Category Archives: Destruction of CMK

FURY AS “MADMEN” AT MILTON KEYNES COUNCIL PURSUE PARKS FOR CASH POLICY


Feb. 2015

Furious residents have accused MK Council of greedy land-grabbing after it added children’s play parks, allotments, wildlife corridors and community gardens onto a late list of potential sites for infill housing – and then published the list for consultation on the say-so of a single Cabinet member.

The big question is why, when MK is expanding on all sides and thousands of new homes are already in the pipeline?

The suspicion is growing that the Labour-run Cabinet, facing economic turmoil, is making a ‘dash for cash’ and attempting to strip MK of its green assets. Ironically, many sites are in disadvantaged areas and this shock move comes just as the City of Trees is approaching its 50th anniversary, winning plaudits for the quality of its landscape design.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAlthough the Cabinet insists that the list, or ‘Site Allocations Plan’, is just going out for consultation, other Councillors are so alarmed at the selection process they have ‘called it in’. It goes to the Executive Scrutiny panel this Thurs, 26 Feb, 7.30 at the Civic Offices in CMK.

Angry residents are expected to fill the public gallery as they anxiously wait to hear if the List is thrown out, upheld, or sent back for revision.

This housing proposal strikes at the heart of Milton Keynes and New Town urban planning. If MK Council gets away with cramming new houses onto precious green areas such as this, nowhere is safe.
These are not scraps of leftover land or brownfield sites suitable for regeneration. They are open green spaces that were carefully designed into the fabric of Milton Keynes, improving the quality of life for all. Even Station Square, the gateway to Central Milton Keynes, is not immune. CMK’s last, great remaining civic space has been earmarked for infill with 97 flats.

Local resident Liz Green tells Xplain:
“I think I am living in a town run by madmen. Where on earth are they going to build on next? As for building houses on the green areas at the back of people’s houses it is lunacy. That was one of the many things that attracted me to MK when we moved here nearly thirty years ago. I remember my daughter and all the other children playing out there for hours, especially in the warmer weather. I’d just call out of the back gate for her to come in. She has fond memories of untold freedom playing outdoors. If they build on these areas future generations will never have that pleasure.”
One of MK’s original architects, Jon Muncaster, says “Even to suggest that these sites should be built on shows an alarming lack of understanding by the authors (presumably professionals?) of the planning and design principles of the original layouts. They provide much more than what the authors of [the Plan] dismissively refer to as ‘some amenity value’ and if they proceed, all coherence and credibility of the grid square planning will be smashed.”

Sites include green spaces in Walnut Tree, Emerson Valley, Conniburrow, Springfield, Wolverton, Stony Stratford, Stantonbury and many more. For an interactive map of sites up for housing follow link to MK Web.

Please help us stand up for MK and attend the Council meeting this Thursday 26 Feb. 7.30, in the main Council Chamber, Civic Offices (next to Natwest Bank, Silbury Blvd) CMK. Or contact us for more info.

 

Experts slam ‘John Lewis’ car park in Milton Keynes


It’s not just Xplain that is horrified at Hermes’ plans to fill a prime location between John Lewis and Campbell  Park with a vast, concrete multi-storey car park. Many other groups oppose it too, and add that Hermes has ignored advice offered during pre-application consultations to improve the scheme. Here are extracts from just some of the objections…

proposed car park: a vast, solid block

Twentieth Century Society
“Overbearing in its scale and massing…The Twentieth Century Society objects to this application, the width of which causes direct harm to the listed [shopping] building by obstructing light to the side arcades. It is unfortunate that the design fails both to respect its context and fulfil the potential of the site for a carefully designed civic building on a civic scale.”

Milton Keynes Development Partnership
“MKDP supports Hermes desire to invest in CMK, but we are keen to enter discussions with them to bring back a more appropriate and commercially viable form of development – one which addresses the Council’s policy objectives for the site and aspirations for the city. In this respect, we have offered to pool our land with Hermes land at advantageous terms and to share costs in bringing forward a joint scheme. In our view, the proposal for a standalone car park should be withdrawn by the applicants or refused by MKC.”

