Rushden Lakes – Evasive, Hypocritical and Tantrums
With the announcement due any day now of whether the Secretary of State is going to approve the proposed £50 million plus Rushden Lakes development the tension for those supporting or opposed to it are naturally beginning to increase.
The impact of the decision on the surrounding area of Northamptonshire with over 2,000 jobs at stake cannot be underestimated and no more so than on Northampton and as is well-known the position of Legal and General regarding the redevelopment of the Grosvenor Centre.
Politically of course the impact is very far-reaching with the decision likely to have an effect on the surrounding Parliamentary Constituencies.
It is why Peter Bone the MP dishonestly accused Labour during the by-election that saw Andy Sawford elected as the MP for Corby & East Northants of being against the development which as we know elicited unequivocal support for it from the Prime Minister.
The fact is that Andy Sawford MP and Corby Council have made statements of unequivocal opposition to the Rushden Lakes development.
It is also fair say the Northampton Labour in recognising that the impact on Northampton Town Centre would be significant if it went ahead have always made it clear that they are opposed to the Rushden Lakes proposals.
What the Northampton Conservatives don’t seem to understand is that just because you are opposed to something you should still respect and try to understand the position of those who hold an opposite view.
What is even more confusing is the position of the Leader of the Northampton Conservatives who now claims that he has ‘always’ campaigned against it.
A statement that is in fact simply not true.
At the recent Council meeting I asked two questions related to the Rushden Lakes development and its impact on the regeneration of the Northampton Town Centre if permission is granted.
The answers were if nothing else at best revealing of the chaos and confusion in the Conservatives position and at the worst evasive.
I asked the following question of Cllr Tim Hadland the Conservative Cabinet Member with responsibility for Regeneration and Planning,
“Would the Cabinet member tell us if during his and the Leaders regular fortnightly meetings with Legal and General whether they had given any indication that the decision on the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment is conditional on the Secretary of State rejecting the Rushden Lakes Development?
The Response from Cllr Hadland was,
“I would refer you to the evidence submitted by Legal and General to the Inspector at the Public Inquiry.
The evidence submitted by Legal and General supports this Councils position that Rushden Lakes would, if approved, have a significant, adverse impact on Northampton Town centre. Legal and General confirmed at the Inquiry that if the Secretary of State approved the Rushden Lakes application, the Legal and General would not proceed with the proposals for the development of the Grosvenor Centre extension on the scale that have previously been published.
There have been discussions with Legal and General about Rushden Lakes, but we have plans for the regeneration of site whatever the decision from the Secretary of State.”
Looking at the answer from Cllr Hadland is as I said revealing especially considering not only his current position as the Cabinet Member for Regeneration but his previous position as Leader of the Council when he announced he had signed a cast iron agreement for the Grosvenor redevelopment.
Interestingly if they were so opposed to the proposals why didn’t the Leader of the Council and Cllr Hadland go and personally give evidence at the Inquiry instead of just sending a letter?
For the first time Cllr Hadland has now admitted that “Legal and General supports this Councils position”?
The statement itself is amazing because as we have suspected for some time the reason given by Legal and General for stopping the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment because of “the lack of support from the Borough Council in recent times” was true and not as Cllr Mackintosh said at the time Legal and General letting the town down.
There is no doubt the prevarication of Legal and General has let Northampton down but they clearly felt that the attitude of the Northampton Conservative Leadership wasn’t something they could accept to sport a £250 million investment.
It is now clear that when in the future, as will unquestionably happen given the record for passing the buck, they blame Legal and General we will now know it is in fact the Northampton Conservatives who have let the town down.
Of course the problem with Cllr Hadland’s answer is that he clearly hasn’t read or followed what happened at the 12 day Inquiry.
If he had he would have seen that the ‘expert witnesses’ for Legal and General actually appeared confused and contradictory over what the impact would be on the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment.
It varied from
“it wouldn’t go ahead”; to
“it might go ahead but on a smaller scale” to
“no decision has been taken to what will happen”.
I wrote at the time of the Inquiry that the submissions were hardly convincing about what exactly the problem with the Rushden Lakes proposals were to Legal and General and no more than them looking for an excuse to finally withdraw from Northampton.
