Northamptonshire town centres will be given a boost after plans to further expand the shopping offer at Rushden Lakes look set to be refused.
A decision will be made on Wednesday night (Nov 20) about whether the proposed Rushden Living Scheme planned for arable land to the West of Rushden Lakes can go ahead.
Planning officers are recommending that councillors on the planning committee kick out the application by Anonymous Ltd, a move that will no doubt be celebrated by the neighbouring councils of Northampton, Kettering and Wellingborough which have all objected to the application over competition fears for their own town centres.
The plan is for a 5,606 sq metre development featuring 11 units that would be made up of shops, eateries and some leisure and employment units. It is a much reduced version of a similar application first mooted in June last year and then withdrawn this June.
East Northamptonshire planning officers say the application should be refused on the grounds that there are no existing development policies to support the proposal, due to the impact on agricutural land and because the scheme is contrary to a number of planning policies.
The Joint Development Planning Unit (JDPU) – which masterminds the vision for North Northamptonshire – is also against the scheme.
The report by officers says: “With regard to the principle of development and policy the JDPU has objected to the proposal. This is on the basis that the proposal involves a significant development of major town centre uses in an out-of-town centre location. They consider that the impacts of the implemented Rushden Lakes scheme should be monitored in accordance with the Joint Core Strategy before further expansion is considered.
“Officers agree with these JDPU comments.”
Other concerns raised by the JDPU were that the Rushden Living Scheme was inward facing and did not connect well to the existing Rushden Lakes development.
The planning officers also point to the retail plight of neighbouring areas. Controversial from the get-go, Rushden Lakes was approved by the secretary of state in 2014.
Wednesday’s report says: “Rushden Lakes has already exceeded the threshold of 32,511sqm. For context, the scheme which has not been implemented with the Grade Square development, has: almost twice as many units as the original (Secretary of State scheme); seven times as many restaurants; almost 19 per cent more retail space and more than 400 per cent more restaurant floor space.
“When considering the significant change to Rushden Lakes as originally permitted, compared to the development in its currently permitted form, it is therefore unsurprising that neighbouring authorities and the town councils within East Northamptonshire continue to express concerns about the retail impact, particularly at a time when the retail and high streets are struggling.”
East Northamptonshire Council also paid for an independent retail assessment of the application which considered the Rushden Living scheme to be acceptable.
Three nearby town councils, Waitrose – which has a shop near to the very busy roundabout which leads to Rushden Lakes – and the local highways authority have also objected to the scheme on traffic grounds. The road network around Rushden Lakes often comes to a standstill and there are fears about future expansion.
A link road between Rushden Lakes and Ditchford Lane was agreed earlier this year, although no start date has been announced.
However, a refusal will not be the end of plans for the land as Crown Estates – which owns Rushden Lakes after buying it from original developers LXB in 2015 – announced last month (Oct) that it had bought the land in August and has now started a public consultation about possible uses.