The Parks Trust
“The CMK skyline is a key element in determining the setting of the west end of Campbell Park and this building will not enhance it – an opportunity missed”

Milton Keynes Forum
“This is the most outstanding site left in the development of the City Centre, which can be seen from the motorway exit to Milton Keynes. Therefore any development on this site should strive to create a memorable and important building. The building proposed is …a boring square block and has none of these qualities.The vitality of the City Centre is at stake.”

Central Milton Keynes Town Council
“The multi-storey car park is too big, access is hugely problematic and there are no active frontages. Furthermore, the proposal to use this prime development site solely for parking undermines the strategic objectives for CMK as stated in the Core Strategy and also contravenes many local and national planning policies.” The Town Council even produced New Horizons, a detailed alternative, to show what could be built on this important site (image below).

Creative alternative to Hermes' lifeless multi-storey car park by CMK Town Council

CMK Town Council’s lively alternative to Hermes’ moribund multi-storey car park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Should MK Council heed the warnings and refuse this deeply flawed scheme?

New multi-storey means misery on the buses of Milton Keynes


If the new multi-storey car park next to John Lewis in Central Milton Keynes gets the green light on 8 Jan, red traffic lights will hold up 4 out of 10 bus journeys through Milton Keynes. Stop Light

Why? Because Hermes, the developer, plans to put traffic lights on a major bus route just to get cars in and out of this massive 1416-space car park.

Instead of providing several points of access off surrounding dual-carriageways, Hermes has insisted on using a short, narrow stretch of single-lane road (Marlborough Gate) as the sole entrance. Marlborough Gate is a vital link in the grid road system used by thousands of people every day.

with just one access point, transport experts warn of delays and congestion that will affect thousands of bus users

Up to 40% of bus journeys through the entire borough face delays through badly designed access to this controversial multi-storey car park.

After MK Council transport officers said the resulting congestion was unacceptable, and could even endanger the travelling public, the applicant has made last minute attempts to ‘square the circle’ by adding even more traffic lights and tacking a short queuing lane on the side of the road.

But it will only take 6 or 7 cars waiting here before traffic backs up to a nearby T-junction and jams up another busy bus route – Midsummer Boulevard!

Deliberately interrupting traffic flow through CMK, both for passing cars and thousands of bus-users, can hardly be described as sustainable development.

Especially when MK Council is desperate to wean people off their cars and into public transport in order to avoid grid-lock around CMK. Around 25,000 people travel to work in CMK every day, and thousands more are expected in the next few years.

Outside London, CMK is the biggest area of planned employment growth in the region. One of its biggest assets is free-flowing traffic. What is the point of damaging this regional asset, and sacrificing future transport efficiency, for a private car park which cuts across adopted strategy?

Ironically, MK Council has just paid transport experts to come up with fresh ways of using all the empty parking spaces in CMK and trialling new kinds of public transport.

The planning committee makes the final decision on 8 Jan. Please come along to the public gallery, Civic Offices, 7 pm, to hear the debate. Will MK Council use all the planning and transport policies at its disposal to turn down this damaging scheme? Or will it open up this parking ‘Pandora’s Box’?

A TRAGIC END TO CENTRAL MILTON KEYNES?


Opposition is growing to the massive multi-storey car park slated for Central Milton Keynes, which, if permitted, would blight a particularly lush and promising part of MK. In this guest column for Xplain, design historian Carola Holz considers its impact.

A TRAGIC END TO CENTRAL MILTON KEYNES?

By Carola Holz

Listed shopping building reflects nature.

The much-loved shopping building reflecting nature.

