August start date for consultation on Milton Keynes eastern expansion

A council Cabinet member has accepted that he needs to go back to square one over a planning blueprint for building 5,000 new homes in the eastern expansion of Milton Keynes.

A special scrutiny sub-committee meeting was held at Milton Keynes Council on Thursday after two Conservative councillors objected to the launch of a consultation on a key planning framework document.

Milton Keynes East

Milton Keynes East

The expansion would see MK expanding over the M1 and into the land south of Newport Pagnell.

Councillors John Bint and Keith McLean, the current and former chairmen of the Development Control Committee, lined up witnesses to challenge Labour’s Cllr Martin Gowans’ decision to consult on a document they said was flawed.

Cllr John Bint (Broughton) said: “This plan is bland, transportable, and placeless, and it is incompatible with the view of workshops held to discuss the issue.”

He said he did not support the view that the Strategic Placemaking Scrutiny Sub Committee that the Draft Milton Keynes East Development Framework was “only a consultation document”.

And he added that it ought to be the best the council could present from the off. “Do not create a bad document and hope that the public will proof-read it for you,” he said.

The main points at issue came down to whether six weeks was long enough for a public consultation exercise over the summer months. And there was also a debate on there being no specific mention of MK-style grid roads, although council officers said they were in under a different name.

Cllr David Stabler, of the Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils, said a six week consultation was too short, and broke agreements with parish councils to have consultations last 12 weeks. With the August holidays coming, the next time parish councils would meet would be in September.

And, speaking on the issue of MK-style wide grid roads, Linda Inoki, of pressure group Xplain, wanted assurances that the expansion area would not include city streets, like Countess Way, and Fen Street, where homes are not set back from roads.

“You are setting off on the wrong foot,” she said. “Please, just pause for thought.”

Cllr Martin Gowans (Bletchley East), the Cabinet member for planning and transport, said there was a need to move quickly because the Government, and a key planning inspector want the new homes to be built.

His argument was that instead of presenting a perfect document it could be altered as a result of the consultation.

“It is clear that the Government and the planning inspector expect us to get on with the job, and that is what we are doing,” said Cllr Gowans. But he accepted that six weeks was too short.

“I am happy to change it to a longer period, to the end of September. I am happy to make sure it is the right length of time,” he said. But Cllr Gowans added that the Cabinet intends to adopt the re-drafted document at its meeting in January.

The meeting heard that if the council finds out that it has been unsuccessful in applying for £94m of Government infrastructure funding, there will be no need for the consultation.

It then became the task of Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney), who was in the chair, to find a compromise.

The committee agreed that Cllr Gowans would be able to make a new decision at a Delegated Decisions meeting on Tuesday, August 6, allowing the consultation period to start the next day. It would end on October 16, giving officers enough time to make amendments before the key meeting of the Cabinet.

In the meantime, council officers agreed that before August 6 they would make changes to the document, including publishing a picture of a grid road.