As the American saying goes – why predict the future when you can make it? Take a look at this artistic short film by The Gray Circle produced to celebrate and question Chicago’s past and future for the Zaha Hadid pavilion. Daniel Burnham, the architect who built the Flatiron and other superb skyscrapers, wanted every citizen to live close to a park. In 1909 he published ambitious plans to make Chicago a beautiful city – only parts of which were built. MK may be a lot smaller and younger than Chicago but the parallels are there. Please let me know what you think.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Although 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.
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…
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).
What do you think? Should MK Council heed the warnings and refuse this deeply flawed scheme?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
It 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.
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/
One 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?
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.