In this special report, we examine 10 of the key reasons why the £50m Rushden Lakes development should get planning permission.
More than 2,000 jobs will be created if Rushden Lakes is built.
Jon McCarthy, development director at LXB Retail Properties, said: “Creating local jobs for local people is at the cornerstone of this development.
“Whether it is our stated commitment to apprenticeships or working with the local Job Centre Plus offices in Wellingborough and Rushden to try to ensure as many local people benefit from the employment opportunities as possible, Rushden Lakes has the capacity to transform the employment prospects of the area for a generation.”
Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough and Rushden, said: “It will provide thousands of permanent jobs and hundreds of temporary jobs, all in the private sector, which is great news for local constituents.”
It is claimed the Lakes development would be a catalyst for growth and jobs for the future.
Rushden Town and East Northamptonshire councillor Andy Mercer said: “East Northamptonshire in general, and Rushden in particular, has been in relative economic decline ever since the boot and shoe industry started going east.
“This is our first real chance to see economic regeneration and growth come back to this area.”
Mr McCarthy said: “Rushden Lakes will not only keep more local people shopping in the local area, it has the potential for a positive effect on the town’s whole economy.”
Mr Bone said: “It’s great news for the local economy and it will have a knock-on effect, as the people employed will have money to spend.”
The development would include 340,000 sq ft of retail units across three terraces, and bring 20 shops, including high street stores, to the Rushden area.
Cllr John Farrah, mayor of Irthlingborough and East Northants councillor, said: “It will give our people a choice.”
Mr McCarthy said: “Choice for local people, giving local people a stunning environment to visit, allied to a reduction in the carbon footprint of local people not having to travel many miles outside the area to do their shopping are all positives of this proposal.”
The site would boast a lakeside visitor centre, restaurants, a marina and boathouse, footpaths and cycle routes and access into neighbouring tourist attractions such as Stanwick Lakes.
Mr McCarthy said: “Improving access to, and the maintenance of, a site which has been blighted for years is something LXB are committed to.
“The scheme will ensure the Lakes are able to contribute to local leisure opportunities.
“To have the opportunity to safeguard a European Nature site, while improving opportunities for local people to enjoy it is something we are extremely proud to be able to secure through the redevelopment.
“These factors plus the inclusion of a hotel and related facilities make a compelling case for the leisure offer at Rushden Lakes.”
A new hotel would be built as part of the development.
Rushden Town and East Northants Cllr Gill Mercer said: “We are desperate for a hotel. I am chairman of the local twinning group and we can’t find enough places to put people up when they come over from Germany.
“When people come to stay here on business they haven’t got anywhere to stay. It will help the area. It’s going to be a hotel and conference centre, so it will give us an extra facility.
“Most people just come to the area on day trips because there isn’t anywhere to stay. It will help the tourism industry.”
Mr McCarthy said: “Local people and local politicians have been consistently telling us that a good quality hotel with conference and banqueting facilities is ‘desperately needed’ in the area, so we are delighted to be including these in our proposal.
“Whether it is a wedding reception, facilitating the business community or simply creating a venue for good food and entertainment, the hotel at the Lakes will tick many boxes for many local people.”
If the development goes ahead, a new footbridge will be built over the A45.
Mr McCarthy said: “Credit for the bridge must go to Sarah Peacock and Rushden Town Council.
“We were not sold on the bridge at the outset but over a period of time, we came to understand the logic behind calls for a bridge.
“Having included the bridge in our plans, we commissioned a unique and bespoke design which we hope does the town proud.
“Linking into the town centre, Waitrose and the wider ‘greenway’ makes Rushden Lakes physically part of the town.
“We are committed to building the bridge in advance of any shop opening their doors.”
East Northants Cllr and leader of Rushden Town Council Sarah Peacock said: “We fought for the bridge because we need that permanent connection with the development, and not just with buses. We need access 24/7, and it will provide access for generations to come. It’s a link between the town and the development.”
town centre manager
The development company behind the Lakes scheme has vowed to fund a town centre manager for Rushden if it is given planning approval
Rushden Town Cllr Adrian House, who owns PW House Jewellers in Rushden High Street, said: “A town centre manager will definitely help our reducing footfall, and help to bring the retailers together.
“The High Street needs to behave as if it has a roof over it and as one shop with different departments. If we can get people working together we will be OK.
“It’s a bonus if the Lakes project goes ahead.
“The benefits are that there will be more local people employed and we’ll have a town centre manager without the retailers having to pay for it themselves.”
Mr McCarthy said: “For us, our commitment to Rushden and its existing local traders is embodied in the intention to appoint and fund a town centre manager.
“I have been clear all along that this person’s role will not be sitting behind a desk at Rushden Lakes, rather be out there working with Rushden, Higham Ferrers and all the surrounding areas ensuring the locality maximises the benefit of the Lakes.
“With the bridge we have a physical link to the town and with the town centre manager we have a personal link.”
Retain Local Spending
The developers say Rushden Lakes will prevent people travelling outside of the county to Milton Keynes or Bedford to spend their money.
Mr McCarthy said: “Clawing back money that is being lost from the Rushden area, is where Rushden Lakes can claim to be an economic engine.
“We know that millions of pounds of local retail spend is going out of the area and Rushden Lakes will do something about that.
“Local people deserve local jobs, local choice and local investment.
“It is our belief that if you give that to local people, they will reward you by staying local. The support we have had to date would seem to suggest local people agree.”
develop a derelict site
In recent years Skew Bridge has suffered from litter and damage by off-road motorcycles.
Cllr John Farrah said: “It’s going to clear up a derelict site.”
Mr McCarthy said: “The Skew Bridge site has had a chequered history.
“Formerly, this area was a social hub but in more recent years it has been neglected.
“After a number of false dawns, the Rushden Lakes proposal will offer local people the chance to enjoy food, shops, wildlife and recreation all at one site.
“Of the 250-plus acres we own, only 32 acres, all of it brownfield land, are proposed to be developed.
“The remaining 218 acres will be safeguarded and entrusted to the local Wildlife Trust to manage and nurture.”
better future for children
Helen Danzig, chairman of the Yes2RushdenLakes group, said: “I want this for my children.
“I’m sure everyone else does too.”
Mr McCarthy said: “Whether it is creation of local jobs, the inclusion of space for the local Sea Cadets and Scouts or simply creating a development that makes local children and young people feel proud to say they come from Rushden, the future looks bright.
“Retail offers young people a low barrier to entry to employment.
“The Lakes will offer children, through the Sea Cadets and Scouts, the opportunity to experience water-based activities in their locality.
“We are committed to reinstating the ‘Bailey Bridge’ as well as building the bridge over the A45.
“And the nature reserve will encourage exercise and education in a safe, secure and environmentally friendly location.
“How many ‘retail parks’ can boast such a claim?”