Twenty years after Prince Charles’ criticism of modern British architecture the term ‘carbuncle’ has regrettably returned in the current debate about a proposed multi-storey car park in Central Milton Keynes. The site is at the eastern end of the Milton Keynes Shopping Building and, crucially, next to Campbell Park.

Campbell Park - moments away from  eastern CMK

Campbell Park – next to  east end of CMK

Since the practical aspects of the project have been discussed elsewhere, this article expresses views purely from a design history perspective.

The ‘much-loved friend’ this time round is not an iconic national gallery in London, but a modernist icon at the heart of Central Milton Keynes; the shopping centre. Built in the late seventies it follows the tradition of Miesian architecture with its steel-frame construction; an elegant skeleton on a 600 mm planning grid with glass cladding. Reflecting glass panes are used to reflect internally the extensive landscaping of the arcades, a carefully chosen selection of hardy and non-hardy plants in accordance with daylight supply, and externally the plane trees of the city centre.

Landscape architecture was essential to all planning in Milton Keynes. The integration of the largest building in the city centre into the strictly symmetrical street layout was paramount to the architects’ plans and those of the urban planners at the time. The formality of the street layout is emphasised by four rows of London planes running alongside the boulevards. At the eastern end, where the building is set back, two additional lines of trees underline the symmetry of the planting scheme. The carefully designed landscape architecture extends into the adjoining ground level car park and provides a link to Campbell Park.

CMK's distinctive boulevards

CMK’s distinctive landscape (c) Mark Coster

Visitors driving up to the shopping centre from the east see the building slowly emerging behind the trees. The reflecting glass panes effectively smooth its modernist appearance by reflecting their green surroundings. The building is part of its ever-changing natural surroundings; a beautifully finished, easy to understand ‘bone structure’ with the unoppressive sense of a sheltering canopy.

However, when the shopping centre was Grade II listed in 2010 the owners lost no time in making their disappointment known, claiming that the decision would impact on the future evolution and growth of the shopping centre. Now they are proposing a very unsympathetic design for a multi-storey car park which simply fits in with their ill-conceived requirements for more parking spaces.

If anyone expected that Grade II listing would result in a respectful new interpretation of the iconic original – they could not have been more mistaken. Despite claiming to have based the structure of the car park facade on the 600 mm grid, the simple elegant structure and unique features of the current building are not at all apparent in the architects’ plans. Perhaps because their grid pattern is filled with opaque, multi-coloured elements this massive car park appears as one impenetrable block.

JL carpark 3DIt de facto obstructs views onto the original facade of the Listed building and bears no link whatsoever to the surrounding landscape. Despite claiming to keep the existing landscape features, closer examination of the plans reveals that a line of trees north of the new building would be removed, thus disturbing the carefully laid out symmetry of landscape architecture at this end of CMK.

If the original building said ‘I’m in tune with nature around me’, this new project shouts domination and self-importance, not only ignoring landscape features but also a nationally important and ‘historic’ building in our city.

It is not just a carbuncle; it is also a door stop. A dead end to any future integration with Campbell Park, and the end of civic aspirations for an iconic building or feature which would complete this crucial part of Central Milton Keynes in a respectful and sympathetic manner.

This attractive street fronting Campbell Park would be choked with car park traffic

This attractive street fronting Campbell Park would be choked with car park traffic (c) Mark Coster

FOR AN EASY WAY TO SUBMIT YOUR VIEWS TO MK COUNCIL OR FIND OUT MORE, PLEASE GO TO CMK TOWN COUNCIL’S WEBSITE, AND FILL IN THE SIMPLE FORM  http://cmktowncouncil.org/

 

Stop the car-buncle before it stops you! Still time to have your say on vast multi-storey car park slated for Central Milton Keynes.


CMK Town Council have launched a new website which includes a really easy way to have your say on the huge multi-storey car park that Hermes want to build next to John Lewis in Central Milton Keynes.
Here’s a link:
And here’s their take on the controversial issue of building this vast, concrete car-buncle on one of the best sites in MK!
The planning department is getting a lot of prefabricated letters of support for this project, courtesy of the applicant, so if you want to send a different message to the decision makers please be quick! 
JL carpark 3D
Please alert anyone else you know who wants to keep traffic flowing freely through CMK.
Together we can keep MK special!

