Mixed history of proposed Rushden Lakes shopping plot

The run-down site of Skew Bridge in 2001.
The run-down site of Skew Bridge in 2001.
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Surrounded by fields and left undeveloped for years, Skew Bridge has a chequered history which has recently created cross-county feuding and huge amounts of debate.

The future of Skew Bridge has still yet to be decided, with the Secretary of State saying that a Government inspector needs to make the final decision on the proposed Rushden Lakes shopping complex.

The run-down site of Skew Bridge in 2001.

The run-down site of Skew Bridge in 2001.

A number of councils have voiced their oppositions to the proposals with a joint statement by the leaders of Northampton Borough Council, Corby Council and Kettering Council condemning Rushden Lakes.

Part of the statement read: “Rushden Lakes represents a clear threat to town centres and shopping areas across Northamptonshire, putting jobs and millions of pounds of investment at risk.”

Wellingborough Council did not oppose the scheme and it was supported by the town councils of Rushden and Higham Ferrers.

But in the past Skew Bridge has suffered from fire, anti-social behaviour and, of course, the long-standing issue of development.

In 1952 the ground at Skew Bridge, was excavated for sand and gravel, leaving a gaping hole which, when filled with water, was turned into a lake.

A decade later the site’s use was transformed completely again – John Wills and his wife Mary set up a ski club at Skew Bridge.

A 200ft-long dry ski slope was later added, turning the venue into a social hotspot for the area.

However, disaster was not far away.

Mr Wills sold the club in 1973 after being approached by a Bristol businessman who owned a similar venue. But the deal fell through, so a local man, David Hamblin, agreed to buy the venue for the same price.

The club continued to be part of the community but in 1988 the club was destroyed by fire.

It has since been plagued by anti-social behaviour, with people riding motorcycles across the site.

Skew Bridge then became a target of an East Northamptonshire clean-up aimed at tidying up well-known eyesores.

It is at that point the proposals to develop the land began.

Plans for a 10-pin bowling alley, offices, shops and a hotel at the site were all proposed, but never came to fruition.

Now, LXB Retail Properties, the company behind the proposed £50m development at Skew Bridge just off the A45 near Rushden, plans to build 20 shops, restaurants, a lakeside visitor centre, a hotel, leisure club and a boat house – creating 2,000 jobs for the area.

But for now, despite its varied past, the future of Skew Bridge depends on the decision of a Government inspector.