Council set to object to Rushden Lakes expansion over fears for Northampton town centre

Northampton Borough Council is set to object to plans to extend the Rushden Lakes retail complex.

Rushden Lakes from the air (picture by John Bancroft)
Rushden Lakes from the air (picture by John Bancroft)

Council officers have recommended that the latest application is called-in so it can be determined by the Secretary of the State, as the council feels the scheme could harm the ‘viability and vitality of Northampton town centre’.

It is the latest in a series of objections the authority has raised against the scheme, which had more than four million visitors in its first year.

This latest application would see the extension of the complex to the west to provide nearly 12,000sqm of mixed use development over 29 units.

This would include space for retail, restaurants, physiotherapy/leisure floorspace and office and industrial space.

A report before the borough council’s planning committee, which meets next Tuesday (October 23), states: “The new and existing provisions would effectively turn Rushden Lakes into a town centre in its own right and therefore add to the problems already faced by surrounding traditional high streets and town centres in their attempts to survive and evolve.

“Moreover, the proposal would only add to the attractiveness, choice and accessibility to an existing out-of-centre development.

“As such, it is considered that the proposal would undermine the role, vitality and viability of surrounding town centres, including Northampton town centre.”

Northampton Borough Council had objected to the scheme in its early stages, but after a public inquiry the project was approved by then Secretary of State Eric Pickles in 2014, with the first phase of the development opening last July.

The inquiry found that the impact on town centres would ‘not be significant’, but since then the development ‘is already beginning to have an impact on expenditure patterns in Northampton’ according to a recent retail study by the borough council.

It found that specifically for clothing and footwear, Rushden Lakes is absorbing 9.3 per cent of Northampton residents’ expenditure.

The opening of Rushden Lakes was also cited as one of the reasons for Marks & Spencer electing to close its long standing store in Abington Street.

The council papers add: “It is clear that the decision to grant permission for Rushden Lakes has already had a negative impact on Northampton town centre’s viability and vitality, including local consumer choice and trade.

“Any further expansion of Rushden Lakes would likely exacerbate the existing adverse impacts on Northampton town centre.”