Author Archives: xplain

About xplain

Xplain is a grass-roots campaign to protect Central Milton Keynes with its tree-lined boulevards, Modernist architecture, superb grid road system, and quality landscaping from unsympathetic development.

Is ‘X’ the worst symbol for Milton Keynes?


Xscape wants to fix a massive black ‘X’ on its famous façade in Central Milton Keynes.

Xscape elevation

Some people say the 11 x 11 m (33 x 33 ft) sign will feel menacing – like a Nazi swastika on a Luftwaffe hangar. Others say it’s just an exercise in corporate branding.

In this guest column for Xplain, social psychologist Linda Corlett explains the remarkable power of X – for good or ill.

“Symbols and signs often evoke emotions that are triggered by our past associations with them. ‘X’ is a curious letter because it’s one of the few letters that is used alone. Historically it has portrayed negative and positive meanings as well as mystery.
Children in our part of the world grow up in an education system where a red ‘X’ denotes incorrect schoolwork. This is perhaps the earliest association we have with X where it triggers negative emotions.

When X it is printed as a CAPITAL letter, in BLACK and printed in BOLD, its meaning can be negatively interpreted because historically it is commonly associated with symbols of evil, torture, danger and death. For eg:

basic swastika

image courtesy Wikipedia

SWASTIKA X – the most nihilistic symbol of all; when the Nazis adopted this ancient symbol of life they turned the swastika into the very essence of hatred and evil. In Germany, its use is outlawed unless it’s for legitimate purposes such publishing articles like this!
SKULL AND CROSS BONES X – this is the universal warning symbol of death by poison.

skull, crossbones

Image courtesy acclaimclipart.com

CAMP X – the Second World War training camp that taught sabotage, explosives-making and silent killing.

CRIME X – X is used to mark the scene of a murder.

GRAPPLE X was the code-name for Britain’s first thermo-nuclear weapons test in the Pacific Ocean. Grapple X nuclear test Christmas Island 1957
XXXX denotes macho bravado as in ‘who gives a F**K?’ The clothing industry uses X to describe increasing degrees of ‘fatness’ eg. XL, XXL, XXXL.

X-RATED signs denote pornography, the illicit and forbidden. X-rated graphicDRUGS which include the letter X in their names often have negative associations, eg Zovirax – blisters and cold sores, Ziprexa –schizophrenia, Xylocaines – pain, Xarelto – blood clots.

X can also be used as a symbol of protest.

For example, Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little but famously replaced his slave-era surname with a capital ‘X’ to symbolise stolen identity and the fight for justice. Here, X reminds us of a torturous time in history.

X is also used to symbolise the mysterious or unknown: ‘The X Files’ denotes strange paranormal phenomena while the German scientist who discovered X-rays in 1895 named them ‘X-rays’ because the science behind them was unknown. STATION X was the code-name for Bletchley Park, the ultra-secret headquarters of Britain’s Second World War code-breakers. Although we make positive connotations with Bletchley Park, code-breaking is hacking which we associate with illegal entry – so the name may still make us feel uncomfortable.

In contrast, when presented in liquid metallic fonts, X signifies hi-tech precision technology, e.g. the X-planes airplanes and rockets, the Jaguar X-Type, BMW X5, Mac OS X and iPhone X.

X can also be used in positive ways. For example, we use x every day in our messages to one another. In lowercase ‘x’ means ‘thanks’, or ‘I like you’; ‘xxx ‘ means ‘I love you’.
The colour of text is important too. In red and gold, X can be glitzy and entertaining eg The X-Factor, or it can be festive, such as Happy Xmas. But a red cross on its own also signifies that something is incorrect or wrong. Red X’s are often used in the porn industry so they should be used with caution in public spaces!

The present Xscape logo is blue on silver. Xscape original signage captureBlue represents the sky and sea; the colour that most symbolises escape from everyday pressures. The sea often glistens with silver, a colour that is universally attractive and welcoming. Also the shape of the X is elegant, stretched and energetic; it symbolises exercise and health. These features are the whole point of MK’s Xscape, so in my opinion the original blue logo is clever, appropriate, attractive and perfectly adequate. It’s an appealing feature on the MK skyline.

