said it was certain it could provide the government with the information necessary to get the full green light in September.

Godfrey Spanner, the company's managing director, said there was “absolutely no question whatsoever” that SnOasis would now go ahead.

However John Williams from the SnOasis Community Alliance - a grouping of parish councils against the ski slope - said the opponents would not give up in their fight to have it scrapped.

“We will continue to fight. I still think there is hope it could be turned down.

“I still think it is very difficult for government to pass something which is such a giant refrigerator which uses power in the way it does.

“We will never stop fighting for the communities we represent.

“We will now look at it in great detail and respond.”