Suffolk

SnOasis: £500m winter sports complex wins backing

Artist's impression of SnOasis Image copyright SnOasis
Image caption The £500m snow sports centre is planned for a former quarry

Work on a £500m winter sports complex could start within 12 months after winning the backing of councillors.

SnOasis, set for a quarry in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, won outline approval from the government in 2008.

Now councillors have voted by 11 to three to support the plans after developers gave assurances on detailed conditions that would be met.

A meeting in Ipswich was told there were local concerns but the plans were a chance for major "growth" in Suffolk.

DP9, representing the UK developers behind the project, said approval would "unlock funding" of £500m that was in place, with 3,500 jobs created during construction and a further 1,900 when operational.

Highest structure

SnOasis was valued at £300m when it was first put before councillors in 2004, before later being approved by the Secretary of State.

Image copyright SNOasis
Image caption Plans for the complex have been in the pipeline for nearly two decades

The plans include an indoor snow facility, featuring ski slopes, a bobsleigh run and an ice wall.

A hotel, apartments, a bowling alley, nightclub, casino, cinema, climbing and food court would also feature.

The professional-standard ski run would stand 74m (242ft) tall and would be the highest structure in Suffolk.

Image copyright SnOasis
Image caption The planned development will include a ski slope and a speed skate circuit in addition to other sporting facilities

Final details of the project, known as reserved matters, were approved by Mid Suffolk District Council at a meeting on Wednesday.

Issues around the complex, parking, ecology and structural landscape were discussed.

The 123-hectare (304-acre) complex could open by the end of 2023, with work starting on addressing environmental issues within 12 months, the meeting heard.

Great crested newts would need to be moved to ponds created as part of the plan's environmental mitigation.

Chief planning officer Vincent Pearce said "It is phenomenal in terms of a centre of excellence in winter sports."

Objectors have highlighted issues around sustainability, traffic and environmental impact.

Committee chairman Matthew Hicks said there were some valid concerns but added: "I 100% agree around the opportunity, the growth prospects that this project brings to Suffolk."

Image caption Lenny Paul, who represented Great Britain in the Winter Olympics, attended the meeting to back the plans

Suffolk-born Lenny Paul, who represented Great Britain at four Winter Olympics, told councillors the facilities would be world class and would attract international competitors.

"This opportunity is one I don't think should pass us," said Mr Paul.

Steve Plume, chairman of the SnOasis Parish Alliance group, said: "We're not against it, we just want to make sure it's done properly."

Three Green Party councillors voted against the plans.

Sarah Mansel, of the Green Party, said she "remained unconvinced" the centre could meet its requirement to use renewable sources to provide 75% of its energy consumption.

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