The leader of East Northants Council cannot wait to see the eagerly anticipated Rushden Lakes scheme open for business.
Cllr Steven North says people have been asking him for years when the £140 million retail and leisure development would open and that moment will finally be here on Friday (July 28).
As leader of the authority which has strongly backed the scheme, Cllr North is incredibly proud to have been involved from when the plans were first proposed to them finally coming to fruition.
Cllr North said: “It’s a wonderful and fantastic achievement for everybody.
“It’s great to lead the council to deliver the biggest thing that we are ever going to see for a generation, nothing will be able to top this for some time.
“Rushden Lakes is different, it’s one of a kind.”
While the jobs created by Rushden Lakes are hugely important for the area, Cllr North believes the choice and opportunities it will create are equally important.
He said: “It is going to make a phenomenal difference to people’s lives here.
“It is wonderful for jobs and the local economy.
“But it is also about the choices to go somewhere different, to go to the cinema locally and go shopping locally with stores such as M&S, Primark and House of Fraser.”
And he added: “You shouldn’t have to travel 20 or 30 minutes to go to the cinema, that shouldn’t be the case.
“It’s the same with eating out, there’s some fantastic places to eat in the county but it’s good to be able to eat out locally as well.”
Cllr North has had regular updates on how the scheme is progressing and has visited the site on numerous occasions, including at an event for stakeholders last week.
He said: “It’s just amazing, it was only a short while ago that I was standing in the same spot and it was a derelict site.
“And now the amazing difference with what they have done with areas like the boardwalk.
“It’s the landscaping, the scenery and the quality of the work - I think people will be astounded when they see it.”
When talking about Rushden Lakes, Cllr North says there is ‘sheer excitement’ from people in the area.
But this local passion and enthusiasm is nothing new, it has been there throughout the process - Cllr North said the planning inquiry which eventually led to the scheme getting the go-ahead from the Secretary of State was unique in that people stood up one after another in support of it.
The t-shirts and placards said ‘Yes to Rushden Lakes’ rather than taking a stand against it.
Cllr North said: “Rushden Lakes is not just for Rushden, it’s also for the people of Raunds, Irthlingborough and all the surrounding areas.”
He believes Northamptonshire as a whole will benefit and that the scheme is not taking anything away from other towns, it is just giving something to the people of Rushden, Higham Ferrers and surrounding areas that they didn’t have before.
And Cllr North, who admitted that ‘you have to pinch yourself when driving by Rushden Lakes,’ added: “I cannot wait to see it open.”