Local residents, business owners, community group leaders, leisure organisations and councillors were given the opportunity to have their say on the proposed Rushden Lakes development at an evening session of the inquiry held to determine the application’s fate.
A total of 28 people told inspector Harold Stephens their thoughts about the plans to build the £50m retail and leisure development at Skew Bridge tonight (Tuesday).
The evening session was held due to the high demand from people to speak at the inquiry. It took place at Huxlow Science Academy and was attended by more than 200 people.
Earlier in the day, the inspector and representatives from each party represented at the inquiry - the applicant LXB Retail Properties, East Northamptonshire Council, the consortium of Corby, Kettering and Northampton borough Councils and the owners of the Grosvenor Centre in Northampton - took part in site visits to relevant locations for the application, including the Skew Bridge site and town centres across the county.
Cllr Sarah Peacock, Rushden Town Council, said: “This scheme has never been viewed as being in competition with the town. It will help Rushden town centre move forward.
“This development can only be built on this site, we have no where else.”
Adrian House, Rushden Chamber of Commerce, said: “Rushden Lakes will provide a much needed boost and will be a catalyst.
“It would reduce the need for people to go anywhere else.
“Customers say Rushden Lakes would enhance the town and they cannot understand why other people from other towns are interfering.”
Rev Philip Evans, Rushden & Higham Ferrers Churches, said: “It’s unusual for all the churches to speak with such unanimity on an issue. We want Rushden Lakes to go ahead. The area needs the development.
“The young people of this area need both the facilities and the job opportunities that Rushden Lakes would provide.”
Cllr Derek Lawson, Higham Ferrers Town Council, said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring something positive and exciting to this area.
“We don’t just want the Rushden Lakes scheme, we need it.”
Kiran Williams, from BNP Paribas, which owned the Swansgate Shopping Centre in Wellingborough until very recently, said: “This is a stand alone out of town centre development which does not comply with national or local planning policy.
“We believe the proposal would have a significant impact on the Swansgate shopping centre.”
Thom Collins, a local member of the public, said: “East Northamptonshire Council has not objected to other developments in other towns.
“We should not be intimidated by Legal and General threatening to pull out of the Grosvenor Centre, and we should not be intimidated by bullying tactics.”
Cllr David Jenney, Wellingborough Conservative Association, said: “We have heard from MPs, an MEP, all elected parties in this area, and all parties understand that people want this to be approved.
“People in this area desperately want this deliverable scheme approved.”
Cllr Andrew Scarborough, Wellingborough Council, said: “This proposals has the strong support of councillors of all parties at Wellingborough Council.
“There are significant benefits in terms of job opportunities for local people.
“I have been a councillor on and off since 1989 and this scheme represents the best opportunity to kick start growth in the area.”
Andrew Langley, Destination Nene Valley Board, said: “This is so much more than a retail park.
“I am mystified as to why it has been called in for this hearing. The reasons appear nothing more than an over-exaggerated fear of competition.”
Gill Mercer, Rushden Twinning Association, said: “Rushden Lakes would be a tourist attraction in its own right. It would stimulate growth in the local economy.”
Cllr John Farrar, Irthlingborough Town Council, said: “It’s the biggest, most significant and vital development for the area to date.
“We like it, we want it, we need it.
“Why should it be jeopardised by those who already have so much.”
For more from the evening session of the Rushden Lakes inquiry see this week’s Northants Telegraph.