‘SnOasis is not a fantasy’ – Final details being lodged for £400m snow sports centre as new photos revealed
PUBLISHED: 13:31 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:13 30 August 2017
The developer behind the controversial SnOasis development has insisted his dream of opening the £400m winter sports resort in Great Blakenham is not a “fantasy”, as new photographs of the proposed SnOasis are released.
Final details for the application are still being lodged to Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) planning officers, who have requested further information, a MSDC spokesman has confirmed.
The controversial SnOasis 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 £300m complex with an indoor ski slope, ice rink, hotels as well as shops and apartments.
Developer Godfrey Spanner, of Onslow Suffolk, has blamed the delays on the recession, planning technicalities and ecological matters such as newts and crayfish at the site.
Outline planning consent was granted in 2008 by the government after a public inquiry, and renewed in 2011.
Last October, Onslow Suffolk submitted the Reserved Matters Application for the proposed year-round winter sports family leisure resort in order to safeguard outline planning consent. It was verified by planning officers at Mid Suffolk District Council in November.
Today, asked if SnOasis will become a reality, developer Godfrey Spanner said: “Absolutely – I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever. I have waited 16 years for this position and I’m still here and I shall be here until it is finished. But this should have all been done and dusted a long time ago.
“I’m not ever going to give up. If I was going to give up, I would have done so several years ago. I’m here just to see this completed.
“Having spent most minutes of my life since 2001 in getting to this target, there is no way that I’m not going to achieve it.”
In response to claims that his plans are a “fantasy”, he said: “They have been saying that for 15 years and my answer is the same: I don’t think it is a fantasy. There are theme parks and developments going on all over the world.
“In today’s money, £400m is not a huge sum, and there is a desperate requirement for it. Our winter sports athletes have no facilities in this country at all.
“The majority of local people have always supported as and I think most of them still so – but the same old names pop up who don’t want to see it.”
The price tag for SnOasis has now risen from £300m to £400m. The completion date has also been set back again to 2021. Over the previous 15 years, other dates of 2007, 2014, 2016, and 2020 have been given.
Mr Spanner said international investors form part of the financial backing, which he insists is in place.
He added: “There are several offers of finance but we can’t finalise those until we have definitive planning consent. We have had a great deal of time to go knocking on doors and we have had a great deal of interest of people joining us.
“Our final proposals – we have been updating since last October, and various bodies have come back with queries and comments. As those have come in, we have gone back and hopefully satisfied each of them. It has been quite a long process.
“We are waiting for at this minute to hear from the local authority – their proposals to draft conditions to be added to any permission that may give.
“We were hoping to get to a (planning) committee this week or next week, but that’s not going to happen. We are still really pressing them to get everything sorted so that we will get the decision hearing in September.
“We do have (planning) consent. It was renewed in 2011. It is just detailed design that is being considered at the moment.”
Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said the project does not appear to have a strong enough business model to attract investment.
He said: “I’ve always been very sceptical about SnOasis. I’ve never felt that Great Blakenham is the right place for such a project and if there was a strong economic case for it, then it would have happened by now.
“It doesn’t appear to have a strong enough case to attract investment - even in the last five years which has seen a strong economy in East Anglia.
“That area is an area which does have a need for community facilities but in my opinion, the land should be put to better use.
“The reality is that despite five years of a strong economy in East Anglia, he [Godfrey Spanner] has not been able to deliver this project.
“I’ve have always felt that the idea of a snow dome in the middle of the Suffolk countryside is flawed.”
Andrew Stringer, leader of the Green party at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “I think if there were the hundreds of financial backers that is being claimed, then it would have happened by now.
“I know there has been an economic downturn but the world has moved on since outline planning permission was first granted.
“There are far more sustainable tourism enterprises which have gone ahead and are doing very well.”
A spokeswoman for Mid Suffolk District Council said: “Following public consultation on additional information which has been submitted, Mid Suffolk is continuing to work with the developer and consultees to resolve matters which have arisen through this process.
“We currently have an extension of time until August 31, 2017, and it’s likely a further extension for the determination of this application will need to be discussed with the developer.”