Battle lines drawn over a bridge too far

Secklow Gate re vamp display in Middleton Hall''Last shots are with Robert Hall Centre Director
Secklow Gate re vamp display in Middleton Hall''Last shots are with Robert Hall Centre Director
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BOSSES at thecentre:mk remain committed to knocking down half of a city centre bridge despite public opposition.

Retail chiefs are convinced that a plan to slot in a 90,000 sq-ft three-storey Primark in the Secklow Gate gap is a vital key to unlocking the potential of the whole central Milton Keynes area.

The bridge, which is a part of the city centre’s much-loved grid road system, is one aspect of the initial scheme that went out to consultation that chiefs have not budged on.

Robert Hall, the centre director, said: “We understand it is a controversial issue but it is the key to unlocking the potential in the heart of the city.”

But residents who visited the public dispay of plans on Friday remained implaccably opposed. The other half of the bridge would remain in place as a route to deliveries to Primark and for access to the rooftop road used to deliver to the 230 other outlets at the centre.

Former bridge inspector George Harlock, from Woolstone, whose whistleblowing lead to the closure and repair of the Secklow Gate bridge said: “I think they are messing up the centre.

“It is a blinkered developer view and they need to take a wider view of the city centre.

“I cannot see Milton Keynes becoming a backwater. We need to maintain what we have, we shouldn’t be taking roads away. The whole Primark building is out of keeping with the rest of the centre. They are taking a narrow commercial view of it. They should put the Primark in the Food Centre, which is dying.”

But Jonathan Weymouth, development director at thecentre:mk, said Milton Keynes has slipped to 39th place in national shopping destination rankings, behind places like Livingston in Scotland, Guildford and Cambridge and needed to reverse that trend.

The shopping centre does however remain in the top 10 for retail spending. And the £40million Secklow Gate investment, is seen as a way of maintaining that.

Mr Weymouth said: “You cannot be complacent, you’ve always got to look forward.”

Robert Hall, centre director at thecentre:mk added: “Fifty three million people visit the city centre every year, that’s including Xscape and the Theatre District but only about half that number come to thecentre:mk.”

He believes by demolishing the bridge and relocating the market in a fully open area that part of the centre will become much more a place both visible and attractive.

He added that data has shown that when the bridge was closed for 18 months for repair it did not harm traffic flows.

He believes the nature of shopping is changing drastically as people see it as part of a family day out. As that change happens, he believes that the different parts of the centre need to work together so Milton Keynes doesn’t lose out to other regional centres.

A planning application will be submitted to Milton Keynes Council for councillors to decide.