22 June 2017
Last night the leader of MK Council defended a controversial list of green open spaces which senior planners have drawn up as part of the massive housing targets for Plan MK. Curiously, nobody seemed to know about the list, apart from an inner circle of people at MKC.
Xplain’s chair, Linda Inoki, asked the Council why precious green spaces, which residents campaigned to remove from a similar list in 2015, were under threat once more, despite earlier promises to protect them.
Councillor Peter Marland assured the chamber that “These are two very separate documents. The Urban Capacity Study is a technical study and, unlike the Site Allocations Plan, it does not allocate specific sites for development.”
But Xplain has seen emails suggesting that some sites have already been whipped off the controversial new list. If so, which sites and why?
Linda Inoki pressed the leader for an open and honest review of the entire list to give people some peace of mind.
The Council leader replied, “It wouldn’t make sense to bring forward sites that were clearly contentious. At the appropriate junction, the cross-party working group will meet to allocate specific sites, and those sites which were previously removed from the Site Allocations Plan will be higher up the list for consideration.”
However this did not reassure the public. “Take away our green spaces and you ruin Milton Keynes!” said one Springfield resident, winning a round of applause.
Nor did it work for a number of Councillors. Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib-Dem) said “This is like Groundhog Day! Once again the public gallery is full of angry residents and once again the same sites are up for infill development.”
Cllr Peter McDonald (Con), a defender of green open space, asked the Labour group’s leader “In view of the confusion can I ask you to withdraw the list?” The crisp reply was “You can ask and we can consider but the answer will be no!”
As questions continued the Council leader seemed exasperated. He appeared to blame planning officers for not handling “this potentially explosive study” in a different way, and insisted “We’ve already said that 50% of these sites won’t be developed!”
It was too much for Cllr Douglas McCall, head of the Lib-Dem group, who growled “This raises questions about the honesty of the Urban Capacity Study.” He demanded to know why parish and ward councillors had not been notified of the study’s existence. When Marland insisted that people could submit comments via the consultation on Plan MK, Cllr McCall pointed out it was too late – it had already closed!
Sadly, the new Head of Planning, Brett Leahy, was not there to hear the debate. Nor was outgoing head, Anna Rose. Having seen a few more pillars fall from the Council’s tottering reputation she is off to head up a national Planning Advisory Service. Proseccos all round!
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