Day 11 of the Rushden Lakes inquiry

The penultimate day of the Rushden Lakes planning inquiry heard from its the final witness.

This morning (Thursday) Legal & General witness Matthew Jones was cross-examined on the evidence he put forward at the inquiry yesterday.

During the cross-examination an article published in the Telegraph’s sister paper, the Northampton Chronicle, in 2004 was produced by Ian Dove QC, for East Northamptonshire Council, in which a Legal & General spokesman claimed the re-development of the Grosvenor Centre was to start soon and would be completed by 2005.

Talk about the Northampton shopping centre continued to dominate the proceedings once again as Mr Jones’s evidence was called into question by East Northamptonshire Council’s barrister.

Legal & General has said it will not go ahead with its plans to expand the Grosvenor Centre if Rushden Lakes is given the go-ahead.

But Mr Jones was quizzed as to why there are currently no designs for the proposed expansion of the Grosvenor Centre when last year Legal & General told the inspection of the Northampton area action plan that there was a viable scheme on the table.

Mr Jones said he believed this could be because they didn’t expect Rushden Lakes to get planning permission, despite the examination of the area action plan taking place in November 2012, one month after East Northamptonshire Council approved planning permission for Rushden Lakes.

He was also questioned by Mr Dove about his evidence which suggested the current leisure and recreation facilities in Rushden were good enough and local people don’t need the improvements offered by the Rushden Lakes development.

Mr Jones then went on to describe the case for the proposed Rushden development as ‘flawed’ and a sub-regional development. He claimed there was no evidence that each and every part of the development was needed, and no evidence that a development on such a scale was needed.

During his re-examination of Mr Jones’ evidence, Russell Harris QC, for the Grosvenor Centre, suggested the applicant had not passed the necessary planning tests required as he claimed there had been no consideration of alternative sites in Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough or Northampton.

Mr Jones was also asked his opinion on the adopted development plan for north Northamptonshire, which prefers development in town centres and has been labelled as being out of date by witnesses for the applicant. Mr Jones said he believed it was still up to date.

The inquiry, however, heard some of the population data used to form the development plan dates back to 2004.

Mr Jones was the last witness to give evidence at the inquiry, and his evidence completed the case for the Grosvenor Centre’s legal team.

The inquiry then dealt with the conditions and planning regulations associated with the application.

This included the contributions to be made, if the scheme goes ahead, by the developer for a town centre manager for Rushden and Higham Ferrers, a traffic plan manager, roundabout improvements and plans to ensure apprenticeship opportunities are available during he building phase of the development.

Tomorrow (Friday) each side will present their closing submissions.

Russell Harris QC, for the Grosvenor Centre owner Legal and General, and Morag Ellis QC, for the consortium of Kettering, Corby and Northampton borough Councils, will tell the inspector why they think planning permission should be refused. While Ian Dove QC, for East Northamptonshire Council, and Christopher Katkowski, for the applicant LXB Retail Properties, will be asking him to make a positive recommendation in favour of Rushden Lakes being approved to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.

Following the completion of the 12-day hearing, Inspector Harold Stephens will prepare a report based on the evidence put forward at the inquiry for Mr Pickles, who will have the final say on whether the development can be allowed to go ahead.