 

Massive car-buncle threatens Milton Keynes!


JL carpark 3DOne of the last, great development sites in Central Milton Keynes will be wasted if plans to build a massive multi-storey car park go ahead. The site is next to John Lewis, at the east end of the shopping centre, and has a superb outlook over Campbell Park. Thousands of people live just a short walk away and in the next few years thousands more will be coming to live and work nearby.

But Hermes, joint owners of the site, as well as of the city’s shopping centre and Food Centre, want to use it for a huge multi-storey car park aimed at out-of-town shoppers. With 1400 spaces this is more suited to an international airport than a thriving city of trees.

What’s the logic?

Hermes argue that out-of-town visitors want more convenient parking near the shopping centre (‘the centre:mk’). Their solution is a ‘destination’ car park. But why here? The idea is to drive footfall to the relatively quiet end of the Grade ll Listed shopping building, which in turn will encourage new retail development on the southern flank of John Lewis.

However CMK has plenty of surface-level parking. On most days of the week, thousands of spaces are empty; many right next to the centre:mk. Others are available in the nearby Food Centre, where Waitrose used to be, just across the road from John Lewis (see map below). So why the hurry to build another multi-storey car park when supply and demand is far from clear-cut?

There are other serious questions about Hermes’ plans, including:JL carpark site view

  • Poor access. Instead of using the dual carriageways either side of the site, Hermes want to funnel all car park traffic via a short stretch of single carriageway (Marlborough Gate). Anyone who knows MK knows this will be a nightmare for the surrounding road network. Add traffic lights to the mixture, and buses, coaches and cars will pay the price in congestion and delays.
  • With over 1400 spaces this will be nearly five times bigger than CMK’s Theatre District multi-storey car park. Hermes’ vast concrete façade, would dominate the public realm and ruin the promising skyline of CMK.
  • A dead-end multi-storey car park will shut down much better opportunities for the future. Residents, students and workers need a supermarket, more amenities and more interesting places at this end of town. A huge multi-storey car park, aimed at sucking in out-of-town shoppers, will do nothing for the longer term development of Milton Keynes.

Stop light

Disappointingly, Hermes have rejected a far more imaginative proposal from CMK Town Council for developing the site, and have now filed their planning application.

But MK citizens, who successfully fought off Hermes’ disastrous Primark scheme last year, dislike piecemeal development and are already filing objections.

If you want to save CMK from this latest threat, it’s simple. Please object via MK Council’s planning department asap. Either use the Council’s planning portal (search for planning application 14/01628).

Or simply email the planning department via anna.holloway@milton-keynes.gov.uk, quoting ‘John Lewis multi-storey car park’. You can just say ‘I object to this development’, or outline your reasons as well. Please include your address (or house number and street if you prefer) to ensure your opinion counts.

JL carpark elevation

View from Campbell Park of the massive concrete facade.

MILTON KEYNES LOSES ITS POINT


March, 2014. MK Council has tonight voted in favour of an outline planning application to demolish The Point. The familiar ziggurat pyramid (and the cinema block behind it) will eventually be replaced with a considerably larger development for retail and leisure.

After a long debate, which hinged on the difficulty of making an informed decision based on the bare bones of the outline application, Councillors voted 7 to 3 in favour of approval.

Planning Officers said they too would have preferred a full planning application. However they assured the committee that the Council would still retain some ‘qualtiy control’ via a new Design Code (which the applicant will produce). In addition, all the important issues such as access, appearance and the final design of the development will return to the planning committee via the ‘reserved matters’ route in due course.

Hammerson, a FTSE 100 company which owns The Point, said they would work with local stakeholders to produce the Design Code and a development that would suit CMK. However in order to attract tenants to any new development they needed the confidence that outline approval would bring.

