Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Submission to Parliamentary Urban Affairs Sub-Committee by Milton Keynes Council



    —  Milton Keynes is larger, later and at lower gross density than other UK new towns.

    —  The visual impact of the town is very strong, especially the landscape and road system.

    —  Its dependence on a grid road system is not found in other new towns.

    —  Its low density and grid systems produces poor bus services.

    —  A dispersed landuse pattern further undermines bus viability.

    —  Milton Keynes' road and landscape layout is illegible and people get lost.

    —  The city's landscaping was often severely overplanted, now needing radical interventions.

    —  The city centre (Central Milton Keynes) and local centres were generally commercially focused, with little emphasis on quality of citizens` lives, inclusion, diversity, etc.

    —  Central Milton Keynes is only now benefiting from recent proposals for remodelling and diversification.

    —  Interventions by Milton Keynes Development Corporation in Milton Keynes' older towns were few and generally unfortunate.

    —  Experiments in non-traditional building types left a legacy of mistakes, particularly in public housing.

    —  Urgency to build rapidly produced expedient quick-fixes that have not lasted, or have needed remediation.


    —  An expensive infrastructure that looks nice but costs.

    —  Extensive 70s infrastructure is now prone to synchronised obsolescence.

    —  Milton Keynes older towns doubly disadvantaged—accelerated obsolescence particularly in Bletchley.

    —  The ongoing cost of running Milton Keynes was not part of the design, with many unfunded and underfunded elements.

    —  The unsupervised network of redways, indirect and under-used, encourage a fear of crime now being tackled with Thames Valley Police.

    —  The city centre is not geared up to 21st century and 18 to 24 hour activities now becoming normal.

    —  Skewed demographic patterns, both very young and very old populations, put unusual pressures on services.

    —  Service provision is volatile, having to stretch across declining older areas and rapidly developing new ones.

    —  Milton Keynes currently runs one of the largest new school-building programmes of any LEA.

    —  Facilities are no longer provided up-front by a well-funded Milton Keynes Development Corporation (community development, burials, waste).

    —  Planning gain on an estimated £100 million disposals by English Partnerships each year is not available to subsidise new facilities.

    —  Under the current Standard Spending Assessment regime, the data lag results in "lost" funding for 6,000 residents, equivalent to £3.6 million per annum.


    —  Milton Keynes is very car friendly great if you have one, or two (25 per cent of households did not in 1991).

    —  There is a disincentive to use public transport, which therefore has compound decline.

    —  Milton Keynes' city centre (and elsewhere) promotes expectation of free parking.

    —  Those without a car face compound disadvantage (40 per cent of households in some areas).


    —  Villages subsumed into Milton Keynes have generally done well, and represent delightful fragments of the past.

    —  Towns subsumed into Milton Keynes fare much worse, with accelerated obsolescence.

    —  Only Stony Stratford, medieval coaching town, has found a niche.

    —  Intervention into older towns was limited and often destructive, typically in Bletchley and Wolverton.

    —  Milton Keynes thus simultaneously faces pressures for new town development and traditional regeneration.

    —  Other new towns have received more investment to older areas (Central Lancashire; Peterborough; Warrington) than Milton Keynes.

    —  EP has only latterly become interested in helping renaissance and regeneration in Milton Keynes Bletchley, Wolverton, Central Milton Keynes.


    —  New Towns are traditionally the home of New Town Blues, exacerbated by the very social mobility that represents their economic strength. Family stability is shakier and support networks are weaker than those in traditional communities.

    —  Minority ethnic communities (such as Milton Keynes' Bengladeshi community) tend to live in older areas with least amenities.

    —  There is significant relative disadvantage in some newer estates, despite low unemployment.

    —  There is a continuing need for more affordable homes in the borough, in the light of steeply rising homelessness.

    —  There is concern at demographic "churn" in public housing areas, evidenced by school enrolments.

    —  There are increasing problems in private rented areas, especially pressures to integrate asylum seekers.

    —  Mobility poverty is significant in some areas (up to 40 per cent).

    —  Milton Keynes provides strong energy standards in new areas, but there is energy poverty in older homes.


    —  There is no coherent democratic steer of MK development.

    —  Milton Keynes has seen a recent slow-down of housing completions, more noticeable in English Partnerships-owned areas.

