Day eight of the Rushden Lakes inquiry

editorial image

Day eight of the Rushden Lakes planning inquiry heard evidence regarding the highways and transport issues relating to the application.

Over the last two weeks the inquiry, which is being held at East Northamptonshire Council’s Thrapston headquarters, has heard evidence both in favour and against the proposed £50million development for Skew Bridge.

The applicant, LXB Retail Properties, wants to build a retail and leisure development that would include 13 shops, including two anchor stores which would possibly be Marks & Spencer and Debenhams.

Other retailers rumoured to be interested in moving in, include Next, Primark, River Island, Monsoon, and Gap.

Today (Friday), the inquiry continued to hear cross examination of the evidence given by Chris Goddard, retail and town centre development witness for the consortium of objecting Corby, Kettering and Northampton borough councils.

Mr Goddard prepared the independent assessment of the retail strategy for North Northamptonshire and the implications of the Rushden Lakes proposals in April 2012.

Today he was questioned about his estimates for how much would be spent at Rushden Lakes by shoppers, and predications about the catchment areas where those shoppers would come from.

They estimate that 14 per cent of the Rushden Lakes turnover - £19.2million - would come from people who live in Northampton.

Figures reported by Mr Goddard’s company, GVA, relating to the impact the Rushden Lakes development could have on retail parks in the county were called into question by Ian Dove QC, for East Northamptonshire Council.

The figures were found to contain a ‘glitch’, as described by inspector Harold Stephens, as Kettering Retail Park and Northfield Avenue Retail Park in Kettering had been confused. Mr Goddard was asked to correct the mistake.

Then came the evidence from David Hunter-Yeats, witness for the Grosvenor Centre’s legal team. Mr Hunter-Yeats is a director within engineering consultancy WSP UK who has spent the last 26 years involved in transport aspects of proposed major developments.

He gave evidence about the transport and highways issues, during which he raised concerns about the ‘transport sustainability’ of the application.

While presenting his evidence, Mr Hunter-yeats described the access to the Skew Bridge site by car as ‘superb’, but he said this would subsequently draw people from further away than the immediate catchment area to the development.

He criticised the planned public transport services proposed to the site as part of the application. He said an hourly service was not sufficient and he criticised the absence of a bus service for Sunday.

He also criticised the walking and cycling routes from Higham Ferrers to the Skew Bridge site, and said more needed to be done to encourage cycling to the site.

He also disagreed with the applicant’s case that the average household in the Rushden area would make roughly 1.26 trips a week to the Rushden Lakes retail and leisure park.

In his report prepared for the inquiry, he stated: “I do not consider the infrastructure proposed by the development to constitute major enhancement and that consequently the application has over-played the accessibility of the site by non-car modes.”

This afternoon Mr Hunter-Yeats was cross-examined by Christopher Katkowski QC, for the applicant LXB Retail Properties.

Mr Katkowski quizzed Mr Hunter-Yeats about his criticism of the development’s transport services, including that of the currently absent Sunday bus service in the proposals.

He said the current public transport offering between Rushden and Northampton on a Sunday, which, he said, would currently only allow shoppers from Rushden to arrive in Northampton at 3.40pm or 5.40pm.

Mr Katkowski also said that Northamptonshire County Council’s position is that the frequency of the bus services proposed will be increased to at least half hourly as the Stanton Cross development – a 3,000 home development being built on land at the back of Wellingborough train station – progresses.

Mr Hunter-Yeats did disagree somewhat with Mr Goddard’s earlier evidence that the John Lewis offering within the Waitrose store would act as another ‘anchor store’ for the Rushden Lakes, as he questioned whether people would park at the Skew Bridge site and walk over the new A45 footbridge to visit Waitrose and then walk back again.

The inquiry will resume on Tuesday when the inspector and representatives from each party will be taking part in site visits. They will visit locations relevant to the application, including the Skew Bridge site and town centres.

An evening session will then take place on Tuesday at Huxlow Science Academy. The event was ticketed due to the levels of interest in the application. All the tickets have now been allocated.

The inquiry will then resume at East Northamptonshire Council’s Thrapston headquarters on Wednesday. It’s due to finish on Friday, June 12.