|The Rushden Echo, 26th July 1968, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Plan For Big Leisure Centre
An ambitious plan to give Rushden and its surrounding districts an “all family” outdoor recreation park, incorporating the best features of such existing county playgrounds as Wicksteed Park, Billing and Overstone, has been laid before Rushden and Higham Ferrers Water Board.
The brainchild of Skew Bridge Ski Club owner Mr. John Wills, the project makes provision for such attractions as boating, camping, fishing, picnic areas, and a miniature railway circuit.
Mr. Wills dropped his “bombshell” at last week’s meeting of the water board when he applied for a long term lease of the board’s land up to Ditchford Lane and between the A45 and River Nene.
In a letter to the board, consulting architect, Mr. Derek Young, acting for Mr. Wills, said that his client gradually wanted to turn the whole area into a leisure centre.
He planned to form interesting walks and picnic areas for families and fishermen around the pits, provide access and parking areas adjacent to Ditchford Lane and run “limited lanes” to other areas.
It was hoped that picnic and camping areas with attractions for children could be established.
Mr. Wills also wants to have boating on the pits, linking them through to the river using the existing 18ft channel, by the locks. Ultimately he hopes to provide a miniature railway around the whole of the pit perimeter and generally create an attractive outdoor recreation park.
The letter pointed out that the emphasis was on the enhancement of the present area rather than the creation of a “harsh, artificial, commercial project with interference or pollution of the immediate or future water supplies.”
“With the growth of the surrounding neighbourhood, especially adjacent towns, a facility such as this properly run and maintained, is a necessity to meet the increasing leisure and demands of society,” the letter concluded.
The board decided to consider the matter before the next meeting and were unwilling to say anything at this stage.
Mr. Wills did not want to comment either before the board had had a good chance to look at the project. “It might prejudice the issue otherwise,” he added.