Tag Archives: MK Council

Residents urge Milton Keynes Council to reject nightmare homes


two massive semi-detached houses where one used to be

This XXL dwelling now dominates the scene

Residents on a quiet street in Milton Keynes are urging MK Council to take a firm line with builders who flout planning rules, warning that otherwise no road, avenue or close will be safe from totally unsuitable development.

The planning nightmare started in a leafy cul-de-sac in Heelands, which for decades was a pleasant close of self-build homes. However, some years ago a builder who had originally built a 4-bedroom house started turning it into two semi-detached dwellings – mostly without planning permission. One has two bedrooms and the other has six, which has effectively doubled the size of the original house. There is also a 1-bedroom ‘outhouse’ in the back, while the garage and most of the front garden have gone. This massive dwelling is now fronted by an unsightly car park.

Yet even though this was done without planning permission the cheeky builder filed a retrospective application to regularise the development in 2019.

Fortunately, MKC refused permission. The senior enforcement officer even went on to assure delighted neighbours that the unauthorised works would be removed.

But MKC failed to act. Unbelievably, it gave the builder a second chance, and in May 2020 it allowed him to resubmit his retrospective application which had been rejected the previous year. The issue is coming to a head at this week’s planning committee.

“The property is completely out of scale and out of place in this cul-de-sac,” explains Dr Michael Devine, one of the objectors. “Indeed, it would be best suited as a factory unit on some industrial estate!”

Robin Bradburn, local ward Councillor, has also written to the Council describing this as an “ongoing saga of planning avoidance, retrospective applications and even granted applications which have exercised the patience of many residents” adding that “the residents view [this] as a person who flouts regulations without consequence.”

Curiously, local residents seem to have a firmer grasp of planning law than the officers. They have been pointing out, to anyone who will listen, that according to the Town and Country Planning Act applicants only have one chance to submit a retrospective application for something they shouldn’t have built in the first place, and if it is refused, that’s it. Game over.

Yet this applicant has got lucky. Not only did the planning department fail to spot his second attempt and throw it out but they are now recommending approval!

Residents say that they are stressed out dealing with this planning nightmare. But this Thursday, 16 July, they are relying on members of the planning committee to reject it once and for all, and to insist that the house is restored to its former state.

If not, what sort of message will it send out?
Dr Devine says “Unless this is refused, MK Council will be saying that anyone who buys a house in MK can convert it into two, larger dwellings without bothering to get planning permission beforehand, knowing they are likely to get away with it!”

Save Our Grid Roads!


Before and After - Countess Way (with text)

MK Council is steadily dismantling our famous grid road system.

Milton Keynes’ grid roads are clearly one our most important assets and vital to our success. The grid system consists of fast, safe roads separated from housing and commercial areas by beautiful landscaping with underpasses and bridges for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the roads in safety.

But over the past 10 years MK Council has made a series of disastrous decisions to replace our innovative grid roads with old-fashioned ‘city streets’. These have slower speed limits, traditional pedestrian crossings, and housing built right up to the roads, making for bleak, treeless landscapes.  These ‘city streets’ in the Eastern and Western Expansion Areas and around the Hub in CMK now suffer from the same problems as traditional towns –  parking,  congestion, and delayed

public transport.  (See ‘before’ and ‘after’ images from Broughton in the Eastern Expansion Area.)

Despite MK Council saying it has “learned lessons” it still on the same destructive path.  In a recent consultation 98.5% of MK citizens who responded objected to building more pedestrian crossings and voted for underpasses to be built between the Western Expansion Area and the rest of MK. Yet MK Council leaders have ignored public opinion. They have decided to keep millions in the bank gained from new housing development and build cheaper pedestrian crossings over busy grid roads (H4 Dansteed Way and V4 Watling Street) and to reduce the speed limit to 40 mph. Result? Danger, delays and traffic jams.

If you want to keep our classic grid road network quick, safe and green, please send an urgent message to all three political leaders in MK.

 

Please tell MK Council you want to save our grid road system by emailing the leaders of the three parties who collectively run MK Council:

peter.marland@milton-keynes.gov.uk

(Labour leader of the council)

douglas.mccall@milton-keynes.gov.uk
(Lib Dem leader in an alliance with Labour)

alex.walker@milton-keynes.gov.uk

(Conservative opposition leader)

No more City Streets!

●       No more dangerous pedestrian ‘Toucan’ crossings

●       No more housing built next to busy roads

●       No more concrete jungles

Below: “City street” Countess Way (top) was once part of the Chaffron Way grid road (below) before MK Council dismantled it. Is this the future we want for MK?

 

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.

new-point-image-00475511

‘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

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.

“I will not be forcing another Hub on CMK” vows senior Milton Keynes Councillor on Saxon Gate issue


At last night’s Cabinet meeting MK Councillor Rob Middleton (Lab.) told the public gallery “I can be clear; I will not be forcing another Hub on CMK!”

This is very good news for thousands of people who use Saxon Gate daily, and would certainly feel the difference if the surrounding access routes and leafy boulevards were lost, as at the Hub.

Saxon Gate montage

Xplain’s mock up of Hub-scale development on Saxon Gate

Cllr Middleton said “It’s important to listen, and I recognise the strength of feeling and commitment from the public responses to the consultation.” Hence, he is now “minded to remove” the option to build over the classic CMK infrastructure later this month, when the official guidance to developers is due to be finalised.

Predictably, this has been the most controversial option, as it involves demolishing Saxon Court and replacing it with a much wider, taller building that would obliterate most of the surrounding trees, public space and access routes.

Naturally, people have drawn comparisons between the ‘Hub’ development and the prospect of an equally overbearing presence on Saxon Gate. But Councillor Middleton said it had been right for the Council to offer a range of options as part of the consultation process.

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Saxon Court – part of MK’s modern heritage. (c) Iqbal Alaam

Councillor John Bint (Con.), welcomed Cllr Middleton’s announcement and said the Development Control Committee had also expressed concerns with the draft Development Brief.

There was also a positive signal on MK’s distinctive heritage. After Xplain and others wrote in, explaining the architectural significance of Saxon Court, which was carefully designed to mark the gateway to Central Milton Keynes, Council officers will now look into its heritage value. Hopefully they will revise their opinion that it is simply “a 1970’s office building” which “lacks any presence”.

It’s still early days, but for now, this is positive news for citizens who appreciate that MK is ‘Different by Design’.

published 7 March 2018

What’s your idea of a renaissance for Central Milton Keynes?


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.renaissance cmk

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.

Planning officers ‘for hire’ in Milton Keynes – but corruption risk ‘low’.


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.

Mr Brett Leahy

Mr Brett Leahy, head of planning

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!

 

 

 

 

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

 

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.

Continue reading

“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

Continue reading