Rushden Lakes extension plans to go to Secretary of State

The proposals are for more restaurants, shops, business units and leisure units on land to the west of Rushden Lakes

CGI of the pedestrianised area of Rushden Living
CGI of the pedestrianised area of Rushden Living

An extension to Rushden Lakes has taken a step forward but must now go to the Secretary of State as it is outside accepted local plans for the area.

East Northamptonshire Council’s planning committee voted that it was ‘minded’ to approve the Rushden Living scheme last night, going against officer’s recommendations to refuse the 14 unit development partly because it would mean losing open countryside.

The scheme by Crown Estates is proposed on green land to the west of the popular shopping complex and will see more restaurants, shops, business units and leisure units added.

As the land is not identified in the masterplan for the East Northants area the application must be sent up to the Secretary of State who could opt to make a final decision or send it back to the council for approval.

However before then it will come back to the council’s planning committee to agree developers 106 contributions and planning conditions.

Cllr Andy Mercer, who made the proposal to agree the application, was scathing of the planning officer’s decisions for refusal.

They had reasoned the layout was poor and that Rushden Living would not relate well to the wider landscape.

He said: “They are very imprecise – a little bit woolly and a bit weak. If we go with that, we stand a very good chance that the applicant would appeal.”

Cllr Gill Mercer agreed and said: “We have seen the success of Rushden Lakes. This is an extension which I think would be valuable to the area.”

Cllr Robin Underwood said the organisations objecting to the scheme were the same as had objected to the original Rushden Lakes proposal. Neighbouring town centres such as Northampton and Wellingborough don’t want Rushden Living to be built along with the nearby Waitrose.

He said: “And what happened. There was a many weeks appeal.

"Costing lots, including ourselves.

"If we refuse this, I suggest if it goes to appeal, it will go to the same decision.”

Chief executive of LXB Tim Walton, who developed the original site before selling it to Crown Estates, said businesses were queuing up to take a unit on the site because of the links to the lakes and the health and wellbeing residents for staff.

He said most of the Rushden Lakes issues were centred around the A45 and skew bridge roundabout and if the plan were approved the already agreed link road would come forward quicker.

He said: “Economically this consent is twinned with that link road. Best way that can happen quickly is if you allow this development.”

However, councillors Helen Howell and Harriet Pentland both accused the developer of using the link road as a means to ‘blackmail’ the council into agreeing the Rushden Living phase.

Cllr Howell said: “I think (this scheme) is contrived.

"I don’t think it is the best design on the site.

"And I don’t agree with using this site to blackmail in order to get the road.

"The road has already been given planning permission.

"They should not use this site as to getting that road.

"I find that disturbing, I think they should get that road done.”

Cllr Dorothy Maxwell spoke out about the traffic problems caused by the popular shopping site which opened in July 2017 and saw five million visitors in its first year.

She said: “Adequate road infrastructure in relation to the A45 needs to be in place before any development takes place.

“The Rushden Lakes roundabout is not fit for purpose.

“The Crown Estate have stated that they will not develop Ditchford Lane if this is turned down.

“This shows sadly they have little regard for residents, business and visitors who use the lakes and the A45.”

The planning application will go back before the committee in the coming weeks.