Suffolk: Doubts raised over start of SnOasis project next month

SnOasis manager Godfrey Spanner at the site in Gt Blakenham

SnOasis manager Godfrey Spanner at the site in Gt Blakenham - Credit: Archant

HOPES that work will start on the £300m SnOasis project next month have been described as “laughable” by campaigners against the scheme.

However Godfrey Spanner, manager for the SnOasis project, said he was confident that once a business plan on the new railway station on the site is completed, work can start and will be finished by 2016.

The scheme has been dogged by setbacks and delays since Onslow Suffolk first acquired the former quarry site in 2001 with the aim of creating a £350m complex with an indoor ski slope, ice rink, hotels as well as shops and apartments.

Outline planning permission to build on the former quarry site has been agreed and expires in three years’ time, but whether it will go ahead has always been questioned by those opposed to it.

Last October it was reported that the Department of Transport was waiting for an important document detailing plans for a railway station on the site, which was said to be the final obstacle to overcome in the project. Mr Spanner has said the documents were delivered in November, and in December they started to work together to update the business case.

An invitation to tender for the new rail operator in the region is being launched in April and later in the year, it will be decided whether the railway station, expected to cost £18million, will be included in the plans for the next rail franchise.

Mr Spanner, who was declared bankrupt in March last year and forced to resign as a company director, said: “We have agreed to update the business case and we are working with the Department of Transport to do that.

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“We are behind schedule. I’m desperate to start digging by the spring, and hoping it will be finished by 2016. I’m doing nothing else.”

John Williams, chairman of the SnOasis Community Alliance, said he believed the project would never go ahead. He added: “This seems totally laughable. The new station would cost him multi-millions of pounds. It really is nonsensical.

“There is no movement on the SnOasis site and we do not expect there to be.

“I don’t think we will ever see it happening. It was always a non-starter in our opinion.”

In response Mr Spanner said: “They have been saying this for 10 years. As far as I am concerned, I could not give a stuff what they say. I have been working my heart out for 12 years to get it off the ground.

“The train station is the most important element. We know that is achievable and once work starts the building programme is 30 months.

“It is ridiculous to say nothing has happened. We have built lots of homes already in Blakenham and are now in the second phase of that.”

Mid Suffolk has given Onslow Suffolk planning permission to build the SnOasis complex until 2016.

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