A little lengthy!
Proposed SnOasis, Housing and Station Development in Gt. Blakenham
I represent the people of Gt. Blakenham and surrounding parishes as County Councillor for Gipping Valley, District Councillor for Bramford and Blakenham and Chair of Baylham Parish Meeting. Over the life of this project I have gathered views from many residents and must present them to you.
It is the view of the vast majority of local people that the SnOasis proposal would have a neutral effect on most people in Suffolk but a substantial negative effect on the people in the parishes that surround the site with no significant compensating benefit. It is the perception of an overwhelming majority that we will suffer so that others may gain, but that the gain would be limited and transitory.
Residents in general are not opposed to re‑development of the Masons Works site and the fuel storage and pumping installation at Hackney’s Corner. However they are very concerned that their environment is not compromised, that the lifestyle they have chosen remains intact and the amenity of their properties is maintained. They have chosen to live in a sparsely populated rural environment and wish that to continue unchanged. We are content with the low stress, low population density rural environment we currently enjoy and have no wish for the benefits of the more crowded and frenetic lifestyle SnOasis would bring.
Residents are appalled at the visual intrusion of this proposed major construction. This is a material consideration affecting the amenity of dwellings in surrounding parishes. The main Ski Slope or Snow Dome structure a “landmark building” at 125.8 metres high and 60 metres across would be some 60 metres above the top of the surrounding hills and quarry. This building would be the height of Cranfields Mill, for those familiar with Ipswich waterfront, but in a Rural Special Landscape Area. It would dominate Baylham in particular.
It would dwarf the controversial four storey building on the Ipswich fringe that overlooks Bramford. SnOasis would be some fifteen storeys above the top of the quarry. It is difficult to see what mitigation might be possible but a reduction in the height of the slope to that originally proposed would reduce the impact.
There is significant local concern about the impact of SnOasis on wild life and mitigating measures for this as proposed in the environmental assessment must be put into effect including the modifications proposed by Suffolk County Council.
Noise and light pollution are of considerable concern and are material considerations. Water sports and heavy duty cooling for snow generation are obvious noise sources. Current ambient noise levels must be recorded at the closest residential locations and conditions inserted in any permission to ensure that these levels do not rise.
Light pollution is an urban problem unwelcome in a rural setting and a material consideration. Although some mitigation could be achieved by choice of luminaries the brilliance of warning lights on a structure of this size would be dramatic.
The overall environmental effect of encouraging some 300,000 trips of up to two hours duration to reach a facility that uses some 15Mwatt to sustain year round snow in Suffolk is difficult to justify.
The increase in road traffic is a major concern for most people. The analysis presented in supporting documentation gives increases of up to 50% but claims that local roads will be within capacity and queues at junctions will be short. This does not stack with current experience. As traffic volumes increase delays at peak hours are becoming common and the traffic at the Gipping Road level crossing backs up to Hackney’s corner.
The analysis of flows from the 1,000-delegate conference facility shows a picture closer to reality. Fifty vehicle queues are predicted but for some reason they are not predicted at the more frequent 1,500 person Ice Hockey events. The local view is that both visitor and employee traffic flows are likely to be more concentrated at peak times than the analysis assumes. In addition, these flows are likely to be coincident with those from the adjacent housing development. The road improvement measures proposed appear to be the minimum possible rather than those that would ensure that local people’s amenity is not compromised during major events.
The situation at Copdock Mill is inadequately addressed. Queues of up to 1,000 cars on the A12 make journeys difficult but also encourage drivers to divert through local roads. This is most obvious in Sproughton but has an impact over a wider area. The solutions proposed appear ineffective and very uncertain. It is essential that Highways Agency commitment is obtained to defined improvements that will resolve the issues before any development is authorised.
It is essential that traffic from the proposed development is not allowed to encroach on to the low capacity roads to the north and west within the Special Landscape Area between Great Blakenham and Baylham.
The DTZ report appears to support the financial case for SnOasis and certainly examines many aspects of its impact thoroughly. However, there is always a tendency to wish large projects to succeed and to quote DTZ “We have not been able to assess the robustness of the initial assumptions underlying the financial model.”
They have established that the project will pay back in about 15 years but that appears to ignore the interest on the construction capital. A turnover considerably higher than that analysed is needed to produce a sensible looking financial case. If that were achieved then the traffic estimates would be invalid. If not then how can the project be viable? Clearly an alternative would be to operate the complex with substantially less labour that is currently suggested. Were that the case then the attraction of diversified employment opportunities would be significantly reduced. If the development is not viable what detriment will we suffer as the operators search for revenue?
The benefit to the local economy during the construction phase is likely to be limited with most workers drawn from the low wage economies of Eastern Europe and remitting earnings to their hometowns. That is a good way to support those economies but is of little benefit in Suffolk. Should the Council be minded to allow this development then accommodation for migrant construction workers must be defined and strictly controlled.
During operation many jobs will be low skilled and at the minimum wage. They are hardly likely to improve the low wage prospects of local young people. The job estimates which will influence the council’s decision change frequently and should be treated with considerable caution.
Those local residents who suffer o
dour and litter from the existing landfill site question that it can co-exist with the proposed leisure facility. The existing landfill site rises steeply above the proposed entrance to SnOasis and will still be in operation at the predicted opening date. The risk analysis points to noise, gas, fire, litter and odour as issues to be considered. Have these really been addressed or just discussed and dismissed? A NATO fuel stores straddle the SnOasis entrance. Have the risks been evaluated post Buncefield?
Local people feel that SnOasis is an unwanted development of doubtful viability and economic benefit based on uncertain estimates that will impinge unacceptably on the amenity of their homes. SnOasis would:
· Fundamentally detract from the amenity that local residents currently enjoy. The changes will destroy those aspects of the area and environment, which led to their investment of some £450 million in their homes.
· Result in a material visual nuisance particularly from the height of the Snow Dome its lighting and other sources of light pollution.
· Result in a significant increase in noise in the area in particular from the snow making machinery and from potential development of motorised water sports.
· Result in an unacceptable impact on the local landscape and wild life.
We ask you to question: Is the requirement of ENV 15 met? Is there an overriding need for this development?