MK Council is promoting their idea of ‘Renaissance’ for CMK with the image below. Find out more at today’s drop-in session at Acorn House, Midsummer Boulevard, MK9 3HP, 4.00 – 6.00, 6 March, including plans for a new university opposite Sainsbury’s.
MKC says, “Some early projects will help to deliver Renaissance:CMK’s, including the redesign of the Midsummer Boulevard East area south of The Centre:MK and the development of a “Gateway to MK” in the Station Square area. Other projects include the proposed Hotel LaTour development, the development of additional private rented sector housing at the Wyevale site (D4.4) and the Stirling development at blocklet B3.3N.”
The Council’s controversial option for replacing Saxon Court with a much larger development has also been cited as supporting Renaissance CMK.
The people of Milton Keynes are used to madcap moments in the planning department, but the latest idea has got heads spinning. Go on the Council’s website and you can see a line up of planning officers with ‘premium service’ booking fees attached. Now, instead of having a distant officer assigned to their case, applicants can choose their own. Prices for the new service range from £150 for a minor application up to £7,500 for a ‘super-major’ planning application, handled by a senior officer.
Fortunately the Head of Service, Brett Leahy, is not available for hire.
But although Councillors who sit on the scrutiny committee feel that the risk of corruption is low, some have admitted to the local ‘Citizen’ newspaper that it doesn’t look good.
Of course, many applications are decided in public by elected committees rather than by officers working behind closed doors. But not as many as before, due to other controversial ‘improvements’ in the way applications are processed.
But surely, despite applicants paying extra, the great tradition of neutrality in public service is as strong as ever? Well, you might like to read a recent article on the Royal Town Planning Institute’s blog called ‘How One Planning Department is smartening up their customer approach’. The smart author says, “Now more than ever local authorities need to use all the commercial tricks of the trade to generate income and capture repeat business from satisfied customers.”
Would this be the same Brett Leahy that tried to gag objectors at planning committees while extending rights for applicants? Indeed it would!
Despite a rise in traffic jams, accidents and parking issues around the ‘Hub’ development in Central Milton Keynes, and the £2.1m cost of altering highways*, MK Council (MKC) is gearing up for a similar project at Saxon Gate.
Saxon Gate is one of the busiest gateways to CMK. Here, opposite Debenhams, the Council owns Saxon Court; a subtle piece of Modernist architecture it now wishes to sell. But instead of promoting the most sustainable option (to refurbish the heritage building and develop the empty site at the back) the Council’s Draft Development Brief firmly steers would-be investors to option 3.
This is to demolish Saxon Court and build a huge new development right up to the grid road, wiping out most of the side streets. If these tributaries of the grid road network disappear, they take with them:
- direct access to and from the grid road (Saxon Gate)
- 400 public parking spaces
- dedicated footpaths and cycle routes
- around 140 mature trees.
Is CMK destined for another Soviet-style project, looming over bleak, deforested boulevards? Will frustrated drivers stop on grid roads to drop off a parcel or pick up a passenger, jamming up traffic and causing accidents?
Unless Council leaders persist in this corporate amnesia there is still time to change the development brief.
PLEASE SEND YOUR VIEWS on the future of Saxon Gate to MK Council by the consultation deadline of 5 pm Fri, 16 Feb to this officer:
Why not copy your Ward Councillors too? You can find them on the Council website via find my Councillors
* “Lessons Learnt”, published by MKC’s Urban Design Department, 2011
Council planning officers are still trying to silence dissenting voices and take more powers to decide applications behind closed doors.
After facing universal condemnation for trying to rush through public gagging orders last autumn the same cheeky officers have now produced a Survey Monkey ‘consultation’ which is full of loaded questions.
If you trust these people to make fair decisions, that’s fine – do nothing. But if, like Xplain, you think that local voices are vital to good development then please see our pitfall guide below, and fill in the official MK Council form before 5 pm, Weds 4 Jan. Continue reading
29 Sept 2016
Last night senior officers faced “a wall of condemnation” for trying to push through sweeping changes to planning in Milton Keynes.
If officers had succeeded, the changes would have stifled public dissent, stopped elected councillors hearing from objectors at planning committees, and handed draconian new powers to officers to approve or refuse applications without having to involve an elected committee at all! Continue reading