Snoasis dream which could yet see Suffolk become winter sports capital of UK
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:09 13 November 2018
It was a plan to transform Suffolk into the winter sports capital of Britain.
But more than a decade after the controversial Snoasis proposals were first mooted, they remain on ice.
The concept was designed for the 350-acre site of a former cement works in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, with plans including the world’s largest indoor ski-slope as the centrepiece, as well as an ice rink and dry run bobsleigh ride, along with hundreds of ski lodges and apartments.
DLA Architecture, the Yorkshire firm behind Manchester’s MEN Arena, drew up the plans for the site, which also included a range of sport and leisure options, including a cinema and bowling complex, 18-hole golf course and a water sports park.
New homes would also be built on the site of the Blue Circle cement works, and a new railway station would be built on the main line between Ipswich and Norwich.
In the early years of the plan, it was estimated the amenity could create up to 1,000 new jobs and attract 250,000 visitors each month, bringing the biggest boost to the region’s economy since the Port of Felixstowe.
Although mainly aimed at tourists, SnOasis was intended to be the year-round base for the British Olympic winter sports team.
A number of faces in the winter sports industry backed the proposals, which was hoped would inspire the next generation of gold medal winning Olympians.
In 2003, DLA director Bob Taylor described the plans as “groundbreaking”, saying: “This has to be one of the best architectural projects in the UK.”
At the time, it was acknowledged one of the biggest challenges facing the site would be generating sufficient power to cope with demand, particularly through renewable energy, with the heat generated to make snow and ice expected to be harnessed to fuel adjoining businesses.
A planning application consisting of more than 120,000 pages was lodged in June 2004, and eventually granted in 2008 subject to more than 30 conditions.
The plans quickly began to face opposition and plans to open the centre by Christmas 2014 were missed.
Some villagers voiced concerns about the impact of the site on the local area, with an expected extra 2,000 cars on the roads nearby every day, while others hailed the expected boost for local businesses and economy.
Ipswich MP Chris Mole previously backed the complex, saying it would put the county on the world map as a key visitor destination.
Despite overcoming a public inquiry and government scrutiny, the plans were held up further in 2008 after problems with the wording of applications.
In 2010, the government’s Homes and Communities Agency announced plans to inject enough funds to build a third of the 386 homes on the complex, including 81 affordable homes and 40 private properties.
The project was granted a further boost in September 2011 after Mid Suffolk District Council granted an extra five years to begin construction in the hopes the time would help the proposal come to fruition.
Ironically, the site was then hit by further delays as bad weather led to the cancellation of meetings about the proposals.
Severe doubts continued to linger as time went by, and in 2014 it was revealed another developer had proposed an alternative use for the site, prompting calls to decide one way or the other.
The final part of the planning application was submitted in November 2016, with the project hoped to be completed by late 2020.
The move was part of a last-ditch effort to save the Snoasis dream, as the five-year extension on the application came to an end.
Last year, developer Godfrey Spanner vowed to continue fighting for the project until his dream was achieved.
Snoasis continues to be among DLA’s projects, with the company saying: “When complete this unprecedented development will include one of the world’s largest indoor ski slopes.
“It will bring together 14 different winter sports disciplines under one roof, attract £80m worth of investment into the local area, and provide an ice rink, conference centre, hotel, swimming pool, cinema and a dedicated train station.”