PLANS to build a snow dome in the heart of Southampton can today be exclusively revealed by the Daily Echo.

Southampton City Council wants the huge indoor snowsports centre to be built on the site of the city’s Town Depot.

Rising up alongside the northern approach to the Itchen Bridge, the real-snow ski slope would be the star attraction of a new leisure centre.

The council has given developers until Thursday to register their interest for the multi-million pound project.

SNO!zone, the UK’s largest indoor ski operator, last night confirmed it was considering bidding to build and run the south coast’s first snow dome.

The slope, which would be at least 150m long, would be covered with tonnes of fresh real snow every day and become the skiing mecca of Southern England.

It has the potential to create hundreds of local jobs and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Southampton.

It could also feature new shops, restaurants and bars, as well as other extreme sport activities such as a climbing wall.

The council wants the development to transform the 8.07 hectare industrial site and open the River Itchen waterfront to the public.


style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">Southampton Snow Dome in a larger map

Councillor Royston Smith, the council’s deputy leader, said the indoor ski, snowboard and tobogganing dome would establish Southampton as the region’s premier leisure destination.

“It is early days, but we are very optimistic that there are two or three operators who would be interested in a large development like this,” said Cllr Smith.

“We want it to be a leisure complex that will be a regional draw and in order to do that we need something that is different and something that people will travel for.

“We want to put Southampton on the map regionally and we think a real-snow slope will do that. This is brilliant news for Southampton.”

The announcement comes just days after the Echo revealed plans for a new £10m ice rink in Southampton.

Developer Colin Warburg wants to build a 56m by 26m ice pad, with seating for 850 spectators, on the former Chantry Hall site in St Mary’s.

There are already six real-snow indoor slopes across England and Scotland, but the nearest to Southampton is almost 100 miles away in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

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As reported by the Echo in February 2008, Sno!Zone first approached the council about the idea of a real-snow ski slope in Southampton more than two years ago.

Sno!Zone operates hugely successful indoor slopes at Xscape leisure centres in Glasgow, Leeds and Milton Keynes.

The firm’s future developments director Alistair Bell said: “Sno!Zone are interested, but have not yet made a final decision.

That decision will be made this week.” However other UK indoor ski slope operators, Chill Factore in Manchester and Onslow Suffolk, the firm behind the proposed Snoasis in Ipswich, both ruled themselves out last night.

London firm Knights Frank, which is marketing the Town Depot site, said they’d already received more than 100 enquiries about the development.

However it’s expected that official expressions of interest won’t be received until Thursday, the deadline day for the tender.

A shortlist of up to four potential developers will then be selected in March and invited to submit detailed bids. Cllr Smith said a preferred developer should be appointed later in the year, but that construction would not start in 2010.

The city’s waste operations at Town Depot are due to be moved to a fouracre plot at the entrance to Southampton docks, off the Millbrook roundabout, in 2011.

The snow dome development will be focused on the vacated Town Depot site, however it is likely that surrounding properties will also be razed to make-way for the leisure centre.

The Town Depot comprises almost half of the industrial site, while the remainder is a mixture of council leased and privately owned commercial properties.

Cllr Smith said the council would assist with land assembly and, if necessary, use its Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers.

This means some landowners within the development site, on Albert Road North, could be forced by the council to sell their property. They will be offered compensation and have the right to challenge the order.

It’s likely the council will keep ownership of at least part of the site, but the developer would design, construct and finance the snow dome.

Existing watersport activities located on the site, including the British Transport Commission Rowing Club, would have to be retained as part of the development or provided with new facilities as part of a relocation.

Other potential issues include the loss of adjacent intertidal mudflats and the fact the that area is potentially a nationally important archaeological site.

The remains of St Mary’s Chapel, a mill, Saxon village and Saxon boats might all be buried under the site, according to the council’s own marketing brochure.