Labour politicians have called on Northampton Borough Council to be clear on the alternative plans for the Greyfriars site should Legal & Genral decide not to expand the Grosvenor Centre.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP gave the go-ahead to the controversial retail development at Rushden Lakes in the north of the county. Northampton Borough Council had objected to the scheme and at the public inquiry Legal & General said it would impact the viability of its expansion plans.
The Labour group on the borough council had also objected to the scheme.
Councillor Les Marriott, leader of the Labour Group, said: “Now that the Rushden Lakes developers have been given the go ahead we are looking to Northampton Borough Council to give us an answer as to where we go from here.
“Over the last 11 years, under the Tories and the Lib Dems, we have had delay after delay but nothing has happened. The last Conservative manifesto, in May 2011, said that if Legal and General did not give a firm commitment within the first few weeks they would walk away from the agreement.
“It has now been three years! The borough council is not in an easy position as it appears the previous Lib Dem Administration tied Northampton Borough Council up in various deals with Legal and General, which may not be easy to get out off.
“We should have had the basics of a plan, despite the decision today, about how we were going to have a town centre offering, which includes a state of the art shopping centre, that would in future compete and beat with the likes of Milton Keynes, Leicester and any development at Rushden Lakes.
“We need a clear vision as to how Northampton achieves a first class retail offering. The Council has considerable land holdings on and around the Greyfriars site, and therefore should have considerable influence on any future plans.”
“If Legal & General are not able or willing to match the ambition Northampton people have for a first class retail offering in the town centre, then we should be engaging with developers that are.”
Councillor Joy Capstick, shadow planning and regeneration cabinet member, said: “Councillor Tim Hadland, cabinet member for planning and regeneration, must give Northampton residents urgent clarity on the way forward for the Grosvenor Centre site.
“As the cabinet member responsible it is he who should have been coming up with clear alternatives. Councillor Hadland needs to demonstrate greater transparency to the people of Northampton on this issue, as this has not been the case until now.”
Following yesterday’s announcement, leader of Northampton Borough Council Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) said he was meeting with the Grosvenor Centre owners today.
He said: “I need to make it very clear to Legal and General that now we have clarity over the Rushden Lakes development - there are no ifs or buts - the Grosvenor Centre expansion must happen.
“If they are not committed to making it happen, the borough council will find someone that does.”