Mark Lancaster-fromthehouse: Milton Keynes - A real City of Dreams

stadium:mk - just one of the things that makes Milton Keynes great
stadium:mk - just one of the things that makes Milton Keynes great

AS we all know, the area that is now Milton Keynes was designated a ‘new town’ in 1967. Many may not know that our burgeoning borough soon has a golden opportunity: to become the UK’s 67th city.

Milton Keynes, the newest and largest of the post-war ‘new’ boroughs, has clearly outgrown its new town tag. In 2012, the Queen is set to grant city status to mark her Diamond Jubilee. And it was revealed last month that, controversially, only one town will be crowned winner.

MK was disappointed in 2000 when Brighton and Hove and Wolverhampton strove to victory; in 2002 we were pipped to the post by Preston. But why is it so important for us to get city status?

Becoming the official city of Milton Keynes would finally recognise that we are in the big league, competing with places like Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and Cardiff. Such status would not only attract more people to come here, such as businesses. It would also be a fantastic reward for the people who have lived in MK and created it.

I also would argue that we are not just ‘up there’ nationally, but internationally. The inspirational Pete Winkelman put us on the global sporting map by securing World Cup host city status in 2009. In 2010, our own Formula One racing team, Red Bull, reinforced our sporting credentials by winning the drivers and constructors’ championships.

MK has paved the way in urban design and has been copied as far afield as China, envied for our unique grid road system and Redways. In fact, the architects behind Milton Keynes are working on replicating some of our urban design in Wuhan. Even our shopping centre is a Grade II-listed building, while our world-class Open University has pioneered distance learning.

Often in the public consciousness, Milton Keynes is used as a byword for artifice and modernity. We are not artificial; we are not new. We have a vast heritage, stretching from the Romans, through the Civil War to the Industrial Revolution and beyond. In fact Milton Keynes takes its name from the village which was actually mentioned in the Domesday Book.

It is accepted that the perseverance and genius that took place at Winston Churchill’s beloved Bletchley Park shortened the Second World War, saving countless lives. History here is living history: bustling Wolverton was the country’s first purpose built railway town; Newport Pagnell houses the country’s last parchment makers, who are still prolific.

So by May 27 of this year we need to have submitted a profile, arguing our case. In Parliament last month, one MP called a debate on granting city status to Perth in Scotland. As far as I’m concerned, there is no debate as to whether MK should be crowned a city: it’s our turn.

Anyone who has been here cannot fail to appreciate our diversity and dynamism. Luckily, Her Majesty has visited before – in 1979 to open the Civic Offices; then in 1992 to open the city church; and again in 2007 to open the Hub and stadium:mk. She will have seen how dramatically it has evolved over those years.

Failing all that, we could just hope that our monarch opts for the old ‘stick a pin in the middle of a map’ method. After all, centrality is one of our countless assets – MK was deliberately created to be equidistant from London, Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge).

In this instance, it could really pay off.

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