Category Archives: garden cities

Government ‘reforms’ could ruin Milton Keynes in 20 years


Civic groups have issued an urgent warning to MK residents that sweeping government plans to “reform” England’s planning system would have devastating consequences for Milton Keynes – Britain’s biggest and most successful New Town.

citizens protest in sunny local park threatened with infill development
Protests like this one will be futile if the White Paper prevails

In a bid to speed up house-building the government White Paper says that all land will be classified into just three zones: areas for growth, renewal or protection. Anyone living in a growth or renewal zone, which would include most of MK, would be powerless prevent the loss of local parks, landscaped grid roads, transport corridors or wildlife refuges since, under new rules, outline planning permission will be guaranteed.

“This is development by government diktat,” says Linda Inoki, chair of Xplain. “It means that our innovative city of trees could be choked by infill development.”

What’s more, local democracy will be cut to the bone because, after MK Council hastily draws up new zoning maps and design codes, residents will have no further say. Dialogue with developers, Neighbourhood Plans, planning committee meetings and even protests will be things of the past, as all this involvement will be swept aside by centralised rules.

Local groups are not the only ones raising the alarm. The Town and Country Planning Association insists that “ripping up the planning system will not deliver the homes we need” while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says that the overall thrust of the White Paper is “more about speeding up major planning decisions in favour of short-term business interests” rather than putting sustainability at the heart of planning reform.

Please help us save MK by sending your own message to the government and to your local MP (Iain Stewart for MK South iain.stewart.mp@parliament.uk or Ben Everitt for MK North ben.everitt.mp@parliament.uk) by 29th October.

Here is a suggested letter, but please use your own thoughts and words if possible. Submit via www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future or email planningforthefuture@communities.gov.uk

Tearing up the current planning system as proposed in the current White Paper will not deliver the affordable homes we need, and will not deliver sustainable, quality development which is crucial for people, the planet and wildlife. Please make the following changes to the White Paper:

  1. Localism needs to be retained, building on the work of Neighbourhood Planning which has been so successful in Milton Keynes. Don’t throw away all this progress which has found new sites for housing and produced locally sympathetic policies. Volunteers have spent huge amounts of time and effort creating Neighbourhood Plans, which have reduced planning battles and improved development standards.
  2. MK has a healthy supply of housing land and 16,000 new homes with planning approval. But we are waiting for developers to build all these homes. The problem with housing delivery is therefore not democratic involvement in the planning system but developers who keep land in ‘banks’ and control the housing supply to maximise demand and profits. Instead of giving builders automatic planning permission for infill development, as proposed, new policies should encourage them to build housing more quickly. Planning consents could be given deadlines before they expire and incomplete homes could be liable to Council Tax after a suitable time lapse.
  3. The duty of neighbouring boroughs to cooperate should be retained. Expansion areas just outside MK’s borders have a major impact on MK’s infrastructure, therefore cooperation, including sharing any funding from the infrastructure levy, is vital.

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.

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.

Labour leader defends “potentially explosive” study of open spaces in Milton Keynes which might be used for infill housing


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.

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“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.
https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/planning-and-building/planning-policy/urban-capacity-study

 

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“What butchers!” The Milton Keynes Car-buncle moves closer to reality.


While the fresh green landscape of Milton Keynes is full of hope and life there is one part of the city centre which is anything but! Here, at ‘the John Lewis end’ of the Grade ll-listed Shopping Building, almost all the trees and shrubs have been cut down to make way for a controversial multi-storey car park.

A landscape tragedy, CMK

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Who voted for concrete works next to Willen Lake, Milton Keynes?


Despite public objections due to visual impact, noise and damage to the beautiful, sensitive setting of Willen Hospice and Lake, plans to build a concrete works and rock/aggregate sorting plant have been approved by MK Council’s planning committee (22 March 2016).

This 50ft high shed - just 100m from Willen Lake

This 50ft high shed – just 100m from Willen Lake

Several councillors were unhappy but felt it was better to approve the plans, and attach conditions about landscaping, noise monitoring etc, rather than let the applicant take it to appeal. In that case, a planning inspector might overturn any refusal and not impose so many conditions.

The applicant, Mick George Ltd, made a great show of how it trains its HGV drivers to drive safely and supports local charities but naturally failed to mention it was heavily fined last year for polluting pristine brooks in Peterborough.

Who voted and how? Cllrs Brian White, Rex Exon, Carole Baume, Chris Williams, Paul Williams and Hiten Ganatra voted FOR it. Cllrs Geetha  Morla, Andrew Buckley and David Lewis voted AGAINST. The chair, Cllr Andrew Geary, abstained – although this morning on BBC 3 counties radio he insisted he was against it!

Is there something wrong with the planning system? What do you think?

Willen Lake issue on BBC and ITV news tonight as Milton Keynes Council decides


Watch out for reports on both BBC’s Look East news and ITV Anglian News tonight, 22 March, as MK Council’s planning committee meets to decide if the peace and beauty of Willen Lake will be preserved – or if a huge, noisy, ugly concrete works will be built just 100m from its shores.

Xplain set up the news coverage to raise awareness; as we met reporters this morning Willen Lake couldn’t have looked more peaceful. Tonight’s debate should be impassioned – and rational. Please come along to MK Council’s civic offices or click to follow our blog for news.

 

 

Concrete works risk polluting Willen Lake, Milton Keynes?


They might win friends by sponsoring local football clubs but the company planning to build a concrete works near Willen Lake has a murky record on pollution.

Mick George

Mick George with one of his trucks

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Listing bid puts spanner in works of concrete plant at Willen Lake Milton Keynes


Citizen piece Capture

clip from the Citizen 3/3/16

3 March 2016 …Controversial plans to build a noisy concrete works within earshot of Willen Hospice have been delayed while heritage experts consider Listing a nearby building – a 1970’s sewage plant. Continue reading

‘Scrub’ fit for parking or precious green space in Milton Keynes?


Tarmac or trees? Norfolk House, CMK (c) HvA

2nd garden for the chop between Norfolk House & YMCA housing, CMK (c) HvA

6 Feb 2016 According to its owners it’s a ‘poorly connected’ piece of grass and scrub which they need for executive parking. According to ecologists, landscape architects and experts of 20th century architecture, it is part of the living fabric of Britain’s most remarkable New Town – Milton Keynes – and should not be destroyed. Continue reading