CLAIMS a new £50m shopping park at Rushden would damage business at Northampton’s Grosvenor Centre have been dismissed as sour grapes.
LXB Retail Properties wants to build 20 new shops, a garden centre, drive-through restaurant, visitor centre, hotel and restaurants at Skew Bridge, off the A45.
The Grosvenor Centre’s owner Legal & General says its long-awaited expansion plans could be compromised if the Rushden Lakes scheme is approved by East Northamptonshire Council.
Property consultants Drivers Jonas Deloitte, who work on behalf of Legal & General, have warned the development would suck thousands of shoppers and millions of pounds out of Northampton. Shopping centre owners in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough are also opposed to it.
However, LXB development director Jon McCarthy dismissed the claims.
He said: “Northampton’s immediate catchment doesn’t include Rushden, nor does Corby, Kettering or Wellingborough’s.
“LXB say only 0.2 per cent of Rushden spending goes to Corby.
“Figures from the West Northamptonshire Retail Study show capacity for at least 105,800 square metres of additional non-food floor space in Northampton, which clearly offers significant potential for it to expand regardless of what happens at Rushden.
“Commercial interests in Northampton, Kettering and Corby are telling Rushden and Wellingborough they shouldn’t have a new state-of-the-art leisure tourism and retail offer to compliment their town centres.
“We’re hopeful East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough politicians will agree with the people in those two towns in recognising the need for this in terms of the tourism and leisure opportunities it’ll offer, the enhanced retail experience and the more than 1,500 new jobs that will be created.”
LXB spokesman Gavin Stollar added: “Rushden has an immediate shopping catchment of almost 60,000 people.
“It loses 68 per cent of its non-food spending to other centres, which everyone agrees is unsustainable, and 40 per cent of Rushden’s spend is lost to centres outside north Northamptonshire, mainly to places like Milton Keynes. It’s this lost spending the Lakes aims to recover.
“Not only has the feedback we’ve had from across Wellingborough and Rushden been almost universally positive but people seem fed up at having to drive up to 30 miles to get what they need.
“They’ve told us if they could get a wider selection of goods locally they’d be more inclined to shop on their local high streets.”
Wellingborough and Rushden MP Peter Bone said: “It’s nonsense to say it would affect Northampton. It sounds like sour grapes – like these people are scared of competition. Anything which provides thousands of jobs and improves the lives of people living in the Rushden and Wellingborugh areas would be a good thing.”
Speaking on behalf of CBREI, owner of Wellingborough’s Swansgate Centre, Steven Louth of BNP Paribas Real Estate said: “CBREI strongly object on the grounds of the quantum of retail development proposed and its resultant impact on existing centre, such as Wellingborough town centre.”
Helical (Corby) Ltd, owner of Corby Town Centre, also objects and says the proposals would significantly impact on town centres across north Northamptonshire.
And Kettering’s Newlands Centre manager Neil Griffin said: “If they build it all the town centres are going to get hit, it isn’t just Kettering.
“It’s not just sour grapes – everyone’s going to be affected.”