Xplain had an explosive meeting with centre managers on Friday and is in the news again (see links at end). They gave us a preview of their plans for extending over publicly-owned land, demolishing Secklow Gate Bridge and building on Market Square.
This is what we learned:
1. They made a big point about “Improving connections between the Centre and the Theatre District”. It took persistent questioning for them to admit that pedestrians would have to cross these busy roads at street level, rather than using safe underpasses beneath the bridge as they do at present.
2. The £30M investment will just be spent on the new building (strongly rumoured to be Primark) and re-working the roads after this massive road junction is demolished. No investment, in other words, in better public amenities or space.
3. MK is dropping down league of shopping centres therefore pressure to make it ‘more competitive’ via a new anchor store, half way between J Lewis and M & S.
4. Waitrose are definitely moving out of Food Centre, to an undisclosed ‘out of centre location’. Sainsbury’s are still paying charges on their empty space in Food Centre so to some extent are pulling the strings.
5. MK is ‘very lucky’ to have a grid road system which means we can do without S Gate grid road. (Linda Xploded at this point and reminded their transport expert that ‘luck’ had nothing to do with it – it was down to something called inspired planning and foresight!)
6. When pressed they admitted they have NO ‘new’ home for the market. They just want to move it out of the way onto the taxi rank near MacDonalds while they demolish and build on the site. Market trader members of Xplain were furious, pointing out that nobody had been consulted, nobody wanted to move and it would be the death of the market. Much better to invest a fraction of this money in Market Square and make it more attractive.
7. They kept on about having a broad view of plans for next 30 years but no details.
8. One of our party pointed out the ‘sheer lunacy’ of inflicting all this damage on CMK when their own model clearly shows the Food Centre is the ideal site for redevelopment. But they were very cagey about plans for the Food Centre – which they also own.
9. Their architect tried to sell the idea that removing the integral elevated roads would improve the views of the listed building! This is the same firm that ‘improved’ Queen’s Court.
Despite this being a so-called public consultation, none of the CentreMK staff took notes. They said they would remember.
Links to BBC article:
Citizen article (please add your comments)
Xplain had a good slot on BBC 3 counties radio, Roberto Perone’s Drive programme, broadcast Fri 2nd Dec. Report on the bridge starts at 48 mins 25 secs into the programme.
Please join the debate – search for xplain.mk on facebook.
Thanks to all who attended and made the centre managers scramble for replies!