Public inquiry will decide fate of Lakes plans

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The public inquiry to decide the future of the proposed Rushden Lakes development is due to start next week.

Harold Stephens, the allocated planning inspector, is due to start the hearing at 9.30am on Tuesday, June 25. Mr Stephens has reserved a potential 12 sitting days for the process.

Rushden Lakes Inquiry logo

Rushden Lakes Inquiry logo

If he approves the £50m development, it would include 20 shops, a garden centre and leisure facilities and would bring 2,000 jobs to the area.

LXB Retail Properties bought the Skew Bridge site for almost £5m in 2011. The company applied to East Northamptonshire Council for planning permission, and the scheme was approved in October.

But the Secretary of State announced in December that a Government planning inspector should have the final say following opposition from Corby, Kettering and Northampton councils.

East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough councils, and Irthlingborough, Rushden and Higham Ferrers town councils, are all supporting the scheme, with officials from these towns describing it as being vital for the future of the area.

Jon McCarthy, development director at LXB, said: “The public inquiry into Rushden Lakes gives LXB, the local council and all the people who support us the chance to showcase why this proposal is overwhelmingly positive. We plan to make the strongest possible case to the Inspector over the coming weeks.”

Steven North, leader of East Northamptonshire Council, said: “The potential to bring new jobs to the area, increase spending in the district, provide a better retail offer for people and maximise leisure opportunities is just what the district needs. 

“The leisure prospects complement the Nene Valley project which encourages people to make the most of the river and help to give better access through a footbridge and cycleway across the A45. By using these routes to access local facilities, more residents will shop locally, reducing our carbon footprint.

“I also believe it will complement rather than compete with the High Street, and developer contributions would help maximise opportunities for it to benefit from the scheme.”

Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough and Rushden, will speak at the inquiry. He said: “I have had the biggest response to any issue and we have sent thousands and thousands of correspondence to the planning inspector.”

How to attend inquiry

Members of the Yes2RushdenLakes group are appealing for people to attend the inquiry to show their support for the development.

They will be handing out free Yes2RushdenLakes T-shirts.

There are 35 public seats and 10 standing places for each morning and afternoon session. An evening session will be held at Huxlow Science Academy in Irthlingborough at 7.30pm on July 9.

There is a limit of 200 people in the hall, so tickets will be issued on a first come, first served basis from Monday, June 24. Tickets are free. To book tickets call East Northants Council on 01832 742121.