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Deliberating times for East Northants

wantspacegotspace.co.uk - Deliberating times for East NorthantsThe jury is now out on whether East Northamptonshire will benefit from substantial inward investments says commercial property agent Prop-Search, as the planning inquiry to determine the fate of the proposed Rushden Lakes development closes.

A representative for The Planning Inspectorate, appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, has spent the past couple of weeks listening to arguments being put forward from neighbouring councils, politicians, business owners, retail consultants and planning experts - which are both for and against the £50m scheme.  

LXB Retail Properties is seeking planning permission for the development of some 31 acres of brownfield land, sitting alongside the A45 on the edge of Rushden.  The full application is for the development of up to 450,000 sq ft to include a home and garden centre, retail units across three terraces, a drive-thru and four seated restaurants, hotel and crèche, and lakeside visitor centre.  The shopping park, which would create up to 1,500 new jobs, could include two anchor retail stores - one of which is rumoured to be Marks & Spencer and potentially other major retailers including Next, New Look, Debenhams and JD Sports.

In October 2012, East Northamptonshire councillors voted unanimously to grant planning permission for the development of the former Skew Bridge Country Club & Ski site - purchased by LBX for £4.5m in 2011.  However, due to complex planning rules, the application was referred to the Secretary of State who determined that the decision should be reviewed at a public inquiry.

 Following a review of all heard evidence, a final decision is expected to be made by the end of the year.

East Northamptonshire, Wellingborough, Irthlingborough, Rushden and Higham Ferrers town councils are all supporting the scheme.  Officials have described it as being vital for the future of the area as it offers the potential to bring new jobs, increase spending in the district, provide a better retail offer for people and maximise leisure opportunities.  The leisure prospects

complement the Nene Valley project, which encourages people to make the most of the river and to help to give better access through a footbridge and cycleway across the A45.  
The local councils also believe that Rushden Lakes will complement rather than compete with the High Street, and that developer contributions would help maximise opportunities for it to benefit from the scheme.  Peter Bone MP for Wellingborough and Rushden told the inquiry that there had been unprecented levels of support for the proposed development and that the Yes2RushdenLakes campaign had been swamped with support - including over 1,000 letters of support being sent to the Inspectorate ahead of the inquiry.  Other evidence presented in favour of the scheme said that it was likely to lead to a £15 million growth for the construction industry - of which £7 million would be retained within Northamptonshire, provide a £43 million boost to the local retail industry and attract over three million visitors a year.

Northampton is one town that is opposing the scheme, although LXB has argued that the Grosvenor Centre is to blame for its loss of market share due to lack of investment.  There have been plans afoot for Legal & General to extend the Centre since 2000, but as yet this has not taken place.  Furthermore, that it is not out-of-town facilities that cause difficultly for the town - as Milton Keynes and Leicester have been able to improve their central retailing areas despite this competition - and that Northampton town centre should be able to springboard from the expenditure in these areas.

Other development in the area which has been successful on the planning front is at Warth Park, Raunds.  At the end of last year the developer, Roxhill in a joint venture with Warth Developments, secured full permission to construct a 42,000 sq ft facility for the national parcel delivery company, Geopost - creating significant new employment opportunities.  Infrastructure works are now nearing completion and construction on the new pre-let facility underway.  Completion is likely to be towards the end of the year.

Last year, Warth Park - home to Indesit (450,000 sq ft), Gem Distribution (250,000 sq ft), Avery Dennison (90,000 sq ft) and Robert Wiseman Dairies (65,000 sq ft) - also received outline planning permission for an extension to the scheme.  This includes 70 acres for distribution/industrial units up to 850,000 sq ft and 10 acres at the front of the site, forming a gateway to the development and to Raunds itself from the A45, for uses including hotel, health & fitness, family pub/restaurant, crèche and other commercial units.  

It is understood that the developer is in negotiations with various occupiers including a local footwear manufacturer.  And this might enable a suitable landmark feature to be added to the entrance to the scheme.

Posted by The Editor (wantspacegotspace) on 23rd September 2013

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