A fresh public workshop will take place on June 6th 2018 after Hammerson’s, one of UK’s biggest retail groups, failed to get their design guidelines for the new ‘Point’ approved by Councillors – despite the planning department urging its speedy approval.
Xplain, MK Forum and CMK Town Council waited three hours to make the case against approval at a late-night meeting of the Development Control Committee (DCC).
Xplain flatly contradicted Hammerson’s claims that they had fulfilled the Council’s requirement to produce a very high quality design in conjunction with local citizens. Linda Inoki, chair of Xplain, described how the applicant, “in total isolation from the community” produced their own Design Code which was designed to deliver the same, “garish retail shed” that triggered the condition in the first place.
According to Xplain, Hammerson’s workshops had been “un-advertised, poorly attended, lack-lustre and one-sided” in that “every constructive offer to resolve problems was brushed aside”. This was in stark contrast to Hotel La Tour’s recent design workshops where the applicant “listened to ideas, and kept working on the design, layout, access, weather protection, active frontages, artworks and materials until, in their own words, they ended up with a much better development.”
Hammerson’s architect countered that they had “produced the Design Code with Council officers” and believed that it would “produce a quality, landmark building”.
In the ensuing debate, Cllr Paul Williams (Lab) revealed that he hadn’t been invited to the workshops despite being a CMK Ward Councillor. He said “It’s incredibly important that we get a high quality development on this site,” noting that “the existing building can be seen from 360 degrees but, according to this document, residents would be greeted by a service yard.”
Cllr John Bint (Con) was also left off the guest list. He said “The applicant’s aspirations are good but all the criticism I’ve heard tonight is fundamentally valid.” He said “This is our first, last and only opportunity to require this document to contain important things,” for example, features that were “more MK-like instead of something that looks as if it’s been cut and pasted from a catalogue”. He concluded he couldn’t approve the Design Code “for a very long list of process, content and policy reasons.”
Cllr Rex Exon (Lib-Dem) said “We should be thinking where the city is going to be in 50 years’ time. Where is the vision? This is a big square box! Why not use the land available to create something fantastic rather than just another retail box?”
By now, clearly aware that if they approved Hammerson’s problematic Design Code it would inevitably lead to an inadequate replacement for The Point, the Committee gave Hammerson’s another chance to listen to local people. As outgoing chair Cllr Derek Eastman (Lib-Dem) put it, “we’re looking for better public engagement, and substantial improvements”.