Do you ever feel you'd like to do something practical about the rubbish we are served by industry, government and planners? That you're sick and tired of the mess they've made of this country? That just once you'd like to see the little man dig his heels in and stop them in their tracks?
Well, here is something you can do. It happens to be right on the GOS's doorstep, and he's mightily pissed off about it, I can tell you.
You may remember reading our rant about Snoasis, the proposed artificial ski-slope in the Suffolk countryside. It's going to be 240 feet high and 200 feet wide, shaped like a slug, lit up like a Christmas tree because of the army airbase just down the road, and visible for bloody miles. You might wonder why anyone would want to put a structure that mimics steep mountainsides in an area whose principle geographic feature is flatness, or why it's appropriate to manufacture tons and tons of artificial snow in what is either the driest or the second driest county in the UK depending whose statistics you read. Or you might ask what is the point of siting a centre for what is, let's face it, a minority sport so far from the major conurbations where most of the sport's practitioners can be found - I mean, did you ever hear of the Suffolk County Winter Sports Team? No, I didn't think so.
The developers claim that the site is a derelict quarry and an eyesore. In fact it's a beautifully restored area of lakes, grassland and virgin farmland where badgers wander. Part of it is designated as a Special Landscape Area. It's home to over a hundred species of birds and the rare, great crested newt. Nearby lives the pond bat, one of the world's most endangered species. All will be victims of the light, noise and presence of the hundreds of chalets, shops, hotels, apartments, ice rink, nightclub and casino that comprise the largest planned leisure complex in Britain after Wembley and are estimated to need more electricity than a town like Felixstowe.
To start with the developers claimed the project would attract 6 million visitors a year, though they've since changed their minds and now say the figure is less than a million. They will all arrive on an existing B road. No new roads will be built, despite the fact that the A14 from the West is already overcrowded and accident-prone, the A12 from the South is an out-of-date nightmare (there have been proposals to upgrade it to a motorway - it certainly needs upgrading to something!) and the A140 from the North has been described by the A140 Campaign as "Suffolk's worst road".
The developers have also claimed that the project will be good for the people of Suffolk, bringing jobs and a boost to the local economy. The fact is that because it is planned to be a Centre Parcs sort of resort with all facilities available onsite, visitors will actually not be out spending money in local towns and villages at all. And 83% of the jobs will be low-paid seasonal service work - flipping burgers etc. Yet the region's own development plan calls for new, high tech businesses to provide skilled and sustainable employment for young people - not work for a few hundred chalet maids. In all likelihood the place will simply attract hundreds of migrant foreign workers.
The developers are Onslow Suffolk Ltd., headed by one Godfrey Spanner (you couldn't make it up, could you?) who is listed at Companies House as having directorships in a number of companies. Of these he is currently publicly recorded as having had 3 Insolvent Directorships and 2 Insolvent Shareholdings. One of these, Onslow Ditchling Ltd. was declared insolvent in 2005. Land near Ditchling, a village in Sussex, was bought to develop into a business park by the company. Godfrey Spanner was Company Secretary, Director and shareholder and the company went into administration after a major dispute with one of the company's main suppliers. Another failure is Southern Restoration Group PLC, of which Mr. Spanner was a shareholder and director. That was struck off and dissolved in February 2004. A further company, Newhaven Property Development Company Limited was liquidated and compulsorily wound up in October of the same year - Godfrey Spanner was Company Secretary and Director. So it's not surprising that local people in Suffolk are walking round muttering about "another Millennium Dome". Except, of course, that the Millennium Dome is at least (a) in London and (b) a potentially flexible and useful exhibition space. Finding other uses for a 240-foot slug-shaped hill in Suffolk is going to be a bit more of a challenge.
The whole issue is going to be decided at a Public Enquiry in the New Year. This is where all you Grumpy Old Buggers looking for a more effective focus for your grumpiness can help. The very well-organised local opposition campaign, "sNOasisconcern", are desperately trying to raise funds so that their legal representation at the enquiry will match the big guns of the developers. If you happened to have your chequebook handy, and you happened to write a cheque for a tenner or so to "SnoasisConcern Ltd.", you might happen to stick a stamp on it and post it to …
Hackneys Corner House
Ipswich IP6 0LG
… and who knows? - you might happen to feel a lot better. The GOS certainly did! The campaign's excellent website is well worth looking at. Fun for all the family (not really).
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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