Rushden shops plan would be ‘disaster’ for other centres

Rushden: The old Skew Bridge Ski Club site which there are now development plans.'Thursday, 12 May 2011
Rushden: The old Skew Bridge Ski Club site which there are now development plans.'Thursday, 12 May 2011

An MP has strongly criticised the plan for a £50m shopping complex on the edge of Rushden, believing it will be a “disaster”for the future of other town centres.

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone spoke out about the proposed multi-million pound Rushden Lakes plan at Skew Bridge in Parliament.

Mr Hollobone said he will urge the Government to call in the application once it is registered with East Northamptonshire Council, and to turn it down, after receiving a concerned letter from the owners of the Newlands Centre in Kettering which set alarm bells ringing.

Speaking after the debate, he said: “The proposal, which will have some 20 High Street stores, goes against the North Northamptonshire Core Spacial Strategy that local authorities signed up to, which makes it clear retail expansion should be in town centres.

“We either support our major town centres or we are waving the white flag in surrender to large-scale out-of-town development.

“The development will be a disaster for Kettering, it is something I feel very strongly about.

“This development is against all the work that has gone into local planning policy.”

The proposed Rushden Lakes development includes 20 new shops, possibly a large Marks & Spencer, garden centre, hotel, leisure centre, a lake marina and restaurants.

Developers LXB Retail Properties Plc hopes the park will open within the next two years.

Business leaders have some sympathy with the MP’s comments.

Mark Robinson, founding partner of Ellandi, the company which owns the Newlands Centre, wrote the letter to the MP which was read out in Parliament.

He said: “It won’t destroy Kettering town centre but it makes it more difficult to get it back to what it should be.

“Kettering deserves a good town centre.

“We’ve got units we’ll want to market to retailers when the economy picks up, but the Rushden complex could take them instead. Retailers will only put so many stores in the region.

“All of the local town centre managers are concerned.”

The plans were outlined in November and consultations have already taken place.

Neil Griffin, chairman of Kettering Chamber of Commerce, said: “With all the emphasis about keeping people in town centres, an out-of-town development is the last thing we need.”

But Rushden Town Council leader Sarah Peacock has said the plan is long overdue.

She said: “Corby and Kettering have had a tremendous amount of money invested into them.

“You could say this has been detrimental for Rushden and East Northants. It will give a major boost to the area and create not only jobs, but tourism.”

Rushden Chamber of Trade chairman Adrian House said: “I don’t think just town centre shopping plans are viable.

“If that was the case, we’d only be left with Milton Keynes and Peterborough.”