Contractor to build dozens of new homes on site of bulldozed iconic building in Milton Keynes
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A contractor has this week been appointed to build dozens of new homes on the site of the former Agora building in Wolverton.
The move has been announced by Milton Keynes City Council, which has invested £36m in the regeneration scheme.
Willmott Dixon will build 88 homes and 31% of these will be affordable, says the council.
The development will include eight new shops for local businesses, car-free ‘little streets’, a pocket park for residents and visitors, and an energy microgrid that generates two-thirds of the annual energy needs of the development on-site.
Instead of car parking, there will be a sustainable mobility hub, which will includes an electric car club and bike hire facility.
A City Council spokesman said Willmott Dixon had been taken on to “review and finalise the design” the scheme, which comes under the banner of the Love Wolverton project.
The scheme was originally due to be developed by a company called TOWN, who obtained planning permission for the design. But Milton Keynes Council had to suddenly step in with millions of pounds worth funding last year.
The reasons were never made clear but are thought to be financial. Meanwhile, TOWN are still classed as ‘development managers’ for the project.
Wolverton councillor Rob Middleton, who is also Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “It’s brilliant news that the City Council has secured an industry-leading contractor to deliver the Wolverton regeneration, especially at a time of economic hardship when construction inflation has hit the sky.
"This is testament to the hardworking City Council team, development manager TOWN and the pioneering scheme that has already made Wolverton stand out on the national stage.”
He added: “Construction of the Love Wolverton scheme will bring hundreds of workers on site for several years, which will in turn give a big boost for our high street and local businesses. Then, once the scheme is complete, we can expect to see a real buzz in the town centre with more independents opening up shop. This exciting regeneration scheme will give Wolverton a new lease of life, enhance its sense of community and ensure it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
He said work is expected to begin in the late summer.
The new homes will be "high density but low-rise" and the plans have been described as "a 21st Century blueprint for town-centre living."
The Agora Centre was built in 1978 by the then Milton Keynes Development Corporation to replace the old market hall in Creed Street.
It was intended to be a thriving meeting place and market venue, but critics swiftly dubbed it the ‘white elephant of Wolverton’ and complained that it cut the town in two.
During the 1980s, the Agora became a roller skating rink where regular roller discos were held. Though many people have happy memories of the roller rink era, the building always been described as the ‘marmite of the town’ – people either loved it or hated it.