Milton Keynes charity outlines plans to put green spaces to use to make money

Redundant leisure facilities next to the Inn on the Lake public house, Mount Farm, are among sites being considered
Redundant leisure facilities next to the Inn on the Lake public house, Mount Farm, are among sites being considered

A charity which cares for Milton Keynes’ green spaces has concluded a two-year consultation looking at ways to put the land to use to make money.

For two years The Parks Trust has been consulting with parish councils and local stakeholders about alternative uses for some areas of its land in order to generate income to continue to invest in the features and facilities people want in the parks.

The charity that cares for over 5,000 acres of MK’s green spaces has now concluded that it wishes to consider future options for just six sites and will not be proceeding with any plans on the remainder of the sites it initially identified.

The six sites are:

Landscape adjacent to the National Badminton Centre, Loughton Lodge

A disused car park off the V11, adjacent to the M1

A redundant temporary football pitch at Kiln Farm

Redundant leisure facilities next to the Inn on the Lake public house, Mount Farm

The watersports and leisure area at Willen Lake South

The car park at Glebe roundabout, south east corner of Campbell Park

David Foster, chief executive of The Parks Trust, said: “Many people have wondered why the trust would ever contemplate alternative uses for any of its land but, as a self-financing charity we’re entirely responsible, at no cost to local taxpayers, for raising the £5 million a year it costs to maintain our parks, woods, lakes and landscapes.

“Like many businesses, the financial crisis in 2008 hit us hard and our investment fund lost around 30 per cent of its value so we had to have a plan to rebuild our assets in order to safeguard the long term future of MK’s parks.

“Our recovery plan included cutting costs where we could without reducing the quality of the parkland; exploring new ways to generate income from our land; borrowing to expand and enhance our commercial property portfolio; and reviewing all our land to see if there were any areas that were not essential to the park network and might be considered for alternative use.

“We’ve listened to the views of local people and have also been working on our long term financial strategy, and we are pleased to say that our finances now look much healthier than they did in 2008.”

The next steps for five of the six sites (the Loughton site having already secured planning permission) will be to work up proposals and then undertake further consultation. The V11 car park is likely to be brought forward by Western Power Distribution in the next few months but the other four sites will take at least a year before any proposals are ready.

Mr Foster added: “We’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time and trouble to understand our position and to give us their thoughts and ideas over the past two years. This has been a challenging time for the trust and we want to reassure people that everything we do is driven by our desire to provide fantastic parks forever. Like all charities we’re governed by charitable objects so the money we earn can only be reinvested into the further care of Milton Keynes’ parks now and in the future.”

More details on the six sites:

Landscape adjacent to National Badminton Centre, Loughton Lodge

The site was brought forward in the process by Milton Keynes Council who worked with Badminton England last year to secure planning permission for residential development on our 7.41 acre site which will help fund the development of a new National Badminton Centre at the Bowl. The land in question is background landscape sandwiched between two busy roads and, although it is not unattractive, it is not an integral part of the park network or of significant wildlife interest.

A disused car park off the V11, adjacent to M1

This small car park between the M1 and V11 has been closed off and unused for many years due to anti-social behaviour. We understand that Western Power Distribution is likely to require this site to accommodate an electricity substation to provide power supply infrastructure for new homes and employment sites for the growing city. In principle we would support this change of use provided it is well landscaped, the leisure route through the site is diverted and an alternative car park for this part of the park network is provided.

A redundant temporary football pitch at Kiln Farm

This site is surrounded by industrial units and is not in a residential area. It used to be a temporary football pitch for Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s sports and social club but hasn’t been used for this purpose for many years. The playing surface is very poor and there are no longer changing rooms attached to it.

Redundant leisure facilities adjacent to the Inn on the Lake Public House, Mount Farm

The freehold of the pub and associated sports and leisure facilities at Mount Farm were transferred to the Trust when it was set up in 1992 as part of a portfolio of income earning assets that would help pay for the maintenance of the green estate. The pub continues to generate rental income for the Trust but the sport and leisure facilities have not been used for many years and are not commercially viable. We intend to explore the idea of some institutional facility on this 4.94 acre site, perhaps a nursing home or a nursery along with some improvements to the adjoining council-owned parkland and lake that could be made into a better asset for Bletchley.

The watersports and leisure area at Willen Lake South

Willen Lake is one of the most popular leisure destinations in MK and has over 1m visitors a year. Over the next couple of years we intend to consult on a masterplan to show how we could upgrade the leisure facilities in the area around the café and watersports area to provide more and better toilets, food, drink and some new attractions.

The car park at Glebe Roundabout, south east corner of Campbell Park

This 1.23 acre site, currently used as a car park, has outline planning permission for a residential development as part of the wider development of the Campbell Park area. Any development here would need to be of high quality reflecting its importance as a gateway to Campbell Park. It would also need to complement the Milton Keynes Development Partnership proposals for their development sites either side of Overgate (which will include additional public open space and connections to Campbell Park).