The public inquiry to decide the future of the proposed Rushden Lakes development began today
The inquiry was started by planning inspector Harold Stephens at 10am this morning, and opening statements from the main parties for and against the proposed development have been read out.
Tens of people from the Yes2RushdenLakes group are attending the meeting to show their support for the scheme.
During the first day of the inquiry it was revealed that Marks & Spencer has confirmed that it will occupy one of the retail units at Rushden Lakes.
The inquiry also heard that LXB Retail Properties, the company behind the development, also hopes to bring Bank, River Island, Monsoon, Gap and the Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop, to Skew Bridge.
Christopher Katkowski QC, representing the applicant LXB Retail Properties, said in his opening statement that the Secretary of State has received 1,000 letters in support of the Rushden Lakes development.
He continued to add that the site will bring ‘much needed jobs’ to the area, it will create economic growth, and it has been warmly welcomed by people in the local area.
He said: “The front page of the local newspaper, the Northamptonshire Telegraph, captured the groundswell of opinion of local readers with the headline ‘10 reasons why you must say yes’.”
“There’s no real evidence to suggest that any retailer that would come to Rushden Lakes instead of going to other towns, or other redevelopment would not happen because of Rushden Lakes.
“It would provide 1,700 full time jobs, but in real terms it would be many more than this because some would be part time jobs.
“Tens of millions of pounds would be generated in salaries for the local economy. This is a real opportunity for growth.
“It must be one of the most popular applications – 1,000 letters have been sent to the inspector.”
He added that he found the claims by the parties in opposition to the development ‘depressing’ and ‘bewildering.’
Hugh Richards, Counsel for East Northamptonshire Council, said: “The council concludes that the proposals should be granted planning consent . The council has been conscious and live to the concerns in relation to the alleged retail impact.
“People have to travel a significant distance to find suitable retail facilities.
“The proposed development, as well as addressing the retail need, would also bring significant other benefits.
“It’s obvious that this scheme and the role it would play in encouraging growth in this area, are widely supported, not only in East Northamptonshire, but also in Wellingborough, including Wellingborough Council.”
However, Morag Ellis, QC for the Kettering, Corby & Northampton councils consortium, said: “This proposal would hit Northamptonshire high streets hard.
“It would have an adverse affect planned public and private investment in Northampton, Kettering and Corby town centres.
“Most strikingly in Northampton, Legal and General have made clear that the redevelopment of the Grosvenor Centre will not go ahead if Rushden Lakes is approved.
“It would jeopardise investment in the Newlands Shopping Centre, in particular investors not being able to justify opening new stores in both the Newlands Centre and at Rushden Lakes.
“Employment opportunities would be jobs displaces rather than new jobs”
She added there was a ‘large number of suitable other sites’ for a retail development in the area.”
Russell Harris, QC for Legal and General, said that the out of town of development was designed to impact on Northampton.
He added: “The alleged benefits do not come close to out weighing the harm it would cause.”
The Northants Telegraph will be reporting regularly from the inquiry throughout the scheduled 12 days.
Planning inspector Harold Stephens will hear from those supporting, and those opposed to, the £50m shopping and leisure complex proposals.
You can stay up to date with all the developments here.