AFTER spending 18 months closed off to traffic and with hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on repairs, Secklow Gate bridge could be demolished after all.
It has emerged that thecentre:mk has submitted a pre-application for plans to take over the land to build a huge new department store just four months after the council finally re-opened the controversial bridge following a fire in January 2010. Council Chief Executive David Hill has since apologised for the delay in repairs.
The centre’s plans would see the new development built over ground currently taken up by market traders and would close off the only route directly through the town centre.
The plan states: “The development comprises demolition of part of Secklow Gate, between Silbury Arcade and Midsummer Arcade and the existing units beneath them within thecentre:mk.”
Linda Inoki, leader of citizens’ lobby group Xplain said that she’d always suspected that something was afoot when the bridge was not immediately repaired and re-opened after the fire.
She said: “We always knew there was something going on behind the scenes and this just proves it.
“It’s quite astonishing that so much money was spent to keep the bridge closed for 18 months and now, just a few months down the line, plans emerge to demolish it completely.”
Dr Rebecca Kurth, chair man of Central Milton Keynes Town Council, also has serious concerns about the plans. She said: “At first sight thecentre:mk’s plans raise many serious concerns. Having a healthy retail business in CMK is important, but it’s not the only consideration.
“These plans would have a far-reaching impact on transport in the city centre, on the future of the outdoor market, and on a much-loved listed building of national importance.
“The CMK Town Council is considering the implications of this news as a matter of urgency.”
Jonathan Weymouth, Development Director, thecentre:mk, said that the development would bring hundreds of new jobs, as well as a new major retailer, to Milton Keynes.
He said: “We are really excited to hear what people have to say about our plans. The proposals for the extension reflect exactly the type of development that the original architects and designers had in mind when they designed the centre in 1973.
“By utilising the space at the Secklow Gate site, the important features of the listed building are respected while still facilitating the creation of a new and modern retail space, which will help to further enhance the current retail offer in the centre. We are already in discussions with a number of major retailers about the proposed development.
“We believe this continued focus on development will not only help to create new jobs, but will also help to maintain the competitiveness of Central Milton Keynes to both consumers and new retailers, while creating a vibrant mix of value and high end outlets.
“It’s really important that everyone comes along to the consultation and offers their feedback on our proposals next week.”