Work under way at Rushden Lakes

Rushden Lakes supporters with original Skew Bridge owner John Wills (seated) and contractor John Boyce (business development manager Barton Plant and The Bennie Group)
Rushden Lakes supporters with original Skew Bridge owner John Wills (seated) and contractor John Boyce (business development manager Barton Plant and The Bennie Group)

Work has finally started on the eagerly-awaited £50m Rushden Lakes development.

Enabling works on the former Skew Bridge site just off the A45 at Rushden are now under way, including clearing the land where it has become overgrown and cutting back the grass.

But the real difference people will start to see when driving past will be the removal of the famous ski slope, which is set to take between four and six weeks to demolish.

Barton Plant Limited, which is part of The Bennie Group based in Burton Latimer, will be taking down the iconic mound.

Group business development manager for the firm, John Boyce, said: “It will take four to six weeks and we will start round the edges.

“There could be rubbish at the bottom but we won’t know for some weeks whether it’s re-usable as part of the development.

“Jon McCarthy of LXB is delighted to be able to ses progress with works commencing on site. It’s great.”

A number of Rushden Lakes supporters as well as members of Rushden Town Council and East Northamptonshire Council visited the site last week to mark the milestone of work starting on the multi-million pound development which divided opinion across the county.

Cllr David Jenney said: “We are absolutely delighted.

“We are looking forward to the next two years and getting the thing up and running.”

Rushden mayor Cllr Richard Lewis said: “Now is the time to build Rushden back up.

“It’s fantastic.”

Opening date

It is hoped that the first phase of Rushden Lakes will be open by May 2016.

Pre-lets with M&S and Costa are already in place and LXB, the developer behind the plans, says there has been significant retail and restaurant interest since the Secretary of State Eric Pickles gave the scheme the go-ahead.

There will be a lakeside visitor centre, marina and boathouse, hotel, creche and leisure club, as well as the shops and restaurants.

It is estimated that the combined retail, leisure and tourism offering will attract more than three million visitors every year.

More than 2,000 new jobs will be created by the project, both during the construction of it and once it opens for business.

Former owner supports scheme

Among those who visited the site last week was John Wills, the man behind Skew Bridge in its heyday.

Mr Wills, now in his 90s, used to own the gravel pits there and introduced water skiing as well as the ski slope.

After he retired and sold the site, it was taken on by a succession of different people before becoming derelict.

Speaking to the Telegraph earlier this year, he said: “I think Rushden Lakes will be wonderful.”