Xscape's new logo

Xscape’s proposed new 11m x 11m illuminated sign in ‘Galano Grotesque’ font

Of course, some people may like the proposed solid X, but I suspect many people will associate it with negative meanings and find it repellent.  If there has to be a massive X on the building I’d suggest an elegant font in pale blue illuminated glass. But do we really need it?”

To comment on this planning application you can email MK Council’s case officer andrew.pommells@milton-keynes.gov.uk quoting ref number 18/01456/ADV. Or log onto MK Council’s planning portal to read details and file comments direct.

Advertisements

Who will put down roots at the old Wyevale Garden Centre in CMK?


After 10 years quietly sprouting weeds the old Wyevale Garden centre site in Central Milton Keynes looks set for redevelopment. Aviva Investors and Abbeygate Developments have filed a new planning application to build 328 apartments on this prime site opposite Xscape. But they are not for sale. As more people give up the idea of buying their own home, or need longer to save for a deposit, the ‘PRS’ or Private Rental Sector is growing in popularity. One PRS scheme is already being built in CMK and this would be another. It is aimed at people who want a well-managed apartment building and are ready to pay for extras such as attractive lobbies and landscaped space.

The proposal is for two L-shaped buildings ranging from 3 to 12 stories in height. The ground floor offers flexible commercial space which would possibly attract independent outlets – something most people want more of in CMK.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

‘Vizion’, like the Hub, ate into CMK’s famous grid

There are clear similarities with Abbeygate’s ‘Vizion’ development, the younger sister of the notorious ‘Hub’. But crucially this new development would not eat into CMK’s unique grid layout, disrupting traffic and pedestrians and degrading the public realm. Instead, it would sit at a comfortable distance from heavy traffic, leaving the surrounding grid of leafy boulevards, ‘slow streets’, pedestrian and cycle routes intact.

The architecture is quiet and confident and although the 12-storey height on the corner of Secklow Gate and Avebury Boulevard might shock a few people this does, apparently, fit the Council’s Development Brief. Typically MK features include double-height colonnades to protect pedestrians from sun and rain.

A glassy, egg-shaped café looks towards the private courtyard garden which would be visible from the boulevard and occasionally be open to the public.

The materials are silver and dark grey brickwork with coppery metal panels. Most of the balconies would be flush with the façade which (among other benefits) reduces the amount of private clutter on public view.

To view the application go to MK Council’s planning portal re application number 18/01591/FUL

 

Parks Trust drops ‘eye-sore’ billboards in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes


18/06/18
The Parks Trust has withdrawn a controversial application to plant two huge billboards at the gateway to Campbell Park after irate residents described them as “completely over the top and tasteless” and “an acute waste of money”. One objector said “We are talking about Campbell Park, the serene heart of MK where sheep graze, not Blackpool Pleasure Beach!”

Campbell park signs

Mock-up of the two billboards

According to the Parks Trust the two billboards, each covering four square metres, would be “large enough to be visible from across the V8 grid road, encouraging visitors to cross the pedestrian bridge and visit their premiere city centre green space and the MK Rose.”

campbell park sign rear Capture - Copy

The billboards would also obscure views of CMK

But landscape architect Neil Higson, who originally designed much of MK’s landscape, warned that “this brash act of commercialism” could have the opposite effect. Ward Councillor Ric Brackenbury told planning officers he had been “inundated” with complaints from residents and was concerned that the billboards could set a precedent.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE
Landscape architect Neil Higson, 2nd left, walking in Campbell Park

Xplain has welcomed the Parks Trust’s decision to reconsider its plans and hopes that it will let the quality of the landscape speak for itself. With lots of new development arriving around Campbell Park, including Hotel La Tour, the upgraded MK Gallery and the new Campbell Wharf marina there will be more than enough people to visit this beautiful park.

And it’s not only locals who appreciate Campbell Park.frosty morningWinter in Campbell Park (c) Caroline Brown

“It is one of the largest and most imaginative parks to have been laid out in Britain in the later 20th Century and is probably of national significance,” says a recent study by the Bucks Garden Trust. “The detail of the materials, types of horticultural features and planting all work together with the natural and artificial topography to produce an outstanding, unified design.”*

*’Understanding Historic Gardens in Bucks; Campbell Park, Feb 2018′ by the Bucks Garden Trust.

