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30 August 2017

Developer behind Great Blakenham’s SnOasis Winter Sports Resort Insists Project Will Continue

Back in 2008, developer Godfrey Spanner of Onslow Suffolk applied for and was subsequently granted outline planning consent for a massive indoor winter sports facility located in the town of Great Blakenham, Suffolk. This consent was renewed in 2011, but there remains little sign of tangible progress on the development.

An artist's impression of the SnOasis Winter Sports Resort   - Img: Onslow Suffolk/SnOasis
The former quarry site was first acquired by Onslow Suffolk way back in 2001 with the intention of constructing a £300mwinter sports facility incorporating an indoor ski slope, ice rink, hotels, shops, and restaurants. The developers even went so far as to submit a Reserved Matters Application for the proposed resort in order to safeguard outline planning consent. This application was verified by panning offers at Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) last November, but as the final details of the application continue to be lodged and new concept art is being released, the council are still pressing for extra details concerning the controversial development.

With many details still to be worked out and some strongly-voiced opposition to the development as a whole from residents and local representatives alike, some have begun to describe Spanner’s ambitious plans as a ‘fantasy’ - a title he insists in undeserved. The project has been hit hard by setbacks and delays since its initial conception, attributed by Spanner to a combination of the ill-effects of the recession, planning technicalities, and ecological issues such as the presence of newts and crayfish at the site of the development, but he continues to press forward nonetheless.

Speaking recently to the East Anglian Daily Times, Spanner was asked if he honestly still thought the project would be seen through to completion, to which he replied with the following:

“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.”

An artist's impression of the indoor ski slope at the SnOasis Winter Sports Resort   - Img: Onslow Suffolk/SnOasis
The rise in expected costs from £300m up to £400m, along with yet another push-back of the completion date this time to 2021, have both contributed to the growing belief that the proposed development may be more grounded in fantasy than reality, a criticism with which Mr Spanner highly disagrees.

Mr Spanner told the EADT, “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.”

As hinted at by Mr Spanner in the above statement, the proposed resort is not without its opposition. For example 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 of the SnOasis development, “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.”

A spokeswoman for Mid Suffolk District Council commented on the matter, “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.”

So, what do you think? Would Great Blakenham benefit from the construction of such a pricey attraction, or would the funds be put to better use if invested in other areas?

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.