Redevelopment plans at central MK buildings could ‘ruin’ iconic sculpture say residents

Ashton House, on Silbury Boulevard, central Milton Keynes, PNL-150707-172517001
Ashton House, on Silbury Boulevard, central Milton Keynes, PNL-150707-172517001

Plans to redevelop land outside two prominent buildings in central MK could ‘ruin’ one of the city’s icons and its unique architecture according to opponents.

An application has been submitted to turn some of the green space around Ashton and Norfolk Houses into 83 new car parking spaces and add a new metal structure to the four-storey glass wall of Ashton House, on its frontage with Silbury Boulevard.

Octo infinity sculpture in central Milton Keynes. It was created by artist Wendy Taylor as a memorial to Lord Llewelyn-Davies, designer of Milton Keynes. PNL-150707-172528001

Octo infinity sculpture in central Milton Keynes. It was created by artist Wendy Taylor as a memorial to Lord Llewelyn-Davies, designer of Milton Keynes. PNL-150707-172528001

A new pedestrian walkway will be extended out into the car park on Silbury Boulevard, replacing some of the existing public parking spaces.

The plans also include removing the pool around the Octo figure of eight infinity sculpture at the east end of Norfolk House and redesigning the garden area that houses the artwork.

Octo was made by artist Wendy Taylor and was unveiled in October 1983. It is a twisting ribbon of stainless steel which is based on a Mobius strip. It is a memorial sculpture to Lord Richard Llewelyn-Davies, who designed Milton Keynes.

In the application to MK Council, applicants Commercial Estates Group said concerns over health and safety meant the pond under the sculpture had to be replaced with a grassed area.

But people opposed to the application said the changes would ‘ruin’ the Octo sculpture and the pond was a key part of it.

Architect Adrian Morrow said in a letter of objection to Milton Keynes Council the reflective pool of water around the Octo was ‘vital to the sculpture and its setting’ while another opponent said Octo and its park was an ‘iconic image of Milton Keynes’ and called plans to remove the pool ‘misplaced.’

Other opponents said the loss of green space would result in permanent harm and would ‘damage the setting of a very important piece of architecture which captures the modern history of Milton Keynes.’

In the development brief, Commercial Estates, who bought both buildings in June last year, said it was carrying out a number of improvements to the buildings to encourage more firms to move in. Several offices in the building are empty. One of the offices in Norfolk House has been empty since Deloitte moved out in 2006.

It also added that there was no dedicated parking for the buildings and although there was parking available around the buildings, it was heavily used.

It said: “It is considered that the addition of these spaces to Ashton House and Norfolk House will increase the attractiveness of the buildings for occupiers, leading to an earlier occupation of the buildings, and hence additional employment within the centre.”

The plans are expected to go before Milton Keynes Council’s planning committee this month.