    —  The local planning authority does not receive fees on much English Partnerships' generated development, with consequent reduction in support for planning services, and availability of planning gain under section 106 Agreements.

    —  The local authority (LA) has very few assets to redeploy and make work more effectively.

    —  English Partnerships' clawback denies the LA development value, or even ability to recycle receipts from Right to Buy sales.

    —  The LA has responsibility to deliver housing numbers, but English Partnerships has the control of land release to achieve them.

    —  English Partnerships' clawback also penalises Registered Social Landlords, as additional to Housing Corporation clawback.

    —  The LA, though it may be consulted, has no control over major developments that might have impact (eg prominent new buildings; predominance to users putting HGVs onto Milton Keynes' roads).

    —  The LA has enforcement responsibility for development authorisations over which it has no control or influence and which generally carry no planning conditions.

    —  Land-banking of reserve sites prevents their timely use.

    —  English Partnerships' ransom strips provide a veto to further development outside the designated area.


    —  English Partnerships currently have assets in virgin land; serviced land; clawback on disposed sites; covenants on disposed sites.

    —  All city centre highways are in English Partnerships' ownership.

    —  Assets have been transferred, but only to meet obligations and subject to clawback.

    —  Some transferred assets prove to be liabilities.

    —  Time-expired commuted sums no longer help to mitigate liabilities.

    —  Some assets have had to be sold back to English Partnerships to generate receipts and reduce clawback.

    —  Transfer of English Partnerships' assets would unlock tremendous value and allow costs and values (from growth) to be offset.

    —  Transfer would provide major empowerment of the local democratic process.

    —  Transfer would also represent a major LA capacity challenge that would need to be addressed.

    —  Transfer would provide a major opportunity for local partnership.


    —  English Partnerships manage most new development.

    —  What is built is often to high sustainability standards, energy specifications, etc.

    —  More efficient use of land is now flowing from increasing densities.

    —  English Partnerships have until recently not recognised the needs for regeneration, and have yet to fund it locally.

    —  Generally, in the absence of LA resources, little regeneration is done.

    —  Traditional economies have collapsed bricks in Bletchley; rail in Wolverton.

    —  The Regional Development Agency has been quicker on the uptake than English Partnerships, though still limited.

    —  In view of the regional economy, Milton Keynes has been eligible for little if any selective regeneration funding.

    —  There is now the prospect of some application of English Partnerships' value from Central Milton Keynes, provided English Partnerships' returns can be assured.


    —  Milton Keynes is the centre of a strong and growing sub-regional economy, largely driven by the success of new town development.

    —  Generally Milton Keynes has a balanced economy with little sectoral preponderance.

    —  Milton Keynes is also at the margins of three regions, with consequential communication and co-ordination problems.

    —  SEEDA, the South East England Development Agency, identifies Milton Keynes in their Regional Economic Strategy as a powerhouse of the region; other neighbours are more cautious.

    —  Business and Economic Partners see the economic catchment, not the administrative MKEP covers North Buckinghamshire; Bedford carries an MK postcode; Milton Keynes Council is collaborating with Northants on integrated service delivery.

    —  Milton Keynes can be the economic nexus across the admnistrative boundaries of three regions.

    —  Milton Keynes is central to the meeting of housing needs in the South-east.

    —  Milton Keynes is the key both to NS and EW connections, within the Milton Keynes & South Midlands planning study, and the Oxford to Cambridge Economic Arc.


    —  English Partnerships is a creature of Government policy but is no longer the key to urgent completion of the New Town.

    —  Milton Keynes is essentially a creature of green field development restricting this (eg through Planning Policy Guidance 3) effectively removes Milton Keynes' potential to meet regional housing targets.

    —  Milton Keynes' housing performance is slipping, largely due to English Partnerships' performance.

    —  Milton Keynes needs greater planning flexibility to deliver housing targets.

    —  Government funding regimes mean that the number of affordable homes has slumped in recent years, leading to significant local unmet need.

    —  Regeneration policy targets the most deprived LAs and overlooks many of the more localised or dispersed examples of deprivation prevalent in Milton Keynes.

    —  In an under-resourced world, Milton Keynes needs resources to target its most deprived.

    —  Despite low registered unemployment, Milton Keynes needs to be able to target the low-paid, especially those disadvantaged by poor accessibility.

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Prepared 16 April 2002