Category Archives: Milton Keynes

Derek Walker’s legacy: a Milton Keynes state of mind


Early morning, Campbell Park, Central Milton Keynes (c) Caroline Brown

Early morning, Campbell Park, Central Milton Keynes (c) Caroline Brown

Architect Derek Walker, who passed away in the early hours of Monday morning, leaves behind a remarkable legacy in Milton Keynes. Not only a pioneering City of Trees, built on a grid – but also an MK state of mind.

“Milton Keynes has the most passionate, informed, determined people who care about their city that I have ever seen.” So said Paul Hunt, head of John Lewis in MK, speaking shortly before the country’s first ever vote of its kind. This was the referendum on a pioneering plan for the future of an entire city centre – Central Milton Keynes.

Here is a plan that defies convention; it was not produced by salaried officers but freely created by local people; business leaders, community groups and experts in their fields.

And the very first policy in the plan? To protect the city’s unique, original framework of grid roads, leafy boulevards, safe pathways and green open spaces for future generations to enjoy.

This framework is just part of the legacy of Mr Walker, who assembled a talented team of architects to turn the windswept fields of Bradwell Common into a city. Less than 50 years later, CMK is a regional powerhouse; home to 3,000 residents and 35,000 workers, as well as wildflowers and birds.

On May 7th, just four days before Mr Walker passed away, nearly 90,000 people across Milton Keynes voted a resounding YES to keep this vision alive.

Yes, we were voting for growth. For well designed housing, innovative transport and bringing more heart and soul to CMK. But we were also voting yes because we believe in Milton Keynes.

The memory of Mr Walker lives on – in our blossoming City of Trees.

Infinite possibilities, CMK

Infinite possibilities, CMK

Want more heart and soul in Central Milton Keynes? Then don’t miss the MK Referendum on 7 May!


Viva CMK! Venezualan family barbers in Market Square!

Viva CMK! Venezualan family barbers in MK Market

While CMK has leafy boulevards, plenty of chain stores and sheep grazing in Campbell Park, it still lacks a certain something. How about more local shops? Independent eateries? More places to hear live music, socialise or just relax without having to spend lots of money?

Now, all these things are a real possibility thanks to a pioneering Business Neighbourhood Plan, the first of its kind in the country, which goes to a Milton Keynes-wide referendum on May 7th.

Significantly, the plan has NOT been produced by officers at MK Council but by local people with a great passion for their City of Trees.

Local business people, architects, entrepreneurs, community groups and individuals have spent two years crafting the plan under the democratic banner of Localism. After all this (unpaid) effort they hope it will both boost the flagship of the regional economy and give it more heart and soul.

Local fashion show, CMK (c) Anne-Louise Mellor

Original MK style. (c) Anne-Louise Mellor

Highlights include a new Market Hall (perfect for artisan bakers),  new civic square, more community centres and a sleek new public transport shuttle to get you from the Station to John Lewis and back in an easy hop.

180,000 residents and 7,000 businesses have been invited to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to adopting this Plan at the polling stations on May 7th. But apart from people who live in CMK (or follow Xplain) most people still have no idea what it’s about.

Don’t miss your chance! Watch the short video on the Vote Yes for CMK website set up by local volunteers.

It might even encourage you to go to the polls!

Parks for Cash melt-down in Milton Keynes. A win for the people but big threat remains.


Faced with furious residents, bad publicity and united political opposition, the cabinet of Milton Keynes Council finally agreed at a full Council meeting on 25 March to revise its controversial proposals to build infill housing on green spaces.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREBut the threat remains and there is new evidence that the 60 or so sites listed in the controversial ‘Site Allocations Plan’ is just the tip of a powerful iceberg.

Xplain has discovered that, without involving ward councillors, parish councils or – of course – the residents most affected – officers have already earmarked an additional 160 sites across MK as further ‘development opportunities’. A few are brownfield sites but many others, such as parks in Woostones, are not.

Worried about a green space near you? You should be!

