Valley Ridge (Winter sports resort)

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Valley Ridge
SnOasis Map2.PNG
Location of Valley Ridge
LocationGreat Blakenham
ProposerValley Ridge Holdings
Cost estimate£300m
Close up location

Valley Ridge (formerly known as SnOasis) is a proposed indoor winter sports resort in Great Blakenham near Ipswich. It is planned to open in 2023/4 and to be the largest real snow indoor ski slope in the world with a 415 metre long slope, 70 metre wide run, and a 100 metre drop; accommodating 1000 skiers per hour: the overall ski area will be more than double that of any other indoor ski slope in the world.[citation needed]

The project was originally promoted by Onslow Suffolk Ltd[1] and subsequently by Valley Ridge Holdings, with a budget of £300 million and a plan to create around 1800 new jobs in the local area once fully open, and 3500 jobs created during the construction phase.[1] There is a separate proposal to build 537 new homes adjacent to the site. The scheme is being opposed by SnOasis Community Alliance which represents 11 town and parish councils and by SnOasis Concern.


The site was acquired in 2001 and planning permission was applied for in 2004.[2] Local planning permission for the project was granted on 21 April 2006 and public inquiry was announced on 26 July 2006[3] which upheld the decision, subject to conditions.[4] Final government approval was granted by Hazel Blears on 6 November 2008 concluding that all the conditions had been met.[5] Construction work cannot start until Natural England, a government agency, issues a licence to move the wildlife.

The majority shareholder of the scheme in 2008 was an Irish private equity group First Equity Group, which owned 70% of Onslow Suffolk with debt funding provided by Allied Irish Bank. The managing director was Godfrey Spanner.[6]

In January 2011 the promoters said that construction would start in 'late 2011'.[2] However, the leader of Mid-Suffolk District Council has stated that the scheme is highly unlikely to go ahead.[7]

In February 2011, Mr Spanner was found guilty by the High Court in February 2011 of wrongful trading in a separate venture, Onslow Ditchling Ltd, of which he was a director which had been liquidated with debts of £900,000. The judge, Mr Justice Norris, said Mr Spanner and the other director of Onslow Ditchling Ltd showed "wilfully blind optimism" and "reckless belief". Mr Spanner says that the verdict will have no impact on Snoasis and that he is appealing the verdict.[8] Mr Spanner was declared bankrupt in March 2012 and no longer has any link with Onslow Suffolk.[7]

As of April 2011 a number of planning issues were still outstanding and the predicted opening date had been put back to November 2014.[8]

By February 2013, Godfrey Spanner, manager for the SnOasis project, said he was confident that once a business plan on the new railway station on the site is completed, work can start and will be finished by 2016.[9]

In November 2016, the developer stated that he hoped SnOasis would be open in 2020 and that £20m had already been spent on the project. He explained that once SnOasis was built, it would be home to 14 winter sports, the world's largest snow dome, and the UK's first speed skating circuit.[10]

On 16 November 2016 the Mid Suffolk Council confirmed that it had registered and was considering an application to satisfy all outstanding matters and that a final decision by its Committee was due in 2017 following a recommendation by the Council's planning manager, Steven Stroud. By 2018, the scheme remained undetermined.[11]

In April 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Mid Suffolk District Council used emergency delegated powers to approve the Snoasis development to proceed.[12]

In November 2020 the project was renamed Valley Ridge[13] and Robert Cook (CEO of TGI Fridays Group) and David Church (formerly at Bank of America Merrill Lynch) joined Valley Ridge Holdings as Board Advisors.[14] At this stage, opening was scheduled for 2023/4.


4494 16-SNOASIS VIEW FINAL-3024839.jpg

The resort is planned to include various indoor and outdoor activities to suit a range of age groups.

