More details about the new visitor centre and nature reserve to be created as part of the £50m Rushden Lakes scheme have been revealed.
The Wildlife Trust in Northamptonshire has released these images of its first visitor centre, which they are hoping to open to the public in 2016.
It will form part of the major retail and leisure complex on the former Skew Bridge site just off the A45 near Rushden, which was finally given planning permission in June.
The multi-million pound retail complex will be at the centre of a large area for wintering birds within the Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area, which has been designed to be sympathetic to the area.
A large part of the site has been set aside as a major new nature reserve that will be managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. This will safeguard an area which will link four of the trust’s existing nature reserves at Irthlingborough, Ditchford, Higham Ferrers Pits and Wilson’s Pits.
These sections of wildlife habitat will then form one large area for nature, managed by the trust, and it is hoped will bring benefits to people and wildlife along this part of the Nene Valley.
The visitor centre with panoramic views will be built by the developer LXB, but managed by the Wildlife Trust.
The eco building will be zero energy and feature a green roof which will absorb rainwater, provide insulation and create habitat for wildlife.
Oliver Burke, director of Living Landscapes at the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, said: “The developer LXB has seen nature as an asset rather than a nuisance in this ground-breaking scheme.
“We are very excited about the new visitor centre – the first that this Wildlife Trust has managed – which will include a shop, a café and visitor information and has been designed to take advantage of the stunning views of the nature reserve.
“If everything goes to plan, we could be welcoming the first visitors to the new site in 2016.”
Local company Canoe2 will provide canoe hire, and new cycle greenways will be built so visitors can explore the area without disturbing wildlife.
A restored bridge and footpath to Irthlingborough will also enable visitors to explore further afield.
The Wildlife Trust says birds which will thrive at the new reserve will include wigeon, teal, lapwing, kingfisher and the great crested grebe.
For more details go to www.lxbretailproperties.com/retail-investment-portfolio/8/rushden-lakes-at-nene-valley.
Full steam ahead
It is hoped that the first phase of Rushden Lakes will be open by May 2016.
Pre-lets with Marks & Spencer and Costa are already in place and LXB, the developer behind the plans, said earlier this year that there had been significant retail and restaurant interest since the Secretary of State Eric Pickles gave the scheme the go-ahead after a public inquiry.
It is estimated that the combined retail, leisure and tourism offering will attract more than three million visitors every year.
More than 2,000 new jobs will be created by the project, both during the construction and once it opens for business.