‘There won’t be two Rushden Lakes,’ according to the lead architects behind the retail and leisure development.
This aerial picture of the site off the A45 at Rushden came from the main contractor, Winvic, and shows the three main retail terraces taking shape.
The site is changing daily as work progresses on the scheme which will soon be home to names including Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, H&M, New Look and River Island.
But one firm is paying particular attention to the project after being involved right from the start.
HPW Architecture has led the design and development of the masterplan for the 244-acre site and Gary Wilburn, director of design and sustainability for HPW, is very excited to see Rushden Lakes finally become a reality.
He regularly visits the site, including last week, and said: “Myself or one of the project team visit the site most weeks.
“We are in charge of the design as lead architects.
“I have been involved for the last seven years, I have been involved right from the very start.”
He said they did some hand sketches of what the development may look like back then, and added: “It’s going up as we planned.
“It’s a very difficult one, but we have got a tremendous group of people working on it.
“I am excited about it, it’s just wonderful to see it coming out of the ground at last.
“Projects mutate and change, both financially and in terms of public demand, things change in the design process but I can genuinely say that the scheme will be as we presented it to the public in the public exhibitions.
“It’s a very special project.”
Gary said it’s a large project for HPW, and is important both strategically and financially for them.
But he also said they have a long-standing relationship with LXB and they specialise in projects like this where wildlife and the natural surroundings are a key part of the design.
The first phase of the scheme is due to open next Spring, and Gary said: “Phase one is big, it does deliver the vast part of the project.” He said the speed at which the site is progressing is due to an enormous amount of planning and work in the background, as well as ‘huge financial input’ from LXB.
Gary said the Crown Estate taking it on was ‘fabulous’, and added: “The initial vision we all had years ago is what we are all planning to deliver.
“It is very much what we all hoped to do. I can’t wait to take people around it.”
He said there isn’t a single day when his team are not communicating with Winvic and while they don’t have a permanent presence on site, they are regularly in discussion.
He can have 12 people working on the project at any one time, with people constantly on the phone as well as 50 to 100 emails being exchanged each day.
Completion of the first phase of work is less than a year away, and Gary said: “I am really looking forward to it and I have a feeling we will have a few drinks and everyone will be celebrating the successful conclusion of it.”
He said they have had to work hard to build support for the scheme, but added: “The public support in the area around Rushden has been unprecedented, it’s been fantastic.
“I am going to be hugely proud to see a development like this with the employment it brings and the positive elements and improvements it will bring.
“I sincerely hope it will have a ripple effect with all sorts of things.
“It’s special, we are talking about something very unique, there won’t be two Rushden Lakes.”
Gary praised Winvic for its work on the scheme so far, including employing people from the area and giving local schoolchildren the chance to visit the site.