Railway station doubts hold up SnOasis project

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QUESTIONS over who will be running East Anglia’s railways are holding up the start of the SnOasis development.

Godfrey Spanner, managing director of the developers Onslow Suffolk, said on Monday that they hoped in the next few weeks to have a design and terms for the station at the Great Blakenham winter sports complex.

The plan was to put those forward to be included in the long-term franchise for the railway.

He said they had an agreement with One Rail but they lost the franchise to the Dutch-owned Abellio Greater Anglia whose short-term franchise, which began in February, is only for 29 months. The next rail franchise is expected to last 15 years.

“We don’t know who we should be negotiating with,” Mr Spanner said. “We’re talking to Abellio because they are respected. We hope at least to be able to say to the secretary of state that whoever gets the franchise, this will be the terms for the new station.

“It’s in the planning conditions that we can’t even invite people to stay until we have an operational station.

“We can’t spend £300 million until we know there’s going to be a station.”

He said that in the meantime ecological and archeological work would go ahead to prepare the site. That includes moving a colony of rare and protected great crested newts.

SnOasisi received outline planning permission in 2008 and has been subject to a series of delays ever since. In January 2010 the developers predicted they would start work in September that year. It was given updated planning permission with a five-year extension in November 2011.

The massive development is to include a 415m long ski slope, 350-room hotel, nightclub, skating rink and 17 bars and restaurants, on a 350-acre site at Great Blakenham.

Once open, it is set to employ about 2,000 people while it is hoped the complex will attract about 650,000 visitors a year.

The project also includes permission for 380 homes with a local centre, police station, doctors surgery and employment buildings