Ski slope backed despite renewables gap

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has given the go-ahead for a £350 million snow dome in Suffolk despite it not meeting a 100 per cent renewable energy condition.

The developer behind the SnOasis scheme near Great Blakenham was told that it had to agree sustainability improvements, including 100 per cent renewable energy, to gain permission (Planning, 16 May, p4).

But Blears backed the project last week after Onslow Suffolk agreed to generate 75 per cent of energy from low-carbon and renewable sources. Its adviser, CB Richard Ellis head of leisure planning Erica Whettingsteel, said 100 per cent is not yet feasible but the developer has altered the building's design to improve its efficiency.

It will use biomass boilers, combined heat and power and photovoltaics. But Blears urged it to explore the option of a wind turbine with Mid Suffolk District Council.

The possibility was not included because of concerns that it would further delay the scheme, which will house the world's largest indoor ski slope and create 3,500 jobs.

The approval also comes in spite of Natural England's objections to the impact on great crested newts at the site. Its senior planning specialist Chris Gibson said: "We are disappointed. But we will work with the developer to get additional safeguards. We are not opposed to SnOasis in principle."

The £29 million section 106 deal will also go towards improving roads, a railway station linking to London Liverpool Street, an ecological mitigation area, cycle tracks and 130,000 trees.

After the scheme spent five years in the planning system, Onslow Suffolk managing director Godfrey Spanner said: "At last we have final approval. SnOasis will bring countless opportunities for jobs, the local and national economies and the winter sports industry."

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