Read on for some frequently asked questions. All the answers are based on information Xplain has dug out, by attending Council meetings, scouring reports and direct inquiry.

Q: What’s this controversial ‘Site Allocations Plan’ (SAP) all about?

A: Ostensibly, to fill a gap in the delivery of just 1,000 new homes over the next five years. (However you will struggle to find this extremely modest figure in the official report because it isn’t there!)

Q: But isn’t this is a drop in the ocean? MK is full of building sites!

A: Correct. According to a recent Council blurb, MK will proudly deliver “28,000 new homes in the next few years”. In another bit of good news, the Council announced they had received a reward of £10.6 m from central government for its annual New Homes Bonus (up £2m from the year before).

Q: Surely the Council can find enough brownfield sites to house the ‘missing’ 1,000 homes?

A: Indeed it can. The first SAP (completed Sept 2014) earmarked enough space for 3,000 homes. None of them were Council-owned playparks or other open spaces of the kind they subsequently went on to list. However, just a few days after the first list had been completed the Council offered up a slice of its own landholdings for a second list, amounting to space for another 8,000 homes!

Q: So why did MKC suddenly throw all these controversial sites in the pot?

A: At an Executive Scrutiny Panel (26 Feb 2015) a senior officer argued that there is no planning policy to protect this type of public space from development. (He omitted to mention there is no policy that says you have to build on it either!)

Q: So the Council had no need to put any of these green spaces forward at all!

A: Correct. It simply chose to do so. Even though it immediately jeopardised the peace of mind, quality of life and property values of hundreds of residents, and, if adopted, would set a precedent for selling off similar sites throughout MK.

Q: There must be some reason for putting people through all this stress.

A: Simple incompetence? Or a cunning plan to turn liabilities into assets?After all, selling off the equivalent of village greens for infill housing would not only cut Council landscape maintenance costs but also put cash in the bank.

Q: I don’t live near any sites listed on the second Site Allocations Plan, so why worry?

A: Because this is the tip of the iceberg. If they can get away with it this time, in Stantonbury and Springfield, they can get away with it anywhere.

Q: How?

A: The hidden part of the iceberg is the innocent-sounding ‘Land Categorisation’ project which covers the entire borough.

Several years ago this began as a sensible stock-take of all Council owned land. However at some point it has morphed into a dangerous ‘policy’ to earmark sites for potential sale; a policy pursued without a public mandate, without transparency and  without common sense.

As of winter 2014, all council land in MK has been classified as Strategic Open Space, Development Opportunity or Minor Open Space, “in order to help the Council in rationalising its future land assets.”

Parish by parish, green space and even busy car parks have been picked off as potential development sites. Officers have got their crayons out and coloured in the maps! But none of these maps has been discussed with ward councillors or parish councils – even the ones busy producing Neighbourhood Plans.

Xplain has seen three of these multi-coloured maps and, after pressing for their release, was assured by MKC on March 31 that all of them would be published on the Council website. As of 16 May, they are still behind wraps.

So the threat remains, along with the biggest question of all:

Why has Milton  Keynes Council been pursuing an unofficial policy to sell off so much of the public’s green estate, in a much-loved City of Trees, with no public mandate?

Milton Keynes Councillor denies threat to sell off parks is a “dash for cash”. But public anger rising.


MK Councillors faced a storm of protest on 26 Feb 2015 over plans to build infill housing on pocket parks, children’s play areas, allotments and even Station Square, the gateway to Milton Keynes.
The public gallery was packed as the Executive Scrutiny Panel reviewed Cllr Mick Legg’s decision to put the controversial sites out for consultation on the Site Allocations Plan. None of the residents overlooking these spaces had been contacted by the Council and it later emerged that the Council had no intention of writing to them about the ‘public consultation’ process either.  Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Residents voiced anger and disbelief that open green spaces and civic squares had ever been considered for infill housing, let alone moved one stage closer in a process that  lacked transparency.

A 10-year old schoolgirl told the panel “Our parents won’t allow us to go to the other park because it’s not safe. A friend got killed trying to cross the road. We don’t want any more children killed because you want to take away our park.”

