Parliamentary spat between MPs for Corby and Rushden over Lakes decision

Andy Sawford and Peter Bone working together earlier this year to campaign for more investment in healthcare in the north of the county
Andy Sawford and Peter Bone working together earlier this year to campaign for more investment in healthcare in the north of the county

A war of words broke out between two county MPs when Rushden Lakes was raised in Parliament.

Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough and Rushden, secured an adjournment debate on the Rushden Lakes plans approved last week by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

But during Wednesday night’s debate, the discussion turned from praise for the £50m scheme to a war of words between Mr Bone and Corby and East Northants MP Andy Sawford.

Mr Bone said: “Tonight’s adjournment debate is unusual: it is not one of those debates that slams the Government for not doing something, claims that they are not listening, or demands that they spend more taxpayers’ money.

“It is a joyous occasion: a celebration of localism working. It is a celebration of a Conservative-led campaign that has succeeded; and it is a celebration of part of my constituency being transformed.

“Rushden Lakes and Skew Bridge was a major planning application in the east Northamptonshire part of my constituency.”

He spoke of the long-running battle to gain approval for the new retail and leisure complex, which includes a home and garden centre, shops, drive-through restaurant, lakeside visitors centre, restaurants, boathouse, hotel, crèche and leisure club.

He told the chamber: “Rushden Lakes will benefit not only Wellingborough and Rushden but the whole of Northamptonshire.”

But while the Conservative MP praised the work of all the supporters, campaigners and local councillors, Labour MP Mr Sawford interjected and asked: “Will the honourable gentleman give way?”

But Mr Bone declined, saying: “I do not intend to give way in this debate because of the amount of issues that I want to cover tonight.

“Contrast that with 13 years of Labour when we did not see any investment in east Northamptonshire; we just saw public services shut down.

“This development will bring 2,000 permanent new jobs to the area alongside fantastic new retail, tourist and leisure facilities, including a leisure club and a hotel as well as many retail units.”

He said Rushden had been overlooked for investment too often, and the development marks a new beginning for Rushden and the surrounding area.

He went on: “Rushden Lakes will serve to bolster further the local economy’s already growing employment rate.

“Official figures show that unemployment has fallen dramatically in north Northamptonshire over the past 12 months.”

Mr Sawford then asked his fellow county MP to give way on that point, but Mr Bone declined again.

Mr Bone continued, highlighting his joint listening campaign which he runs in Wellingborough and Rushden with Tom Pursglove, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Corby and east Northants, for its part in the Lakes campaign.

Again Mr Sawford asked Mr Bone to give way as he was continually referring to his constituency.

But Mr Bone came back and said: “I am not giving way. I will tell the honourable gentleman this: he should be at Kettering hospital getting the splinters taken out of his backside for sitting on the fence for so long over this matter.”

Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle was then drawn into the debate and asked the MPs to be mindful of their language.

He said: “Order. Honourable members must be careful to temper the language that they use about each other.

“If the honourable member for Wellingborough does not wish to give way, that is his choice.

“However frustrated the honourable member for Corby might feel, we must abide by the rules of the House.

“I hope that we can temper the heat in the chamber at the moment.”

Mr Bone apologised, but said he was annoyed by the point of order for which he wanted an apology.

The debate continued with Mr Bone thanking a long list of people involved in the campaign, including campaigners, councillors, representatives from the developers LXB and the local media.

He said: “The list goes on and includes the Northamptonshire Telegraph for its campaigning in achieving Rushden Lakes, showing what an excellent local paper can do on behalf of its community.”

The MP said Rushden Lakes decision means other developments in the area can now move forward and he asked the minister how the planning process can be speeded up for such developments.

In response, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Nick Boles: “I congratulate my honourable friend the member for Wellingborough not only on securing a debate on this issue, which I know is of overwhelming importance to him, his constituents and residents in the broader region, but on his unrelenting campaign, as a Member of Parliament quite properly representing his constituents, in favour of a development that he felt would benefit them dramatically.

“I congratulate him, along with the many other campaigners who worked so tirelessly, on securing the result he sought.”

Mr Sawford then asked the minister if he could confirm he had received letters of support from Mr Sawford and joint letters signed by himself and Mr Bone.

And added: “Will he confirm that, on page 150 of the report, the honourable gentleman is quoted as praising my strong support and as saying that “members of the Conservative and Labour party are united in support of this proposal”?

“All of us with an interest in east Northamptonshire back this application locally, and I hope that we can get it going as soon as possible. I of course welcome the decision.”

Mr Boles said: “I am happy to acknowledge that I have received a letter from the honourable gentleman supporting the scheme.

“Obviously, the scheme was not universally supported, otherwise it would not have been called in, but I am certainly happy to make that acknowledgment.”

In response to the question over speed of the planning process, Mr Boles spoke about greater use of neighbourhood planning.

He also highlighted the Government’s proposal to encourage, incentivise and help local authorities to introduce local development orders on as many brownfield sites as possible to allow an applicant or developer who is willing to build housing on a brownfield site to do so without having to going through a complex new planning process.