Cllr Hadland failed and intentionally evaded answering the question of whether the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment was conditional on the Secretary of State refusing the Rushden Lakes proposals.
Worse still it appears from his answer that Cllr Hadland and Cllr Mackintosh don’t appear to have even asked the question.
The final part of the Cllr Hadland answer is intriguing,
“There have been discussions with Legal and General about Rushden Lakes, but we have plans for the regeneration of site whatever the decision from the Secretary of State.”
It is intriguing because this is the first time that the Conservatives have stated they “have plans for the regeneration of the site”.
What plans and who with?
My understanding is that Legal and General have under the terms of the development agreement sole rights to the site which they will understandably not give up at a financial disadvantage to themselves.
I’ll certainly be asking the Officers of the Council to provide me with evidence and details of the plans Cllr Hadland has said are in place.
My question to the Leader of the Council on this subject was,
“In order to clarify the position of the Northampton Borough Council will the Leader of the Council inform the Council if the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership LEP and South East Midlands LEP support his opposition to the proposed Rushden Lakes Development”?
His answer was not only revealed the hypocrisy of his position but also childish bordering on throwing a tantrum which has become all too common when he is faced with what he regards as a challenge.
Let’s look at the evasive part of his response
“I confirm that neither NEP nor SEMLEP submitted any evidence or made any representations to the Rushden Lakes Public Inquiry.
We all recognise that Rushden Lakes would have a negative impact on Northampton, which is why I have campaigned so hard against it”
Cllr Mackintosh is on the Board of NEP who not only support but are actively promoting the Rushden Lakes Development as one of the major investment opportunities in Northamptonshire.
Of course what he is now saying is that he fully supported the Rushden Lakes Development until he realised how big it was going to be.
The timing of his reversal of attitude is very telling,
When a Cabinet Member of the Northants County Council who refused to join SEMLEP preferring to go it alone he supported the Rushden Lakes Development and gave no thought whatsoever of its impact on Northampton.
Then came a ‘St Paul’ conversion when Once he became Leader of the Borough Council he had a suddenly awake and found that he had really always opposed it.
Or so he claims?
Political expediency and self-interest?
The final part of his response to what is a serious question affecting the town amused me not only in how it is written but in showing just how out of touch he is with the way Councillors of all parties think.
I imagine in writing it he was stamping his foot In the way 5 year olds do in the playground whilst they’re screaming ” it’s not fair”‘ tantrum , tantrum , tantrum.
This is what Cllr Mackintosh thinks is an important answer,
“It is a shame that on 10th October 2012 when the decision was taken, (the decision to approve the Rushden Lakes Development), Cllr Palethorpe tweeted:
‘Good luck to East Northants Planning Committee tonight’
I don’t deny sending the tweet and in fact I have sent Good Luck messages to a number of Planning Committees over the years.
Planning Committees and the Councillors who sit on them, the majority across Northamptonshire generally being Conservatives are in an invidious position.
I wish them good luck on occasions in recognition that there are some decisions such as Rushden Lakes, Buckton Fields and the latest to approve the Joint Core Strategy where Councillors whatever the decision they take will face criticism and abuse.
I don’t always agree with the decision taken but I will always recognise that they are trying to do what they think is right as does the Planning Committee I currently sit on.
The one thing his tantrum does provide me with of course is the knowledge that Cllr Mackintosh feels that my tweets are of such importance that he has designated resources to keep a track of them.
I imagine it is because there isn’t anything more important to be getting on with.
What will he make of this blog?
This week the decision on Rushden Lakes is expected to be delivered and it will be interesting to see if what the Northampton Conservatives say will be forthcoming,
If Rushden Lakes is rejected by the Leader of the Councils very good friend will Legal and General get on with the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment that was promises in May 2012?
If the proposals are approved will Legal and General bring forward a smaller scale development or walk away from it and then what or when will Cllr Hadland reveal and bring forward the Conservatives plans for the regeneration of the site?
Watch this space for more evasion, hypocrisy and tantrums.