“Slums of the Future” warning as Council chiefs target more green space in Milton Keynes

20 Jun. 17

Children’s play area New Bradwell (opposite New Inn)

Xplain has discovered that MK Council chiefs have drawn up a list of 117 sites for possible infill housing ranging from gardens for sheltered housing schemes in Springfield to children’s play areas in Wavendon Gate, New Bradwell, Wolverton, Woolstones etc. Even the one great civic square in MK – Station Square in Central Milton Keynes – is back on the list (‘suitable’ for 248 dwellings!).

Remarkably, the secretive “Urban Capacity Study” repeats exactly the same mistakes as last year’s ‘Parks for Cash’ fiasco when public outrage forced Council bosses to withdraw a long list of precious open spaces put forward for possible infill housing.

Yet again it seems that the Council has failed to be open, inclusive and transparent about the way it has drawn up such an important list.

Yet again they have put forward sites which are totally unsuitable for development while trying to claim they pass the initial test of ‘good urban planning’.

With planning permission already granted for 23,000 new homes in Milton Keynes, and Plan MK looking to push the city boundaries out beyond the M1, it begs the question – why are they trying to squeeze in 3,500 more homes by returning to sites which were officially withdrawn from this threat in 2016? Apparently, “Sites identified through the Urban Capacity Study help to reduce the number of dwellings that need to be allocated on greenfield sites in the open countryside.” So that’s alright then!

Have MKC leaders forgotten last year’s warnings – shouted from the public gallery – that this sort of short-sighted ‘planning’ would create “back to back housing – the slums of the future”?

Some of the 117 sites are genuine ‘brownfield’ sites, but having checked the list, Xplain reckons that many are not. Some will even need homes and offices to be demolished to gain access. It is as if officers have scoured the maps of MK, with little knowledge of what is on the ground, got out their crayons and changed green to brown.

Franklins Croft, Wolverton

If you are worried about the future of open spaces in MK please follow our blog, check the Urban Capacity Study and contact your ward councillors.

“I feel betrayed and beleaguered in continually having to defend our rights to keep and enjoy the open spaces within my locality,” says Sylvia from Stantonbury. “Is it inefficiency on the part of MKC’s planning department – the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing? Or deliberate deceit, with determination to get hold of these spaces somehow, some day, some way?”

To check which sites have been earmarked as possible sites for infill development you can download the Urban Capacity Study here.



3 thoughts on ““Slums of the Future” warning as Council chiefs target more green space in Milton Keynes

  1. Pingback: Conservatives back ‘Village Green Revolution’ in Milton Keynes | xplain: standing up for Milton Keynes

  2. Margaret

    Reading between the lines & “the speak” everything remains up for grabs if not now, then at a later date, so we still have to remain vigilant to catch any locally unsuitable proposals that might slip in yet again, “under the radar”

  3. Martin Petchey

    It would be balanced to have included some or all of the remarks from MKC’s Head of Planning, made in this letter to councillors:

    Dear All,

    First of all we would like to apologise for any confusion caused with the technical Urban Capacity study. I am writing this statement to offer reassurance and provide clarity covering the purpose of the Urban Capacity Study.

    Urban Capacity Study

    Plan:MK contains proposals for the amount of housing land that will be needed within the Borough over the plan period. As part of this, it proposes that 3,500 homes will come forward as a result of brownfield development, infill sites, and regeneration and redevelopment opportunities within Milton Keynes City.

    In order to support that proposal, the Council has to produce evidence that the number proposed is feasible. The Urban Capacity Study is that evidence.

    It was produced by the Council’s Urban Design and Landscape Architecture team as a piece of evidence to support this proposal. It was published on the Council’s website in March 2017, when draft Plan:MK was issued for consultation, and it is referenced within the plan. It is a technical study to demonstrate that draft Plan:MK’s proposal for 3,500 new homes to come forward within Milton Keynes City and surrounding areas by 2031 is theoretically capable of being realised. The area covered by the study is the built-up areas of Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell, Olney, Woburn Sands and Hanslope.

    The study was undertaken in accordance with the methodology advocated by a Government research report entitled ‘Tapping the Potential’ which was produced by consultants URBED and published in 1999. ‘Tapping the Potential’ identifies the following sources of potential housing capacity which should be considered in a study:

    (i) Subdivision of existing housing
    (ii) Flats over shops
    (iii) Empty homes
    (iv) Previously developed vacant and derelict land and buildings (non-housing)
    (v) Intensification of existing areas
    (vi) Redevelopment of existing housing
    (vii) Redevelopment of car parks
    (viii) Conversion of commercial buildings
    (ix) Review of existing housing allocations in plans
    (x) Review of other existing allocations in plans
    (xi) Vacant land not previously developed

    The methodology involves making certain assumptions about how much housing might theoretically come forward from these different land uses. Effectively, in most categories, that not all of the sites will come forward for development.

    The Site Selection Process

    It’s important to stress that this is the start of a process that will continue over the whole 15 years of Plan:MK, and that the inclusion of a site in the Urban Capacity Study neither allocates it for housing, nor even implies that it will ever be used for housing.

    Many of the sites will not be required in the current Plan period, or will be allocated for other purposes. A variety of procedures for deciding which sites to allocate could apply. Officers can advise on which process is most likely for any particular site:

    · In a few cases, assurances have already been given that the sites will be allocated as green space, and these will come forward as part of the revised Plan:MK in the consultation in the autumn. They will then be removed from the potential housing sites list until Plan:MK is revised and the whole land situation reconsidered.

    · In some cases, the site is already in a neighbourhood plan, or other approved allocations documents, for housing, but a slightly higher density is identified as possible within MK’s overarching policies. In such cases, when the plans come forward, they may propose that higher density, and it will go out for consultation as usual. The densities are usually close to those of the surrounding area.

    · For special sites such as existing schools or sheltered housing, the relevant department may propose redevelopment as part of a wider strategy. Such decisions, again, would be public decisions, advertised, and consulted on.

    · For regeneration sites, regeneration plans including a masterplan for the whole area will be drawn up and residents and businesses in the area will be consulted before any decisions are made.

    · For very small Council-owned sites, the Council may propose to develop them from time to time, in a public Cabinet meeting or delegated decision. The decision will be advertised as normal, and residents, parish councils etc will have the chance to make representations.

    · From time to time, the Council will review the list and select some for consideration. They will undertake detailed assessment as to whether house building on each is desirable, whether the surrounding infrastructure can support it, and whether the planning benefits outweigh the costs, eg loss of open space or existing facilities, or of any other type of development that was proposed in neighbourhood plans.

    · In addition to the Council processes above, any owner of a private site can, of course, at any time apply for planning permission to develop a site.

    In all cases, if development proceeds, plans will be drawn up, sent out for consultation, and, if they are referred to committee, would go to the Council’s Development Control Committee for decision, as usual.

    Finally, I repeat, many of these sites will never be allocated for housing development within the period of Plan:MK. They simply prove that it is possible to find enough sites and nothing more.

    Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment

    Every few years, the Council is required to produce an assessment of housing sites that are available for development. This then results in a revised Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The SHLAA will look in more detail at potential housing sites across the whole urban area, including those sites within the Urban Capacity Study, to establish their suitability for residential use and as to whether they are developable and deliverable. This will ultimately provide us with a more specific number of dwellings that is achievable over the plan period within the existing urban area.

    I hope this provides sufficient reassurance and clarity. We again apologise for any confusion caused.

    Kind Regards

    Brett Leahy

    Brett Leahy
    Head of Planning


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