The £50 million Rushden Lakes development would put jobs and millions of pounds of investment at risk, Northampton Borough Council leader David Mackintosh has said.
Councillor Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) made the claim in an open letter penned to the Chron, written jointly with the leaders of Corby and Kettering councils, Tom Beattie and Russell Roberts.
The leaders were writing in response to a story in the Chron’s sister paper, the Northamptonshire Telegraph, which said Northampton was “running scared” and “jealous” of the plans.
The Rushden Lakes development includes plans for 20 big name shops, including a large Marks & Spencer, a home and garden centre and restaurants.
The letter reads:
“Rushden Lakes represents a clear threat to town centres and shopping areas across Northamptonshire, putting jobs and millions of pounds of investment at risk.
“Open any newspaper and you will see that across the country the economy is in a delicate position with many town centres feeling the squeeze as shoppers turn to online stores or out of town developments. This doesn’t just affect the big retailers who might be tempted to move to out of town locations, but small independent traders and market stall holders who depend on the footfall created by big names in our town centres.
“Our town centres need protecting, not just in Northamptonshire, but throughout the UK. This is something the Government recognises and is actively encouraging all of us to support our town centres.
“It is not just 20 new shops, Rushden Lakes is a proposal for a major retail park of thousands of square feet of new stores and hundreds of car parking spaces on almost 300 acres of land. So it is no exaggeration to say Rushden Lakes will put jobs at risk and jeopardise the progress being made to support businesses in Northampton, Corby and Kettering.
“Of course we want to protect our own towns, but we are also looking at the bigger picture. We have all looked at the proposals, and have independently come to the conclusion that it would do more harm than good to our towns and county.
“We have raised legitimate concerns about this proposal, and this has been acknowledged by the Secretary of State’s decision to take a closer look at Rushden Lakes. We hope that the Public Inquiry recognises that this proposal can only damage the growth and success of every neighbouring area and we urge all businesses who would be impacted by this scheme to oppose it.”
Cllr David Mackintosh, Leader of Northampton Borough Council
Cllr Tom Beattie, Leader of Corby Borough Council
Cllr Russell Roberts, Leader of Kettering Borough Council