Final decision on Rushden Lakes to be made by Government planning inspector

Rushden Lakes artist's impression
Rushden Lakes artist's impression

A Government planning inspector will now determine the fate of the proposed £50m Rushden Lakes shopping and leisure development.

East Northamtonshire Council granted planning permission for the project in October, but due to the size of the scheme the decision had to be reviewed by the Secretary of State who has decided the final say on the plans should fall to a Government inspector.

The project, proposed for the site of the old Skew Bridge Country Club and dry ski slope on the edge of Rushden, includes retail units, restaurants and a lakeside visitor centre, along with a hotel, leisure club and boat house.

LXB Retail Properties, the company behind the proposed development, bought the Skew Bridge for almost £5m in 2010.

Company officials say the lakes plan would provide up to 2,000 jobs for the area. A total of 1,350 of those would be directly available at the development, while the rest would be the result the knock-on affect the development would bring to the area in investment.

Jon McCarthy, development director at LXB Retail Properties, said: “Today’s decision is clearly disappointing, however, we absolutely still believe in Rushden Lakes and will be making the strongest possible case to the Inspector in 2013. We would like to put on record our thanks to everyone in Rushden, East Northamptonshire, Wellingborough and the wider area who supports our vision for the blighted Skew Bridge site. That support is still relevant , still required and still very much welcome until we clear this latest planning hurdle.”

Cllr Steven North, Leader of East Northamptonshire Council, said: “The Secretary of State has decided that further inspection is needed for the Rushden Lakes application. We’re aware that this will result in a Public Inquiry presided over by a planning inspector. We’re now waiting to hear how long the inspector needs to make a decision.

“We’re keen to see work start on this exciting development which will bring new jobs to the area and regenerate a site that has become run down. The potential to increase spending in the district, provide a better retail offer for local people and maximise leisure opportunities is just what the district needs right now so we look forward to hearing a decision.”

Announcing plans to build the development attracted objections from Northampton, Corby, Kettering and Bedford borough council, who all said it would damage their own town centres and potential for future investment.

Wellingborough Council did not oppose the scheme and it was supported by Rushden and Higham Ferrers town councils.

Peter Bone, MP for Rushden and Wellingborough, said: “It was what was going to happen.

“There is overwhelming support from me and my constituents for this project. No one has objected and everyone is in favour.

“The advantage of the public inquiry, presuming it finds in favour, is that it cannot be challenged in the court.

“If it had been approved without a public inquiry they [the opposing parties] would have objected in the court.

“I think the department has made the right decision by law.

“I think it’s a great project and I think it’s good news that they have announced the public inquiry so early.

“I am really disappointed by the behaviour of Northampton and Kettering but they are doing what they think is best for their constituencies - I think they are wrong, but that is for the public inquiry to decide.

“The people it affects are overwhelmingly in favour of it. I think it will be a great success and I’m sorry the other councils are not supporting it. This is a process and it’s nothing that surprises me.”

Cllr David Mackintosh, Leader of Northampton Borough Council, welcomed the announcement.

He said: “I welcome this announcement from the Secretary of State today and am pleased that he acknowledges the significance of Northampton’s economic regeneration to the wider region and the impact that this proposed development could have on us and the other towns in the area.

“Northampton is making real progress in attracting millions of pounds of investment and creating jobs through our Northampton Alive programme and we have clearly had some success at raising this on a national level. I have to thank our MPs Brian Binley and Michael Ellis for tirelessly raising our success in Parliament and ensuring that the strong work we are doing here has been recognised.

“It will be up to the Secretary of State to decide if this proposal goes ahead but I am confident that he has heard what is going on here in Northampton and how the enormous strides we have made could be set back by the Rushden Lakes development.”

Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, said: “I am delighted that Eric Pickles has listened to those of us who have been urging him to call in that particular planning application, which could be very harmful to Northampton and many of the towns in Northamptonshire.”

Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said: “I think this is a very sensible decision as the proposed development would have a hugely negative affect on what we are trying to achieve in Northampton. The Rushden Lakes development would cause the town a great deal of trouble and the case against it is a very strong one. I think this decision reflects that, and I welcome it.”