And so, by fits and starts, this major landmark in MK’s history winds its way to oblivion.

Xplain is a well established grassroots campaign, with considerable experience of development issues in Milton Keynes. Our focus is Central Milton Keynes; widely seen as the engine of regional growth. If you want to keep abreast of developments in Grid City please sign up to follow our posts.

MILTON KEYNES – ABOUT TO LOSE A LANDMARK AND GAIN A CLONE?


March, 2014. By architectural standards it’s a flimsy piece of work, but The Point in Central Milton Keynes captured people’s imagination. It was the first purpose-built multi-screen cinema in the country, and in an era of massive cinema closures The Point introduced American cinema-going to the British public and halted its decline. In this, it captured the spirit of a pioneering New Town.

love it or hate it - the Point has probably had its day.

Love it or hate it – the Point may have had its day.

And this beacon, pointing to a brighter future, had emotional appeal. Travelling up the motorway or flying into Luton Airport, the sight of that red pyramid of light on the horizon told proud new residents of Milton Keynes, “You’re nearly home!”

Now, however, The Point’s owners, Hammerson, are keen to demolish the well-known ziggurat and redevelop most (but not all) of the site. On Thursday, 6 March, its fate will be decided by MK Council.

If Hammerson had come up with an outstanding new ‘Point’ there might have been less resistance to losing the original. But they have not. Instead, they have offered a sop to nostalgia and the sketchiest of outline planning applications.

An explosion in a triangle factory - could the new Point look like this?

An explosion in a triangle factory – could the new Point look like this? Or like Melbourne’s  dreary Federation Square, below.

People are asking how MK Council can decide the fate of this important building, on a prime site, with so little to go on.

Neighbouring businesses, CMK Town Council and Xplain are among many who are not impressed.

Quoting dozens of planning policies, Xplain has made a case for refusing permission and holding out for a full planning application.

To us, the application shows a lack of interest in delivering anything that would add vibrancy to the city centre and public realm.

Where, for example, is there any provision for permeability, colonnades, courtyards, greenery, artworks and other features that would help knit this development into the boulevards of CMK?

How will the development enhance the setting of the Grade ll listed Shopping Building, the most important symbol of MK and of national importance?

Why cherry pick only part of the site for redevelopment when the old multi-storey car park could also be demolished and wrapped into a more interesting, multi-faceted new development?

To their credit, Hammerson has tried to respond to general criticism of their first design, and also adopted an early proposal from Xplain to add a public roof terrace. This would offer rare views across the city and possibly space for live music.

But there is no guarantee that this, or any other public realm improvement, will be built, as this is an outline application. If approved, the expanded footprint and height of the new building would be agreed, along with the principle of redevelopment. It may not sound much, but from a commercial point of view this is highly desirable.

The danger is that MK will end up with a large, garish shed, more appropriate for an out of town Retail Park than a true city centre. And MK will have lost a landmark, and gained a clone.

The Deconstructivist style of the possible new ‘Point’ was fashionable in the 1980’s. According to ‘A Crash Course in Architecture’, it produced buildings that were “dismantled, fractured dis-assemblages with no visual logic, no attempt at harmonious composition of facades [and] no pragmatic reason.”*

At its best Deconstructivism delivered the Guggenheim in Bilbao. At its worst, Melbourne’s Federation Square, below, voted one of the five ugliest buildings in the world.

fed square w tram 800px-B2.2008_fedsquare

Photo:  Looks familiar? Part of Melbourne’s Federation Square project, 1997 – 2002, voted one of the five ugliest buildings in the world. Photo by Bahnfrend.

MK Council is custodian of a city centre with tremendous promise. Report after report names MK as the place to watch. Xplain believes there is no need to give away such a prime opportunity on the strength of such sketchy plans.

