More hold-ups for Suffolk's SnOasis sports resort

A BBC investigation has discovered more hold-ups with plans to build the world's first indoor winter sports resort in Suffolk.

The £320m SnOasis project, which includes a 400m (1,312ft) ski slope, bobsleigh run and ice skating complex, is already seven years behind schedule.

The company, Onslow Suffolk Ltd, has not yet obtained a licence to relocate up to 1,000 protected newts.

Developer Godfrey Spanner denies he is behind schedule.

He blames hold-ups on the planning process and says he has the bank loans, investors and contractors ready to go.

'Trading wrongfully'

However, planners at Mid Suffolk Council say SnOasis cannot go ahead at the quarry site at Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, because they are waiting for detailed plans from the developer.

SnOasis Community Alliance, which represents 11 town and parish councils, and a campaign group called SnOasis Concern both say they believe the project is not viable and will never be completed.

BBC East has also discovered that Mr Spanner was found by the High Court in February this year to have been "trading wrongfully" over a separate quarry development.

That was run by a company called Onslow Ditchling Ltd, of which he was a director. It was liquidated with debts of £900,000.

The judge, Mr Justice Norris, said Mr Spanner and the other director of Onslow Ditchling Ltd showed "wilfully blind optimism" and "reckless belief".

"I therefore find that… ODL (Onslow Ditchling Ltd) was trading wrongfully, using credit extended to it by suppliers to trade when (but for their wilful blindness) they ought to have concluded that there was no realistic prospect of ODL avoiding insolvent liquidation," he ruled.

Court appeal

The court action was brought by the liquidators. A spokesman for the Royal Courts of Justice said a date for the next hearing had not yet been fixed.

Mr Spanner, 71, told the BBC he was appealing against the High Court decision, and it had no impact on SnOasis or his directorship of Onslow Suffolk Ltd, which owns the 350-acre (1.4 sq km) SnOasis site.

Image caption Godfrey Spanner says he is confident SnOasis will be built

"You go through battles - you come out with scars. I am still here," he said.

"I have been an optimistic person. I am determined this will happen. We are on schedule.

"We have paid an awful lot of money to get to that level. We are here to do SnOasis. It is not a whim. I am confident it will happen."

Time period extended

SnOasis resort has outline planning permission from the Secretary of State following a public inquiry. Last year Mid Suffolk Council extended the permission to 2016.

However, detailed plans - called "reserved matters" - have still not been submitted to planners, according to the council.

Work cannot start on site until these are approved and go through public consultation.

Peter Burrows, head of planning and building control at Mid Suffolk Council, said it supported the application and had spent £300,000 on the planning process.

"The council has extended the time period for that detailed plan," he said. "This will give the developer time to submit the application. We are waiting for that application for various stages of the ski complex.

"We need the infrastructure package. We need details of the ski slope, hotel, dome. We would like to see the development. We are really in the hands of the developer themselves."

Housing development

Image caption The SnOasis site has outline planning permission until 2016

Meanwhile, Onslow Suffolk Ltd has sold off 10 acres (0.04 sq km) of its land to housing developer Orbit Homes.

The development, to include 113 affordable homes, has received a kick-start Government grant of £5.4m.

Preparation work has started on site and full planning permission has been granted.

However, this is no longer linked to SnOasis. A further 30 acres (0.12 sq km) of land will also be sold for housing.

SnOasis is due to open in November 2014. But it still has to meet planning conditions, including successful relocation of the protected great crested newts, and the building of a new railway station.

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