Northampton planning officers say changes to Rushden Lakes scheme ‘move the goalposts’

An aerial shot of the Rushden Lakes development, taken in July this year. Now the developers want to expand the scheme.
An aerial shot of the Rushden Lakes development, taken in July this year. Now the developers want to expand the scheme.

Plans to add yet more shops to the multi-million-pound Rushden Lakes have angered Northampton Council because it says the scheme is now unrecognizable from the one passed by the Secretary of State.

Former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles approved plans for the leisure facility, cinema, shops and restaurants in 2014 following a lengthy inquiry.

Northampton Council objected at the time because authority leaders felt the development would affect trade in Northampton.

Subsequent applications have expanded the retail side of the Rushden development and a proposed garden centre has been replaced with a further “leisure facility.”

Developer LxB Retail Properties recently lodged yet another planning application to extend the retail area by a further 5,000sq m.

Now Northampton Council officers say the latest amendment is a step too far.

A report before the borough’s planning committee on Tuesday says: “The site has been subject to several amendments since the original permission in 2014, and the current proposal represents a further increase in the level of retail.

“As such, the council consider the development as proposed has the potential to lead to significant adverse impacts on the vitality and viability of Northampton town centre.”

Cabinet member for planning and regeneration Cllr Tim Hadland said the council was committed to “protecting” Northampton town centre and will “challenge anything that threatens it, including the application for yet more out of town shops at Rushden Lakes”.

Marks & Spencer, Primark and House of Fraser have already signed up to Rushden Lakes, along with cinema chain Cineworld.

But the latest planning application proposes a repositioning of the previously approved “leisure terrace,” the extension of the previously approved retail terrace A, and the erection of new retail terrace, being called “terrace D” of some 6,500sq m.

It is recommended that the borough council make its objection to East Northamptonshire Council, which is set to decide on whether to pass the scheme.

While the objection is unlikely to disrupt the scheme, if it were turned down another lengthy appeal and inquiry would follow.