OPPONENTS to the proposed £50m Rushden Lakes development believe the plan is a major threat to the future of a town shopping centre.
Bosses at Ellandi, which acquired Kettering’s Newlands Centre last year, fear that if the scheme in Rushden goes through, it will be much harder to attract retailers to Kettering.
Mark Robinson, founding partner of Ellandi, said: “The developers of Rushden Lakes are trying to make it look like a garden centre with a parade of shops.
“But it isn’t that – it’s Leicester’s Fosse Park in the middle of Rushden.
“If someone builds Fosse Park on a field in Rushden, then developers will not want to come here.”
The Rushden Lakes proposal, on the former Skew Bridge site, would incorporate 20 new shops, a garden centre, a drive-through restaurant, a gatehouse, a lakeside visitor centre, restaurants, a boat house and a lock.
It will also create 1,340 retail jobs if it is approved by East Northamptonshire Council in June.
Despite strong support for the plans in the Rushden area, the plan has come under fire from Kettering MP Philip Hollobone, while Helical Bar, which owns Corby town centre, has formally objected to the plan.
Neil Griffin, manager of the Newlands Centre, said: “If Rushden Lakes is built, the department stores we’d be looking to bring in would also be attracted to Rushden.
“It won’t just be us affected – it will be Corby and Wellingborough too. It’s not a foregone conclusion so we will wait and see.”
But Cllr Sarah Peacock, leader of Rushden Town Council, hit back at the plan’s critics, saying: “Kettering has got the out of town development with the cinema and I think they should look at themselves before criticising others.”