A new link road between Rushden Lakes and Ditchford Road has been approved by East Northants Council’s planning committee subject to the highways authority removing its objection to the road.
The single carriageway road to the west of Northamptonshire’s newest shopping centre was given the go-ahead at a meeting at the ENC council offices in Thrapston on Wednesday (September 12).
The plans include associated footpaths, crossings, junctions and lighting along the route and there would also be a requirement for alterations to Ditchford Road as well as the A45 east slip-road.
The area around the popular shopping centre is regularly snarled up with traffic as shoppers from across the region have been heading in their droves to the shops and eateries at Rushden Lakes.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Andy Mercer said: “This application was not envisaged a year or two ago, but the traffic at Rushden Lakes has been far beyond what was forecast, with more than five million visitors in the first year.
“This new link road will relieve the pressure on the Waitrose roundabout.
“In terms of principle it seems a very sensible thing to do.
“The question concerns the detailed design of the junction and the turning and the ability of two junctions on Ditchford Road, whether they have sufficient capacity for the traffic that is likely to emerge.
“I am not totally convinced there is enough capacity there but it is clearly better than nothing.”
Chairman of the planning committee Cllr Gill Mercer said there should be signage at the site advising lorries not to turn right and said she was concerned about the roundabout as it did not appear to have a large enough turning circle for lorries.
Highways England, which has responsibility for the A45, had objected to the road as it had concerns about the proposed mitigation scheme for the northern roundabout of the Ditchford Interchange.
But planning officer Dean Wishart told the committee that ‘although we are not there yet with Highways England’ if the councillors decided to approve the application then once Highways England’s concerns were resolved with applicant LXB3 Partners LLP the matter would not need to come back to the planning authority.
The officer said he did not believe the application was perfect and towards the end of the meeting recommended the matter be deferred.
Higham Ferrers Town Council had also objected to the application partly because of the increased traffic flow on the historic Ditchford Mill Bridge.
Cllr Helen Howell spoke out against the application.
She said: “I was driving today at 4.30pm and the road was already queuing up at that time of day.
“One of my concerns is that if HGVs are going to be allowed to enter Rushden Lakes we could have a line of vehicles trying to get through.
“They could end up going down Ditchford Lane and we do have a medieval bridge down there.
“I am concerned about granting subject to Highways England approval.
“Is our job not to hear what they have to say?”
During the meeting there was a technical issue around voting.
Cllr Mercer proposed approval of the plan and then other councillors commented on the application before it was seconded for approval.
Hannah Edwards, a solicitor from LGSS Law, who are contracted by the council, then told councillors they could no longer discuss the application and would have to vote on the proposal put forward by Cllr Mercer.
The majority of the councillors voted in favour of the new link road with three councillors voting against the application.
There were other planning conditions attached, some of which related to construction work timings and signage.