The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government approved plans for Europe’s first indoor winter sports resort today.

The £350m ‘SnOasis’ scheme in Suffolk can accommodate 650,000 visitors a year and will be carried out by developer Onslow Suffolk. It will include the world's largest indoor ski slope, an external ice rink, a speed skating, a bobsleigh track and a cross-country ski run among other winter activities.

SnOasis will also include other general sporting activities such as a triathlon course and swimming pool. In addition there will be a sports academy with a 200-bed hostel, a 350-room four star hotel, a self-catering holiday village, apartments, and retail and leisure facilities.

Onslow Suffolk is headed by managing director Godfrey Spanner. Its majority shareholder is Irish private equity group First Equity Group which has a 70% stake. The development will be the single largest project undertaken by First Equity Group. Bank funding for the site acquisition and planning process was provided by Allied Irish Bank.

'Nightmare over'
Godfrey Spanner, managing director at Onslow Suffolk, said: ‘My nightmare is over, now my dream can begin. We have been working on this project for six years, with costs running into many millions. At last, SnOasis will become a reality to the benefit of Ipswich, Suffolk, East Anglia, the country, and of course, all of our hopes for greater success at major winter sports competitions.

‘It’s now time to move forward, just think, we will now be able to hold major international winter sports events in the UK, many for the first time. Also, we will give the 4m winter sports enthusiasts, our athletes and the ski industry in general a truly national focus. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Olympic Association, past Sports Ministers, Tourism bodies and all who supported us throughout the planning process for their help.'

Privately funded
The scheme will be privately funded but a £29m package of benefits will be granted to provide features such as the planting of 130,000 trees, a 40 acre ecological mitigation area, improvements to the intersection of the A12 and A14 roads, skills and training initiatives, plus a main line Railway Station linking to London Liverpool Street in just over an hour.

David Lowe, a director at EWS Chartered Surveyors which is advising Onslow Suffolk, said there had been ‘significant’ interest’ in the scheme from a number of potential tenants. CB Richard Ellis provided planning advice.