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What have they got to hide? Part 1 Rushden Lakes
It is expected that in February the Secretary of State will be announcing his decision on whether to grant permission for the £50 million retail development at Rushden Lakes to be allowed to go ahead.
As visitors to my blog will know I have regularly written on this subject, raising a number of well explored issues that it raises most of which were also asked and discussed during the independent investigation held in the autumn.
Putting aside the support that the Prime Minister in answering the local MP Peter Bone has for the proposals which if refused could be highly embarrassing.
What has never been fully explained is how and on what basis the Conservative Leader of the Borough Council, Cllr David Mackintosh has objected and perhaps more importantly the unlikely truth of the reasons he has given.
Of course a major development such as Rushden Lakes will unquestionably have an impact on the Northampton Town Centre but to have used the ‘big stick’ threat that it would endanger the proposed Legal and General investment in the Grosvenor Centre was clearly ridiculous.
In fact during the independent investigation even the Legal and General experts in presenting their objections appeared to be uncertain as to whether the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment and expansion would go ahead even if the Rushden Lakes proposals was refused.
Cllr Mackintosh of course when challenged said that he didn’t initially object to the Rushden Lakes proposals because he didn’t realise how big it was!!!
Which given that he is a member of the Northamptonshire Enterprise Board who is apparently supporting and promoting it seems hard to believe?
What I am told is that he is claiming that the confusion is because hasn’t always been on the NEP Board and therefore didn’t realise the scale of the proposals?
Which begs the question,
Why didn’t he know?
or more pertinently
Why didn’t his friend Cllr Tim Hadland who was the previous NBC representative on the board tell him?
With the recent news that the well-respected Marks and Spencer Plc have signed up to being an ‘anchor’ store at the Rushden Lakes development should it be approved by the Secretary of State it seems appropriate to ask,
Will the Leader of the Borough Council come clean and tell us whether the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership continue to support and promote the Rushden Lakes development? and
Has he discussed the Marks and Spencer’s announcement as part of his regular fortnightly meeting with Legal and General and if so what was the outcome?
The problem is not Rushden Lakes but the failure of the Conservative Leadership to regenerate the retail sector and offer in the Northampton Town Centre preferring instead to point to and claim credit for others work as an indication of progress.
I have no problem with the new railway station, (thank you WNDC) or the student accommodation (thank you UoN) but what is important is the lack of progress on the Grosvenor Centre and reduced retail offer as recently highlighted by the withdrawal of the House of Fraser from Northampton.
It is a failure that has seen a fall of over 800,000 visitors to the town centre since Cllr Mackintosh and his Conservatives took control of the Guildhall, a fall that they unbelievably consider to be unimportant, and if it is so unimportant then why complain that people will go to Rushden Lakes?
There seems now to be a sense of desperation amongst those Conservatives I talk to who are beginning to ask amongst themselves what is it that Cllr Mackintosh is trying to hide in his refusal to answer questions on exactly what is the situation regarding Legal and General.
Is the recent announcement that the Borough Council taxpayers are going to fund at a cost of over £4 million the demolition of the Greyfriars Bus Station simply a political ruse to buy time?
Cllr Hadland in a report to the recent Council meeting said the demolition would “allow for the rapid redevelopment of the site”?
Legal and General have the sole rights to the site?
The increased feeling is that with the General and Borough Council Election on the same day in May 2015 the Borough Conservatives are buying time until after the election when they can find another set of excuses for the lack of progress.
In February of course they could well be using the approval of Rushden Lakes as the excuse.
What is increasingly becoming clear is that the Northampton Conservatives are only too happy whilst preaching the need for cuts to essential services to spend taxpayer’s money to cover up their lack of progress and political incompetence.