Why does the council want to knock down a century old shop on Rushden High Street?

The white brick two storey building could be bulldozed soon.
The white brick two storey building could be bulldozed soon.

Mystery surrounds the proposed demolition of a long standing shop in Rushden High Street.

East Northamptonshire councillors will decide tonight (Aug 14) whether to give the council permission to bring in the bulldozers to flatten 103 High Street.

But plans for the area in the heart of Rushden’s town centre are being kept under wraps – when asked, the council said that it is ‘reviewing the future ambitions for this area and will publish further details on the website.’

It is thought the authority could be going back to a mothballed regeneration plan for the high street from 2010 which could involve installing a new town square.

The council bought the property from developer Palmbest along with the Wilkinsons store at 1-6 Eaton Walk in May 2017 for a collective price tag of £3.7m.

The area is a key site which links High Street with Eaton Walk. If the shop, which used to be Seabrooks fruit and veg shop, were to be bulldozed it could open up a walkway between the two shopping areas. The site stands next to the former Feathers pub which was damaged by fire last year.

The planning application does not include details of why the authority wants to knock down the two-storey white brick building. It says that the site will be left as public open space.

The council’s own senior conservation officer has voiced reservations about the level of detail provided by the local authority.

In the report to councillors the officer says: “I do not consider that we have enough information to determine this application as things currently stand, as it is not clear what is going to happen to the site following the building’s removal. At least I would expect to see a proposed site plan.”

The report goes on to say that after further informal discussions the officer would be happy for details of how the site is to be left once demolished to be conditioned in any planning permission.

The shop, which was most recently Sassy Belle clothes shop, has been vacant since 2011.

Back in 2010, when the site was owned by Palmbest, East Northamptonshire Council was promoting the area as key part of town centre regeneration.

The authority commissioned the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment to put together a regeneration strategy for the town. Suggestions for that area included a possible multi-storey car park, residential properties and new shops.

At the time the council’s chief executive David Oliver, who is still in charge at the authority, said the council had had meetings with Palmbest to discuss the overall vision for the area.

Since then Rushden Lakes has been built.

Town councillor and owner of PW House jewellers in High Street Adrian House said he is in favour of 103 High Street being knocked down because it has been en eyesore for years.

He said: “It is coming about because ENC bought the Wilkinson site. This is part of following up the Prince’s Trust plan for the town centre. A local architect has also come up with another plan and it all now depend on finding a suitable developer.”

He added: “The town council is still pressuring the district council to finish off the upgrade of the north end of the High Street. It is trying to form a pressure group to get the rest of the high street done.”

Mr House also said the district council’s plans had stalled because of the unitary reorganisation.

Owner of TJ Alternative Gifts Tracy Bills said there was a meeting a few months ago about plans for the High Street. She said she came away not entirely sure what the plans for the area would be.