Winter sports[edit]

  • One of the largest indoor ski slopes in the world: 415m long with 100m vertical drop - virtually international competition standard.
  • Nursery slope 100m long with a 9m vertical drop
  • External ice rink
  • Full length 100m drop dry run bobsleigh track
  • Luge run
  • Cross country ski run
  • 400m speed skating / ice track
  • 16m ice climbing wall & 50m ice wall

General sports[edit]

  • Multi purpose sports hall
  • Health and fitness centre
  • Outdoor sports pitches
  • Roller blade track
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Swimming pool
  • Jogging track
  • Skate park
  • Squash
  • Tennis
  • 5-a-side football
  • Rowing
  • Windsurfing
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing

Accommodation and amenities[edit]

  • 350 log cabins
  • 350 bed four-star hotel and conference centre
  • 100 apartments
  • 17 restaurants and bars
  • Food court
  • Shops
  • 20-lane bowling alley
  • Snooker/pool hall
  • Cinema
  • Nightclub
  • Health spa


Some 600,000 visitors are expected per year with 2000 parking spaces provided on the site itself and a new railway station at Great Blakenham on the Great Eastern Main Line with a further 500 spaces.[15] The main access routes by car will via the A12 from the south and the A14 from the west. A12 traffic will join the A14 briefly at the Copdock roundabout which would be improved.[16]


The developers estimate that the scheme will create 3,500 jobs during the construction phase and 1,800 when it is operational.[17] That will also be offering an array of skills and training initiatives.[16]

Opposition concerns[edit]


Concern has been expressed by some local residents over potential traffic congestion. They stated that the traffic modelling at the Copdock Roundabout was unrealistic and was based on only 737,000 visitors in first year and 825,000 in the second without sufficient sensitivity testing for higher traffic levels. They also expressed concern about the potential for traffic from the south to 'rat run' through Sproughton saying this had not been considered.[18]

The developers offered in 2010 to pay for improvements to the Copdock intersection of the A12 and A14.[4]


Part of the site is in a Special Landscape Area designated a County Wildlife Site by Suffolk Wildlife Trust[19] and protected great crested newts and badgers will have to be moved as part of the planning agreement.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust objected on the basis that there would be a "significant loss to biodiversity".[4]

Natural England objected from the start saying that insufficient measures to protect great crested newts on the site.[20]

Damage to the rural nature of the area[edit]

It was stated[according to whom?] that the huge development would be out of character with the rural location with increased noise, air and light pollution with a negative effect on tranquillity in the area although they are adding 140,000 trees in 40 acres (160,000 m2).[21]

Climate change[edit]

sNOasis Concern estimate that the site and its visitors would be likely to generate at least 34,000 tons of CO2 per annum exacerbating climate change and that the proposed 40 acres (160,000 m2) of woodland would only cover 10% of the emissions.[22]

The former developers claimed that 75% of their energy will come from renewable sources including a large-scale woodchip burner and a proposed "energy from waste" incinerator on land adjacent to the site was also proposed [20] and they also plan to plant 130,000 trees to act as a carbon sink.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Job boost thanks to skiing centre". BBC News. 23 November 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Developer says SnOasis is on track to open in 2014". BBC News. 4 January 2011.
  3. ^ "SnOasis plans face public inquiry". East Anglian Daily Times. 26 July 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d "Go-ahead for £350m snow dome plan". BBC News. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Final Government Approval". BBC News. 6 November 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Blears says Suffolk's Snoasis is the white stuff".
  7. ^ a b East Anglian Daily Times 31 May 2012
  8. ^ a b "More hold-ups for Suffolk's SnOasis sports resort". BBC News. 21 April 2011.
  9. ^ "Suffolk: Doubts raised over start of SnOasis project next month". Ipswich Star. 8 February 2013.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Snoasis". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Suffolk's SnOasis Snowdome Lives, But Now Called "Valley Ridge"". InTheSnow. 20 November 2020. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Valley Ridge". Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  15. ^ "SnOasis Latest News". SnOasis Concern. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  16. ^ a b "SnOasis News".
  17. ^ "joba and careers". Snoasis.
  18. ^ "Latest news". SNoasis Concern.
  19. ^ "Go-ahead for £350m SnOasis plan". Retrieved 5 August 2008.
  20. ^ a b Sherlock, Grant (6 November 2008). "Four-year battle to win approval". BBC Suffolk. Retrieved 1 December 2008.
  21. ^ "Should SnOasis be built?". Retrieved 1 December 2008.
  22. ^ "Carbon Dioxide emissions from SnOasis". sNOasis Concern. Retrieved 1 December 2008.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°06′33″N 1°04′06″E / 52.10926°N 1.06822°E / 52.10926; 1.06822