Opponents plan legal bid to stop lakes plan

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Bosses at Northampton Council have threatened to derail the Rushden Lakes plans by taking their battle against the proposal to the courts.

Northampton Council’s planning committee has warned it will launch a concerted legal challenge if the £50m proposal is approved by members of East Northamptonshire Council.

Northampton councillor Geraldine Davies said: “It will be a huge problem. It will be like a mini Milton Keynes on our doorstep.”

Northampton’s warning comes after a report by property advisor GVA which claims the Rushden Lakes proposal could cost towns in the county almost £100m.

It claims that the towns of Corby, Kettering, Rushden, Wellingborough and Northampton will lose £95.6m of trade and investment in 2016 if the plans go ahead.

GVA say Kettering will lose £15.2m, and suggests the scheme will cost Wellingborough £16.6m and Northampton £53.4m.

Cllr Terry Freer, portfolio holder for regeneration at Kettering Council, said: “The proposal will have a very serious effect on all the towns in the north of the county.

“As the report suggests, we have a considerable share in trade in the north of the county.

“£15m will be an enormous drain from the town, and it’ll be a challenge to get schemes such as Wadcroft and the Newlands Phase 1 going if Rushden Lakes goes ahead.

“Towns in the north of the county will have to show togetherness if we want to survive this challenge.”

Rushden Lakes developers LXB said the report is fundamentally flawed as they claim it treats the Lakes as a town centre. Their proposal will encompass about 20 retail units, restaurants, a garden centre, boat house and locks.

It is estimated the scheme will create about 1,500 jobs.

The report from GVA, which was complied after consultation with local authorities, LXB and town centre owners, claims “the proposal is likely to have a significant cumulative impact on a number of centres, and could prejudice planned investment.”

John Cable, from Wellingborough Business Improvement District (BID) said: “We support the creation of jobs but we would much rather retail developments take place in the town centre instead of out-of-town.

“The BID opposes the scheme in principle, but if it does have to happen, we’d rather it does close to Wellingborough.”

Rushden Town Council leader Cllr Sarah Peacock said: “This plan will be good for the county and will be a major tourism boost.

“Kettering has its out-of-town development with the cinema, which doesn’t help their town centre.”

Wellingborough Council is set to strongly object to the plans at a planning meeting next week.

Its council officers have also said if East Northamptonshire Council does approve the plan, it should only give permission for a garden centre on the site, not shops or restaurants.

They have also asked for better public transport provisions from Wellingborough to Rushden plus a financial contribution from the developer if the application is passed.

A council spokesman said: “It is the officers’ recommendation that the council objects to the development but it is up to the committee to decide on a response.

“Officers have also recommended that if East Northamptonshire Council does approve the application some conditions should be attached to the approval to protect the interests of Wellingborough.”