New development boosts space for wildlife in the Nene Valley

Thursday 12th June 2014

Irthingborough Lakes and Meadows by Claire Wylde

A huge new Wildlife Trust-managed nature reserve is to be created linking together four precious fragments of wildlife habitat - thanks to planned leisure and shopping complex.

 After a long delay it has been today announced that Rushden Lakes - a new multi-million pound leisure and shopping development in the heart Nene Valley - has been given the go-ahead by Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

The Wildlife Trust has been working very closely with the developer LXB Properties as the development sits within the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area, a set of gravel pits internationally important for the wetland birds that spend the winter there.

Only 31 acres of the 222 acre site will be developed with a mixture of shops and leisure facilities, including a home and garden centre, shops on three terraces, space for up to four waterfront restaurants, a hotel and creche, a boathouse/activity centre and a lakeside visitors’ centre.

The Wildlife Trust will take on the management of the other 191 acres as a nature reserve which will link together four of the Trust's existing nature reserves in the area to form one giant 660-acre space for wildlife. This will enable the Trust to build on the fantastic land restoration and community engagement work that it has been delivering at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows funded by a £1m Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

The cost of the reserve management will be paid for by the developer who see the nature reserve as a key selling point for the new retail scheme which will attract a huge number of visitors each year. As part of the scheme a network of greenways will be constructed enabling greater visitor access to this part of the Nene Valley and beyond whilst ensuring that the sensitive wildlife that can be found in there is protected. In addition to this a visitor centre will be built by the lakeside using some of the highest sustainable building techniques.