Fresh workshop on The Point after MK Council raps developer for lack of vision


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.

new-point-image-00475511

‘Quality landmark’ to replace The Point?

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.  Continue reading

Conservatives back ‘Village Green Revolution’ in Milton Keynes


Springfield space under threat, 2015

If Milton Keynes Conservatives take control of the Council in this May’s elections they have pledged to start a ‘Village Green Revolution’. For several years, MK residents have been struggling to protect green open space from crowded infill housing which many fear would create slums of the future.

Village green status can include green spaces that are used for recreation, dog walking, community events and as wildlife buffers. In MK, this adds up to a healthy environment with access for all. Achieving this status gives a firm layer of protection against inappropriate planning applications but, according to the Conservatives, “the Labour-Liberal Partnership Council has been fighting residents in areas such as Woolstone, Springfield and Stantonbury for almost two years, attempting to block village green applications and spending £100,000s of taxpayers money in the process*.” 

In contrast, the Conservatives say that they will voluntarily register any green space that fits the relevant criteria and is put forward with community support.

“This will make a huge difference for communities in all grid squares of Milton Keynes who are continuously worrying about when the next housing development will be proposed on their local green space” says Cllr Alex Walker, Leader of the Conservatives in MK, adding “One of the best things about Milton Keynes is our abundance of well used green space. We should support residents who want to protect their community, not fight them.”

The announcement comes in the week Cllr Liz Gifford (Lab), Cabinet Member for Place, finally registered a number of Village Greens in Woolstone, Springfield, Bletchley and Stantonbury after sustained pressure and in recognition that ‘public confidence in the protection of the named sites has been undermined [and] should be restored.’

*Residents’ applications can shuttle between the Regulatory Committee, Cabinet member and officers for years. In some cases (eg Old Woughton Parish Council) officers have recommended refusal based on legal technicalities which members of the Regulatory Committee have eventually set aside. All this rigmarole can be avoided if MKC decides to use its right, as landowner, to voluntarily register suitable sites under Section 15(8) of the Commons Act.

“I will not be forcing another Hub on CMK” vows senior Milton Keynes Councillor on Saxon Gate issue


At last night’s Cabinet meeting MK Councillor Rob Middleton (Lab.) told the public gallery “I can be clear; I will not be forcing another Hub on CMK!”

This is very good news for thousands of people who use Saxon Gate daily, and would certainly feel the difference if the surrounding access routes and leafy boulevards were lost, as at the Hub.

Saxon Gate montage

Xplain’s mock up of Hub-scale development on Saxon Gate

Cllr Middleton said “It’s important to listen, and I recognise the strength of feeling and commitment from the public responses to the consultation.” Hence, he is now “minded to remove” the option to build over the classic CMK infrastructure later this month, when the official guidance to developers is due to be finalised.

Predictably, this has been the most controversial option, as it involves demolishing Saxon Court and replacing it with a much wider, taller building that would obliterate most of the surrounding trees, public space and access routes.

Naturally, people have drawn comparisons between the ‘Hub’ development and the prospect of an equally overbearing presence on Saxon Gate. But Councillor Middleton said it had been right for the Council to offer a range of options as part of the consultation process.

16551186171_9b5c6b1c2f_z

Saxon Court – part of MK’s modern heritage. (c) Iqbal Alaam

Councillor John Bint (Con.), welcomed Cllr Middleton’s announcement and said the Development Control Committee had also expressed concerns with the draft Development Brief.

There was also a positive signal on MK’s distinctive heritage. After Xplain and others wrote in, explaining the architectural significance of Saxon Court, which was carefully designed to mark the gateway to Central Milton Keynes, Council officers will now look into its heritage value. Hopefully they will revise their opinion that it is simply “a 1970’s office building” which “lacks any presence”.

It’s still early days, but for now, this is positive news for citizens who appreciate that MK is ‘Different by Design’.

published 7 March 2018