Senior officer Bob Wilson defended the Plan saying there was no planning policy to protect these sites. Cllr Mick Legg (Lab) lamely tried to insist that the best way of ruling out these pocket parks was to put them on the list without any prior consultation with residents.

However members of the Scrutiny Panel repeatedly challenged the legitimacy and logic of this argument.  Cllr Andrew Geary (Con) described it as a “gross misinterpretation” of planning policy, saying there is “nothing that leads the Council to erode the principles on which MK was built, including its grid roads and open space.”

Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem) said “don’t be fooled by the word consultation” and warned that the Plan represents a threat to public open spaces across MK.

Significantly, it became clear that the Council’s planning department and Cabinet had had no obligation to put any of these sites forward for infill housing, but instead had chosen to do so.

Although the Site Allocations Plan is designed to fill a five-year gap in delivering 1,000 new homes, there are already 28,000 homes in the pipeline, and the first round of Site Allocations had found sites which more than plugged the gap, so why this unexpected attack on the City of Trees?

Linda Inoki, chair of Xplain, also addressed the meeting and demanded answers; “What is going on and who is responsible for putting hundreds, if not thousands, of residents through all this stress, without a mandate and without transparency?”

Finally the cross-party panel voted to put the controversial Plan on hold and give the entire Council chance to examine the matter.

The issue will now be debated on Weds 25 March, 7.30 in the main chamber, Civic Offices, near Library in CMK. Public welcome. Go to public gallery, first floor, via stairs or lift.

So the anxiety continues for everyone whose outlook could change from trees, grass and sky to ‘back to back’ housing, and for everyone who recognises this is a threat to the character and continued success of Milton Keynes.

 

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How people saved parks in Detroit


Here’s an inspiring story from Detroit where people power saved threatened parks. See Huffington Post. A topical lesson here for the people of Milton Keynes where civic spaces throughout the successful new town are suddenly under threat.

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’?

PARKING BOMBSHELL FOR CENTRAL MILTON KEYNES


PARKING BOMBSHELL FOR CENTRAL MILTON KEYNES

1 Dec 2014

MK Council is planning to hike parking charges in CMK: up from 40p to 50 p per hour for purple standard rate bays, and from £1.40 to  £2.00 per hour for red ‘premium’ bays. The cost of buying CMK employee permits will also go up, as discounts will be cut from 50% to 25% by 2017/18.

These details are in the draft budget due for Council discussion 8 Dec. and open to public ‘consultation’ until end Jan. But last time the Council hiked rates to this extent, in 2011, they simply ignored warnings from businesses, workers and residents and the result was acres of empty parking spaces. People voted with their wheels. Trade fell in the city centre, and just as predicted, hard-pressed workers migrated to nearby residential roads searching for free parking, which still causes problems for people living near CMK.

However, if people do eventually pay up, this would raise Council parking income to £14m p.a. with some of the surplus used to invest in more off-street parking.

MK News recently launched a ‘Fair Parking’ campaign to bring the plight of office workers to the attention of MK Council. But has this given the Council the perfect ‘excuse’ to raise rates? The consolation prize is providing another 2,000 parking spaces. But where would they be? When delivered? And what form would they take? Hopefully not a lifeless, multi-storey car park on a prime site. Or a badly-lit, litter-strewn temporary car park, which makes a shabby welcome to CMK.

Local Tory leader Edith Bald has hit out saying the price hikes will ‘seriously damage the economy of the city centre’ and, by implication, of the entire region. CMK is the engine of the regional economy, but it’s already in danger of stalling due to competition from the uncontrolled rise of out of town developments (offering free parking) and failed parking and public transport policies.

This year, MK Council started a full parking review for CMK, promising an entire package of smart solutions to be revealed in 2015. But judging by this latest bombshell, let’s hope the current Labour cabinet, just like the Lib-Dems in 2011, have not been blinded by fool’s gold!

Note: xplain is not linked to any political party – we just tell it like it is.

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!