The proposed £50m Rushden Lakes shopping and leisure park has been recommended for approval just days before councillors meet to decide its fate.
East Northamptonshire Council will consider the application at a development control committee meeting at 7pm on Wednesday, October 10.
Planning officers have recommended the committee grants permission to build the development, which would include shops, a garden centre, restaurants, a lakeside visitor centre, a hotel and a leisure club.
The company behind the development, LXB Retail Properties, says the development would provide 1,500 jobs.
Gavin Stollar, spokesman for LXB, said: “East Northamptonshire Council’s development control committee will weigh up all the issues involved and we hope they will be sufficiently persuaded by the benefits that Rushden Lakes will deliver.”
The lakes plan has been met with opposition from borough councils in Northampton, Corby and Kettering, but a senior Conservative Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member has voiced his support for the scheme.
Cllr Andrew Langley said: “The proposed development of Rushden Lakes is a massive opportunity for East Northamptonshire and I support the application wholeheartedly. It will provide hundreds of new jobs, enhance and not detract from the existing local retail sector and provide massive investment for critical local projects such as the River Nene Greenway.”
Referring to his position as a member representing Irthlingborough, Cllr Langley said: “Local people whom I have spoken to are unanimously in support of having the new facilities on their doorstep.
“It will provide a unique combined retail and wildlife facility, and be of great benefit to the residents of Irthlingborough whom I represent.”
Adrian House, chairman of Rushden Chamber of Trade and member of Rushden Town Council, has reiterated the chamber’s support for the plans. He said: “The Rushden Lakes proposal is a once in a generation opportunity for our area. In terms of jobs, investment and attracting people into the town, this is a moment that could transform the fortunes of the town for generations to come.”
East Northants’ Labour councillor, John Farrar, said: “Rushden Lakes has my wholehearted support. Anything that delivers jobs, investment and prospects for young people has to be a good thing. While there will no doubt be many factors for the deciding committee to weigh up, I hope that they will give weight to the positive impact the proposal will have on employment, tourism and infrastructure in the area. Opportunities like these don’t come along too often and it is my view that we need to grab this with both hands.”
Other councils oppose lakes plans
Corby, Kettering and Northampton borough councils have opposed plans for a £50m shopping and leisure park at Rushden.
Wellingborough Council did not oppose the scheme and Rushden Town Council has supported the application.
A report to the planning committee states that Northampton Council “strongly objects” to the application. It claims the lakes plan has “the potential to significantly impact upon the viability and deliverability of well advanced plans for the redevelopment of Northampton town centre”.
Corby Council objects on the grounds that the “retail impact information supporting the application is flawed”. It also claims that the amount of floor space proposed for the development – 20 shops and a garden centre – is comparable to that identified for the whole of north Northamptonshire.
Kettering Council claims the application is “unacceptable in principle”. In the report, it states: “There is no development plan support for the proposed development in an out-of-town location in Rushden.”
Bedford Council has opposed the development as it claims Rushden Lakes would “impact on the trade of Bedford town” centre and could potentially prejudice planned investment in Bedford.