Council leader fights for shopping complex

A COUNCIL leader has urged neighbouring towns not to stand in the way of his district’s development.

East Northamptonshire Council leader Cllr Steven North is prioritising regeneration as one of his council’s main goals and is concerned about the criticism from neighbouring communities over the plans for the Rushden Lakes development.

The proposed £50m shopping complex would be on the former Skew Bridge site and is expected to generate 1,500 jobs but it has come under fire from the likes of Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce, Kettering Chamber of Commerce, Corby councillors and Kettering MP Philip Hollobone who believe it would harm their towns’ economies.

Cllr North said: “We’ve argued every area should be allowed to grow at its own speed. Other towns have been allowed to grow without other places jumping up and down and complaining.

“Research has shown people in Rushden don’t go to shop in Corby and Kettering, they go to Milton Keynes. We want to keep them in Rushden, to keep them spending their money here and also going to the High Street.

“We’ll be really disappointed if neighbouring councils object to this – we can understand their concerns but we don’t feel they’ll lose out through it.”

The Rushden Lakes development includes plans for 20 new shops, a garden centre, drive-through restaurant, gatehouse, a lakeside visitor centre, restaurants, a boat house and a lock. The application also seeks outline permission to build a hotel, crèche, leisure club and marina. It is believed one of the new shops could be a large Marks & Spencer store.

Cllr North said the developers are working closely with Rushden Town Council and traders to limit the impact on the town’s High Street.

He added: “We never had any support when we lost the boot and shoe industry and now a lot of residents work outside own. We need more jobs so people can work here and spend their money here.”