Prudential & Primark risk image in MK

Controversial plans to build a huge new Primark over public highways, a listed building and Market Square in Central Milton Keynes are doing nothing to improve the image of the Prudential pension fund, or Primark, who back the scheme. But this weekend the bosses of the shopping centre are repeating a risky step, which involves swamping an official public consultation with questionable submissions.

Secklow Gate flies through the listed building in CMK above the popular market

Secklow Gate flies through the Grade 11 listed shopping building in CMK above the popular market

The bosses of centre:mk, which runs the shopping centre, have already sent in  3, 000 postcards to MK Council, claiming they are “in full support” of their planning applications. And they’ve got staff out in force again this weekend armed with thousands more cards.

Lobbying is one thing but this is different.

Eye-witnesses say they are deliberately targeting young shoppers with little or no attempt to give them the facts.  But saying yes to Primark is not the same as saying yes to building on this particular site and damaging access, amenities and important Modernist architecture.

As one witness put it:

“I might, for example, sign up to a canvasser asking if I’d like a Premier league rugby club here.  But it doesn’t mean I’ve automatically voted for them tearing up Campbell Park to build the stadium!”

In contrast, Xplain volunteers have spent many hours talking to people of all ages and offering standard letters of objection. The letters offer rational, factual information for people to sign up to.

So far, we’ve delivered over 1,000 to MK Council and we’re confident this is the genuine voice of the people.

Crucially, wealthy businesses spend years lobbying for their developments, whereas we, the public, only have a few weeks to have our say. I wonder if Primark and the Prudential are proud of the centre mk’s behaviour? Do they even know about the risk to their reputation?

MK Market - a social hub under threat from Primark development

MK Market – a social hub under threat from Primark development

To learn more visit MK Council’s website in the planning section and search for Secklow Gate. The huge list of documents also shows public responses so far.

If you want to object or comment on the plans you can register on the planning site or simply email the senior planning officer via

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6 thoughts on “Prudential & Primark risk image in MK

  1. Dave Walmsley

    I suppose the plus point from this is that there isn’t an outline approval to support their case. It therefore all hinges on presenting a strong opposition, but as I’ve said elsewhere on here, they’ve gone to a lot of work, going by the number of architects’ drawings on display. As I’ve also mentioned elsewhere, surely this application will have to go to English Heritage in view of the listed status? We can’t allow this decision to be taken at local level, with the conflicts of interest involved. (By the way, is Secklow Gate listed as well, where it passes through the Shopping Building?). Have we/should we be preparing our opposition to this development to put to English Heritage? I’m sure you have all this in hand but thought I’d mention it.

    1. xplainmk Post author

      These plans breach many planning policies, both nationally and locally. Correct, English Heritage are involved, and should issue their official verdict soon. Senior figures (Commissioners) from EH visited CMK recently for a site visit. I believe they were guests of the centre:mk and of course members of the public were not able to attend. Oddly, there is confusion about the listed status of Secklow Gate Bridge. Even though it is integral to the building, and firmly within its curtilage, it does not appear to be listed. Any thoughts?

      1. stony bloke

        Yes. In the Heritage Statement produced by consultants Turley Associates, para. 1.1, they state “The Shopping Building is a grade II listed building and the raised access road that comprises Secklow Gate forms part
        of that building through attachment.” That seems pretty clear.
        I also note that pre-planning meetings were held with MKC, EH and the 20th Century Society to assess the likelihood of success. EH’s response was damning.(see p.12 & 13 of the Heritage Statement.) It’s worth repeating their comments here:

        English Heritage provided comments on the proposed development by letter dated 17 January 2012:
         Proposals would cause substantial harm to the listed building due the effect on the architectural qualities of the building;
         The proposal would interrupt oblique views down the facade and compromise the clear logic of the building;
         The introduction of higher floor plates on the perimeter and large display shopfronts on ground and first floor would run counter to the existing architectural language of the building;
         Loss of views of the service yard from the shopping centre and the reduction of daylight penetrating through the lanterns and into the arcade;
         Secklow Gate illustrates the relationship of the shopping centre to the wider plan of the town. The centre sits across two town blocks and has to accommodate a major road running through the centre. Secklow Gate is illustrative of a wider design philosophy that the shopping building was intended to serve the community rather than being a retail destination;
         Accepted that a key design philosophy is the buildings flexibility, but this is in very clearly defined limits – the shop units and the unresolved east end. Outside of these limits, the architecture of the building is sensitive to
        change; and
         Harm could be justified by the need to maintain the viability of the Shopping Centre and its position as a regional centre.

        In the light of these very clear views of English Heritage (and I doubt that the last point could be justified), I am surprised that the developer still decided to proceed with the application on 17 August this year, which must have cost over £100k in architect’s fees, to produce the volume of material he has. I can’t imagine what sort of deals are going on here.

      2. xplainmk Post author

        It’s interesting to note one of the names at the top table of English Heritage. Mr Graham Morrison, who apparently lives in London and Venice, was appointed last year as one of their 12 Commissioners. This well-connected person is perhaps more well known as a director of Allies Morrison architects whose clients include the centre:mk. Indeed, it was Allies Morrison who ‘improved’ the design of Queens Court in our shopping building by removing its pool, fountain, sculptures and trees to create what the owners are pleased to describe as ‘Destination Dining.’ And it is Allies Morrison who stand to gain if this current scheme wins approval.

  2. Dave Walmsley

    Not wishing to put a negative spin on this as I fear this proposal will be steamrollered through, but as this application is a FULL planning application, I assume they have already been granted OUTLINE planning approval. That is the one that should have been rejected. Surely this application is only a matter of agreeing the detail? The Council, it would appear, have already given approval, in principle, to the proposal, or am I wrong here?

    1. xplainmk Post author

      Hello Dave
      There was no outline planning application. It’s gone straight to a full one – an entire tea-chest full of stuff including plenty of obscure reports claiming, for example, that there will be no negative impact on traffic congestion as the grid system managed to cope when the bridge was closed. This is based on data gathered while the bridge was closed and during May – hardly peak traffic season. MK Council highways dept did not ask for a traffic analysis based on how many more people are expected to visit CMK in a few years time, when all the vacant development sites along Secklow Gate (not to mention elsewhere in CMK) will be built on.


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