Northampton’s opposition to plans for a £50m shopping and leisure park in Rushden has been labelled discriminatory by a Rushden town official.
Corby and Kettering Councils also opposed the proposed development, which includes 20 shops, a garden centre, leisure facilities and would bring 2,000 jobs to the Rushden area.
They claimed it would damage their own town centres and potential for future investment, despite it being many miles away.
Wellingborough Council did not oppose the scheme and it was supported by Rushden and Higham Ferrers town councils.
What do you think about the decision to call in the plans? Let us know your views here.
Adrian House, a Rushden town councillor, a town centre trader and chairman of Rushden Chamber of Trade, said: “It’s a great compliment to Rushden that they are so worried about their future prosperity they have to be so concerned about what we are doing.
“They are obviously not as worried about Daventry’s new £50m town centre. I think it’s very sad that they can’t concentrate on their own patch.
“We have lost as many jobs in the footwear industry in Rushden as the steel industry, but the steel industry has been supported by successive governments which is why there are twice as many jobs in Corby as there are in our town.
“We are keen to get the job opportunities that this development would bring.
“I can’t understand why they can’t concentrate on trying to improve their own shopping experience.
“I am surprised that Northampton is worrying.
“It’s just very sad that these Northampton councillors are so worried about the impact from us. Why are they not worried about Daventry? Why are we being discriminated against?”
Cllr Sarah Peacock, leader of Rushden Town Council, said: “Rushden Lakes has been well supported by local people and it’s much needed to support our local area. We have been identified as a growth town but if this doesn’t go ahead then we won’t be a growth town. East Northamptonshire has always missed out and it’s our time to have something.
“We need this desperately – we need to support the growth of our town.”
East Northamptonshire Council granted planning permission for Rushden Lakes in October but due to the size of the development the decision had to be reviewed by the Secretary of State, who has called it in for further inspection.
Cllr Steven North, leader of East Northamptonshire Council, said: “The Secretary of State has decided that further inspection is needed. We’re aware that this will result in a public inquiry presided over by a planning inspector.
“We’re now waiting to hear how long the inspector needs to make a decision.”
Peter Bone, MP for Rushden and Wellingborough, said: “The advantage of the public inquiry, presuming it finds in favour, would be that it cannot be challenged in the court.
“If it had been approved without a public inquiry they [the opposing parties] would have objected in the court. I am really disappointed by the behaviour of Northampton and Kettering but they are doing what they think is best for their constituencies – I think they are wrong, but that is for the public inquiry to decide.”
Distance from Northampton
Northampton Council opposed the Rushden Lakes development because it claims it would damage its own town centre and risk future investment.
Some find it hard to understand why such a large town with so many shops of its own would have a problem with Rushden having just 20 new shops and some leisure facilities.
It took me 20 minutes to complete the 15-miles door-to-door from Northampton town centre to Skew Bridge and I had to pass two shopping centres – Riverside and Wellingborough town centre – on the way.
I can’t imagine that too many people who live in Northampton would make this journey to visit 20 shops when they have many more on their doorstep. Plus, as someone who lives very near to Rushden, I know that most people in the area currently choose to go to Milton Keynes.
I also drove from Kettering to Skew Bridge. At 17 miles the journey was a slightly longer one, but the 19-minute trip would be enough to put me off.
The leader of Northampton Council, Cllr David Mackintosh, welcomed the announcement that the Secretary of State will call-in the decision to approve planning permission for the proposed Rushden Lakes development.
Cllr Mackintosh said: “I am pleased that he acknowledges the significance of Northampton’s economic regeneration to the wider region and the impact that this proposed development could have on us and the other towns in the area.
“Northampton is making real progress in attracting millions of pounds of investment and creating jobs through our Northampton Alive programme and we have clearly had some success at raising this on a national level.
“I have to thank our MPs Brian Binley and Michael Ellis for tirelessly raising our success in Parliament and ensuring that the strong work we are doing here has been recognised.
“It will be up to the Secretary of State to decide if this proposal goes ahead but I am confident that he has heard what is going on here in Northampton and how the enormous strides we have made could be set back by the Rushden Lakes development.”
Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, said: “I am delighted that Eric Pickles has listened to those of us who have been urging him to call in that particular planning application, which could be very harmful to Northampton and many of the towns in Northamptonshire.”
Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said: “I think this is a very sensible decision as the proposed development would have a hugely negative effect on what we are trying to achieve in Northampton.
“The Rushden Lakes development would cause the town a great deal of trouble and the case against it is a very strong one. I think this decision reflects that, and I welcome it.”
Opposition from politicians and officials in Northampton to the multi-million pound plans to create thousands of jobs and boost the economy in the north of the county is nothing more than sour grapes.
For years, Northampton has had the opportunity to develop its own town centre, but has failed to do so.
Ironically, at the same time it has allowed significant out-of-town retail developments to be constructed, damaging its own town centre and those nearby.
Can you imagine the response from these Northampton people if those of us in Corby, Kettering, Rushden and Wellingborough had objected to any such plans in the county town?
And let’s be honest, people from Northampton and this part of the county already travel to Milton Keynes in their droves because Northampton town centre is not up to scratch.
The opposition to the Rushden Lakes plans, which will bring much-needed prosperity to one of the most economically challenged parts of the county, is no more than petty jealousy.
If the Rushden Lakes plans are not given the go-ahead after the pending public inquiry, then those from Northampton and beyond who are objecting to the scheme should hang their heads in shame.
The message to them is simple. Get your own house in order and stop coveting what your neighbours may soon have.
Neil Pickford, Editor