Back in time to 1992 when the creation of the new city of Milton Keynes was declared 'complete'

Thirty years ago this month Milton Keynes Development Corporation was officially dissolved, having done its job of creating our massive new city.

By Sally Murrer
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 2:06 pm

In a Transfer of Property and Dissolution Order coming into effect in April 1992, the Secretary of State for the Environment declared himself satisfied that the Corporation (MKDC) had “substantially achieved” what it set put to do – create a city from scratch.

Formed in March 1967, MKDC had overseen the construction of 44,000 houses, planted 14 million trees and shrubs, provided more than 100km of new grid roads and built 230km of unique cycling and walking routes known as Redways.

At its peak the Corporation employed 1700 people, including the most visionary architects the country had to offer – none of whom had to be over the age of 40.

An early sign for the 'new city' of Milton Keynes

Its guiding principles were laid down in the Master Plan for Milton Keynes, which decreed the place should be defined as a “city in the trees”, where no building should be higher than the tallest tree.

This was radical thinking during a time when multi-storey flats and tower blocks were dominating the landscape of other large towns, but it became the basis on which the city was designed..

However, decades later planners changed their minds and elevated the permitted height, deciding MK needed "landmark buildings”.

Today more and more high rise structures are dominating the landscape. Planning permission was recently granted for a 33 storey tall tower block of flats to be built within a new development that will form a gateway to Central Milton Keynes.

An aerial view of new estates being built in the 1970s

The Master Plan for Milton Keynes identified six broad goals. These were: opportunity and freedom of choice, easy movement and access, and good communications, balance and variety, an attractive city, public awareness and participation and efficient and imaginative use of resources.

It described how the town should be centred around a grid of streets and boulevards approximately two kilometres long by 1 kilometer wide. Unusually, the entire master plan worked on the metric system rather than the imperial system favoured at the time.

There were also radical proposals for transport in the Master Plan, at least one of which has come true today,

It suggested “light weight electric cars for local traffic within Milton Keynes” as a possibility for the future, along with a fixed track system, such as a monorail, to run along grid roads.

The concrete cows, built in 1978, rapidly became an iconic symbol of the new city of Milton Keynes

Facilities for local people included bus stops, shops, pubs and schools grouped at points where the main pedestrian routes cross the main roads. The Plan called these ‘activity centres and vowed that every resident should be within six minutes walking distance of at least one such centre.

When the corporation first formed, there were around 40,000 people living in the existing towns and villages in the designated area. The task was to create a new city capable of ultimately housing 250,000 people.

Once MKDC’s task was completed, the government transferred control of Milton Keynes to the Commission for New Towns, which later became the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

Ironically, the one thing MKDC did not achieve in building of the new city was the right to actually use the word city.

'No building should be taller than the tallest tree', vowed MKDC. Decades later, this is the 33 storey block of flats planned for CMK

Today, 30 years later, MK Council is hoping its fourth bid for city status will be granted during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Fishermead in the 1970s