Category Archives: The Point

The Point – heritage for sale in Milton Keynes!

Hammerson, the tottering retail giant, has put one of the most popular buildings in Milton Keynes’ history up for sale.

The Point

Britain’s first purpose-built multiplex cinema (c) Mark Coster

‘The Point’ won a place in people’s hearts in the 1980’s as the very first leisure destination for the fast-growing new town. Not only was it somewhere to meet, eat, dance and watch films, it was also a beacon of the future and a sign of coming home. The Point’s famous red ‘pyramid’ of light could be seen for miles around!

But times change, and after various recent attempts to redevelop the five-acre site (including a lapsed planning permission for the new ‘piano’ building), the owners have now put it up for sale. The brochure describes it as a “brownfield redevelopment opportunity” with the potential to build around 450 flats.

The Point residential study sales brochure Capture
sketch from Savills’ sales brochure

However, while Central Milton Keynes has lots to offer, something it still lacks is a good-size venue for live music.

Fans of The Point would no doubt be delighted if the original building could be rescued as the heart-beat of an imaginative scheme, which included new homes. If only an organisation such as The Stables, champions of live music, could be tempted to open a new venue in this much-loved building! Surely, something like this would be a popular move, and would help the Council achieve its ambitious plans for a renaissance of Central Milton Keynes?

published 08/07/2021

From The Point to The Piano – the final designs to replace a Milton Keynes landmark are in! But will it ever be built?

Main elevation of proposed new Point, fronting Midsummer Boulevard

After years of debate and several stabs at the drawing board bosses at retail giant Hammerson must be praying for MK Council to approve the final designs for the new Point later this week (7 March 2019).

Since 2012, Xplain has been asking the architects to produce a distinctive, classy design that reflects the Modernist setting of MK.

Have they succeeded? We could always ask for more, but certainly this is a great improvement on earlier designs, including the ‘exploding Toblerone’ pictured below.

The architects explain that the ground and first retail floors provide a podium which the leisure box sits upon. The facades were “influenced by the natural rhythm created by pleached trees. The linear order of the trunks is replicated in the retail podium, with the more flowing [order] becoming the leisure box and roof terrace wrap.”

Design and Access statement

This is not as fanciful as it sounds. Milton Keynes is also known as a City of Trees, and if you squint your eyes, you might just imagine the dramatic pillars on the main facade as the tall trees holding outstretched arms.

The exploding Toblerone design – now ditched

Notable features of the latest designs include:

  • Rhythmic facades inspired by the MK grid, in grey and bronze metallic materials
  • Proper colonnades, instead of useless canopies, which provide weather protection and are a distinctive feature of CMK
  • A landscaped roof-garden which will be one of the first to offer public views over MK
  • The ability to project digital artwork on the new facades
Rhythmic blocks in ‘piano key’ design, with roof garden peeping above parapet to left
A wall of plants marks secondary access to roof garden

Xplain first suggested a roof garden at our very first meeting with Hammerson seven years ago. If built, it will be the first place where people can enjoy rooftop views over MK, hopefully along with some live music.

But even if approved on Thursday night, will Hammerson’s grand ‘Piano’ ever be built?

The company recently announced losses of £266m and, given the state of the retail and leisure market, the BBC reports further asset sales to ease debts. Could this prime site, in a relatively strong retail destination, be added to the list?

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

A fresh public workshop will take place on June 6th 2018 after Hammerson’s, one of UK’s biggest retail groups, failed to get their design guidelines for the new ‘Point’ approved by Councillors – despite the planning department urging its speedy approval.


‘Quality landmark’ to replace The Point?

Xplain, MK Forum and CMK Town Council waited three hours to make the case against approval at a late-night meeting of the Development Control Committee (DCC).

Xplain flatly contradicted Hammerson’s claims that they had fulfilled the Council’s requirement to produce a very high quality design in conjunction with local citizens. Linda Inoki, chair of Xplain, described how the applicant, “in total isolation from the community” produced their own Design Code which was designed to deliver the same, “garish retail shed” that triggered the condition in the first place.  Continue reading

What’s ‘The Point’ of having teeth if Milton Keynes Council doesn’t dare use them?

Britain’s first purpose-built multiplex cinema (c) Mark Coster

Back in 2014 there were so many objections to Hammerson’s sketchy plans to replace The Point with a giant exploding Toblerone (ok, a glorified retail shed) that, although they won outline planning permission, it came with conditions.The retail giant was told it had to listen to local people and produce an approved Design Code before filing the final, detailed plans. MK Council used this condition to ensure that local people had a real say in designing a decent replacement for this much-loved building in Central Milton Keynes.

But Hammerson did nothing of the sort. In fact, they did nothing for 3 long years while The Point crumbled away. Then, with their outline consent about to expire, the giant woke up. Arguing that this condition ‘artificially shortened’ the 3-year deadline to submit final plans they asked if they could put the cart before the horse. In other words, they wanted to file detailed plans first and the design code sometime thereafter. And instead of letting the application lapse, as it otherwise would, officers agreed.

So now Hammerson has up to two more years to sit on their assets which are obviously worth far more with planning permission than without.

Certainly, we can expect them to file a detailed ‘reserved matters’ application by the deadline of 17th Feb (their architects must be on overtime). But once filed, is it really likely they’ll listen to local people who might want a very different design code?

To Xplain, it looks as if MK Council has shown its teeth – only to hide them behind a wobbly smile.

Published 29 Jan 2018



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.


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.