Although planning officers are recommending approval of Hammerson’s plans for The Point, they also want some vital conditions attached, including a Design Code.

Watch for the update after tomorrow’s decision.

Save

A brighter future for Milton Keynes as citizens take to the streets


A brighter future for MK. Image (c) Robert Rusin

A brighter future for Milton Keynes. Image (c) Robert Rusin

Brighter future image courtesy of Robert Rusin http://www.mkfive.co.uk/

2013 was a good year for Xplain as once again we took to the streets to save the best of Central Milton Keynes from the worst of development. 

campaigning for better development in CMK

campaigning for better development in CMK

On 21 Feb. 2013 the Primark scheme at Secklow Gate Bridge collapsed after our marathon campaign to save the heart of CMK from destruction linked up with the market traders. Hundreds of livelihoods would have been swept aside if, as seemed increasingly likely, the scheme had been approved. The result was the biggest public outcry in MK’s history. Nearly 21,000 people signed the petition to save the area from demolition in just three weeks, and at the last moment, the applicant withdrew their plans.

Saved! Secklow Gate Bridge, Market Square and the Listed shopping building.

Saved! Secklow Gate Bridge, Market Square and the heart of the Listed shopping building were due to be demolished for a new Primark which could have been built just yards away on a vacant site. photo (c) Caroline Brown

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

traders fighting for their home of 30 years in Market Square

lobbying to protect our city centre in the Council chamber Feb 2013

lobbying to protect our city centre in the Council chamber

Milton Keynes Market

people power wins major victory over corporate greed

On the same day, we also helped defeat a plan to build shops over a pedestrian and futuristic transport route at Midsummer Boulevard. For a town centre famously designed for innovation and free movement, this would have been another betrayal of the city’s future for short-term, private profits. Fortunately, MK Council listened, and roundly dismissed the plans at Misdummer Place due to poor access and bad design.

Barrett’s Beastly Barracks: MK Council also threw out a shabby housing scheme slated for a prime city centre site, after we helped raise awareness of its poor layout and design. Barrett’s Barracks Witan Gate elevations

MK Market – Open to the World! In August, traders staged the first ever celebration of MK Market, with a lot of willing volunteers from the local community including dancers, musicians, and chefs. The day was a great success and looks set to be a regular fixture.

MK Market Celebration

MK Market Celebration, Aug 2013. Photo (c) Anne-Louise Mellor

DSC_6335

Chinese fan dancers celebrate community life in CMK

MK Market is now recognised as an Asset of Community Value

MK Market is now officially recognised as an Asset of Community Value

What next?

CMK is set for major growth, but we can still live up to the dream of a ‘city in a forest’. Most residents value the open spaces, leafy boulevards and convenience of Milton Keynes as it was originally designed. Xplain is here to remind politicians and developers to respect these public assets as the city grows.   

In Feb 2014 we will take part in an intensive, 3-day design workshop, looking at future development in and around Midsummer Boulevard. The workshop is a joint initiative from MK Council and CMK Town Council/CMK Alliance, and is another welcome move away from the piecemeal development that has been threatening our carefully planned city for too long.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURENeil Higson, former Chief Landscape Architect for MK Development Corporation, leading our walk in Campbell Park

Walks for 2014

After our recent successful walk through Campbell Park, led by its original landscape architect Neil Higson, Xplain is planning a series of guided walks in CMK. This is a chance to explore MK’s architectural and artistic heritage.

discovering public art in CMK

discovering public art in CMK

Xplain walk in Campbell Park, with impromptu litter-pick!

Xplain walk in Campbell Park, with impromptu litter-pick!

If you want to hear more, please contact us via. 

Would you tarmac this garden in Central Milton Keynes?


WOULD YOU TARMAC THIS GARDEN IN CENTRAL MILTON KEYNES?

naturalistic landscape under threat in CMK

naturalistic landscape under threat between Norfolk & Ashton House in CMK

 

This tranquil garden is just minutes away from the busy shopping centre in Central Milton Keynes. In summer, blackbirds scuttle across the grass and in winter redwings hunt among the leaves. It is part of the original landscape designed for Ashton and Norfolk House; some of the best Modernist architecture in Milton Keynes.

