Rushden Lakes notches up 26 million visitors since opening five years ago

The multi-million pound retail and leisure complex has created more than 2,000 jobs

By Stephanie Weaver
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 6:00 am
Rushden Lakes is celebrating its fifth birthday today (Thursday)
Rushden Lakes is celebrating its fifth birthday today (Thursday)

The developers behind Rushden Lakes said it would bring jobs, boost the local economy and provide a unique experience for visitors.

And as the retail and leisure attraction celebrates its fifth birthday today (Thursday), the figures suggest it has done exactly that.

Since opening on July 28, 2017, 26 million people have visited the site just off the A45 which used to be gravel pits and was home to the Skew Bridge Country Club and dry ski slope.

Rushden Lakes is celebrating its fifth birthday today (Thursday)

Visitors come from Rushden and all across the county, as well as those who travel from further afield including Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.

The development has created more than 2,000 jobs in retail and leisure and undoubtedly boosted the local economy with millions of people visiting it each year.

The Rushden Lakes website has had just over two million visits and the attraction has a strong presence on social media, with more than 12,000 followers on Instagram and 56,000 followers on Facebook.

There has always been strong support for Rushden Lakes, especially from those living nearby, but it wasn't all plain sailing to get the development, which is also the gateway to the Nene Wetlands nature reserve, off the ground.

Opening day at Rushden Lakes

Despite strong backing from East Northants Council (ENC) from the outset, other councils had fears about shoppers being taken away from their town centres.

The Northants Telegraph threw its weight behind the scheme, which was unanimously approved by ENC in October 2012.

This newspaper followed its progress throughout the planning and building process, which took several years.

Under planning rules, the controversial planning application was referred to the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who determined that the decision should be reviewed at a public inquiry which took place in June 2013.

Crowds turned out for the opening day at Rushden Lakes

Campaigners were delighted when Mr Pickles finally gave the go-ahead for it a year later.

Big names including M&S, Primark, H&M and House of Fraser opened their doors, as well as independents like Bewiched, but there have been a number of changes since then.

And there have been some closures too, including Jigsaw and Jack Wills.

Queues outside Primark on opening day back in July 2017

There's been some drama along the way too, with Storm Ciara wreaking havoc for the leisure terrace, including the cinema and several restaurants – structural damage led to it being closed for several weeks in February 2020.

This was shortly followed by Covid, with many stores and restaurants having to close for months on end during the global pandemic.

But it is business as usual for Rushden Lakes now and the visitor numbers suggest shoppers love going there.

Bosses have arranged some birthday treats for people visiting Rushden Lakes between 11am and 4pm today.