25 July 2017 – Huge numbers queue to visit Rushden Lakes on first day of opening

Phase One of the pioneering Rushden Lakes shopping and leisure scheme opened to the public last week. Situated in the Nene Valley, Northamptonshire, the site combines shopping and eating with extensive opportunities for outdoor activities within the rich natural habitats of the surrounding wildlife reserves.

Comprising approximately 230,000 sq ft of new retail and restaurant accommodation (phase 1), the former gravel extraction pit includes a square mile of SSSI wetlands and woodland, a boathouse and boardwalk with alfresco waterside dining, the Boardwalk Splash Zone wet play area, central boulevard with water feature and rill. The destination is a first of its kind, bringing together retail, leisure and nature in a stunning a lakeside setting which is home to over 20,000 migrating birds.

The scheme is genuinely unique and sets the benchmark for experiential retail development with nature at its heart. The externals, designed by UBU, sensitively integrate into their context and landscape and include many bespoke features such as cloth pattern inspired paving patterns, pre-cast furniture and a central boulevard water feature. The robust language of materials and detailing are intended to reflect the industrial heritage of the site. A significant amount of external space and investment is devoted to public areas, enhancing the attraction of the development and providing a series of distinctive spaces for visitors to enjoy.

Formerly the location of a derelict ski slope, the rundown site provided un-securable access to fly tippers, motorbikes and 4x4s, with such activity causing associated damage to the SSSI and RAMSAR designated wetland and woodland. The development of Rushden Lakes has created a symbiotic partnership with the adjacent reserves, which are managed by The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Significant funding for improvements to the reserves, increased and improved public access, as well as ongoing maintenance has resulted from the development, while the setting affords unique leisure opportunities and access to the wider Nene Valley.

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