This area captures the “less is more” philosophy of the founding architects who designed Central Milton Keynes as an organic whole. Their ambition was to create a beautifully clean, modern, rational layout for CMK, using a formal grid system, softened by greenery and a quality public realm. And it worked! Talk to office workers and visitors and many will tell you they appreciate this original part of CMK.

part of the original setting of Norfolk & Ashton House, CMK

part of the original setting of Norfolk & Ashton House, CMK

But the owners of Norfolk House want to turn the western garden into a private car park. Grass will give way to tarmac; open paths to barriers.

They tried this in 2012, in a bigger scheme which involved cutting down healthy oak trees. Xplain objected to the plans, which were thankfully refused. This time, no trees would be felled but the garden would be lost, and the scene dominated by parked cars.

The applicant says it is difficult to find tenants due to lack of parking. But there are a lot of empty office spaces in CMK. How will building 27 parking bays solve all his problems? Besides, on any weekday there are dozens of empty spaces nearby. These are mostly ‘red’ bays (£1.40 an hour) but purple bays (just 40p an hour) can also be found.

empty parking bays outside Norfolk House, weekday Nov 2013

empty parking bays outside Norfolk House, weekday Nov 2013

Please speak up if you want to protect this part of Milton Keynes.

Just email the planning officer with your views via mailto:anna.holloway@milton-keynes.gov.uk

Or post your comments on the MK Council planning portal. http://publicaccess2.milton-keynes.gov.uk/online-applications/

Search for Norfolk House or use application number 13/02276/FUL

This landscape captures the character of Milton Keynes. Please don’t let it be lost for want of an email!

Why are they chopping down two fine oak trees in Central Milton Keynes?


MK Council is planning to chop down two healthy oak trees in an old hedgerow running between North  12th and North 13th St, CMK. Why? Because an insurance company claims that the trees are causing subsidence in a nearby flat, and the claim against MK Council as landowner could amount to £50k. Officers valued the trees at just £15k, and decided they had to go. Oddly, very few people heard about this case and only one objection was lodged (from a partner at David Lock Associates, urban designers, whose property adjoins the lane.) Sadly, MK Council gave permission to tear up the Tree Protection Orders and have the oaks felled.

photo: David Chandler

Rough justice for these old oak trees?  photo: David Chandler

Enter one tree surgeon, with a conscience.

Instead of giving the Council a quote for axing the trees, one tree surgeon asked if was really necessary to fell the oaks, and eventually alerted Xplain. The trees are two of the few remaining oaks in Central Milton Keynes, forming part of the historic Saxon route known as Common Lane.  They also provide food and shelter for a huge variety of wildlife.

All too often, says the tree surgeon, trees are blamed for subsidence when the problems are really due to poor construction. In this case, cutting down the oaks will not only fail to solve the problem but probably create a worse one which is ground heave (caused by upsetting the water balance in the surrounding soil).

Xplain has put this case to a chartered surveyor, several architects and two more tree experts, and they all agree: felling the oaks is not the solution, and will probably make things worse.  

Xplain understands that another tree surgeon has now agreed to fell the trees, but it’s not too late.

Please email the leader of MK Council Councillor Andrew Geary asking for an urgent stay of execution while options are pursued. These include:

  • digging a root trench between the trees and nearby flats
  • investigating previous problems with this development which were due to poor construction*
  • challenging the insurance company’s ‘evidence’ that the trees are to blame

*I know, because I used to live there. Around 1986, just a few years after completion, ‘subsidence’ cracks appeared in flats near the oak trees, and NHBC had to pay out for remedial work. Significantly the trees were not blamed – surveyors put the problems down to inadequate foundations and shoddy construction.