ENGLISH Heritage is against the proposal to build Primark in Central Milton Keynes – because the development is too small.
The government advisory board has said in its latest report to Milton Keynes Council that more than 40,000sq metres of shopping space will be needed to meet the town’s growing population between 2016 and 2021, and that the Primark development at Secklow Gate would need to be worked on again in order to meet those demands.
It also claims that between 2021 and 2026, a further 41,563sq metres of retail space will be needed.
The report states: “If these predictions are correct, then a major development far larger than that currently proposed will be necessary and meeting future demand will have to involve redevelopment of the grid squares to the south of the shopping building.
“While we would not contest that a significant expansion of the retail offer may be necessary to maintain the competitiveness of the town centre in the medium term, the development currently proposed is not large enough to address this issue and could only at best serve as a prelude to greater things.
“We believe that the proposals are tailored to the needs of a specific retailer and do not meet the long-term needs for retail expansion in Milton Keynes, nor do they enable this expansion to take place.”
Lobby group Xplain have been vocal in their opposition to the development, citing the demolition of Secklow Gate as one of their key concerns.
English Heritage had previously approved an earlier plan for a new development which would see the bridge and market make way. While that plan has since lapsed, they claim that shoppers find it ‘romantic’ to see lorries driving over the bridge from down in the shopping arcade, and should therefore keep it in place.
It reads: “While early concept sketches envisaged that the road would pass under the building, the design architects turned the challenge of the road into an opportunity by using the elevated road to service the shops from above. This added a romantic touch, shoppers inside the arcades could look up and see lorries moving past the building carrying in new goods.
“We are mindful that English Heritage supported a previous application, granted but now lapsed, for a much larger extension that also involved the demolition of Secklow Gate.
“The previous application was a much more ambitious scheme which would have met Milton Keynes Council’s aspirations for retail growth for the foreseeable future.”
Linda Inoki, leader of Xplain, said: “Evidence of serious damage to MK’s past history, present advantages and future opportunities continues to mount.
“There is a groundswell of public opinion in favour of rejecting these alien plans and protecting the original features of CMK. Refusal is actually the best way to attract quality development while retaining valuable infrastructure, heritage assets and jobs in MK market.”
However, thecentre:mk have dismissed the English Heritage report and believe the plans they have in place for the development are well suited to deal with Milton Keynes’ growing population.
A spokesman for thecentre:mk said: “We reject the letter submitted by English Heritage and are surprised by their findings. Thecentre:mk has worked with the Heritage team at Milton Keynes Council to develop an application with a subterranean level for the Primark to restrict the visual impact this would perceived to have caused.
“We are confident that robust protection of the iconic nature of the building has been preserved in the design of the Primark and reject the notion that opening up the land to the south of Secklow Gate can be in any way damaging to the long term heritage impact of the city; indeed we contend that it will enhance the local heritage aspects.
“Our proposals have received overwhelming local support with over 9,000 people signing our recent petition and we remain convinced that this development is critical to the regeneration of the central area of Milton Keynes.”