Billion pound Milton Keynes plan scrapped
The massive billion pound plan to regenerate 8,500 homes on seven rundown city estates is to be SCRAPPED by Milton Keynes Council, the Citizen can reveal.
Instead the council will focus on "building stronger communities" and improving the existing homes, Labour leaders have announced.
They had worked for years on planning the regeneration scheme, saying thousands of homes were considered to be in urgent need of repair.
The plan was to potentially demolish many old homes and replace them with new builds - some of which would be sold to help finance the project.
The estates chosen were Netherfield, Coffee Hall, Tinkers Bridge, North Bradville, Fullers Slade, the Lakes and Beanhill.
Today, in a complete U-turn, Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Nigel Long said the council was consulting on a "new strategy" that would involve gradual repairs and improvements rather than wholesale demolition.
He admitted the regeneration process has been "too slow" and has left people too worried about their homes being demolished.
He said: "Proposals being considered will specifically remove the threat of wholesale demolition on priority estates with more targeted work on specific sites and longer term investment. Physical changes will still be possible, but on a more gradual basis with the emphasis instead placed on improving existing stock and small scale rebuilding and remodelling, if approved by residents as part of a masterplan."
Regeneration work has already started on the Lakes Estate and Fullers Slade, and this will continue as planned, said Cllr Long.
"But in future the council will be looking for a lighter touch on physical changes, and more focus on working with residents to improve skills, find better jobs and estate improvements," he said.
He added: "Regeneration in the old Your:MK model will end. We will be consulting on a new way forward that will give residents certainty that wholesale demolition will not happen, and so hopefully we can change the focus to skills, jobs and estate renewal. Investment will be the proposed priority now.
“It has become fairly obvious that the current process is too slow and that the word “regeneration” has become mired in negativity around demolition no matter what the council says.
"We need to draw a line under one era, and start a new one that is free from the fear of wholesale demolition. We will be bringing forward our proposals for consultation soon, both with our communities and within the council.
"We are clear that we want to move forward with regeneration, but move to a focus on jobs, skills and better life chances. Yes, we will improve estates, yes we will build new houses and yes, we will be spending £165m on improving our housing stock. But the clear and overwhelming message from residents is that if we want to change the conversation to other things we need to be clear to people that wholesale demolition is not an option and regeneration is about more than bricks and
"We will be investing in people and your estates, not destroying them.”
But Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker said he was "fuming" about the change of heart.
He said: “Labour have abandoned regeneration and they should be ashamed. The party that claims to be for the many has effectively given up on delivering real change for some of our most disadvantaged communities."
Cllr Walker added: "The regeneration project could have worked, it can work, communities can forge a better future, instead Labour's inability to lead will mean Milton Keynes will be a city of two worlds. A fast growing rich economy but with some of the most deprived estates in the country, ignored for another generation.
"A new door or new bathroom to the odd Council house will not improve the life chances of people in our disadvantage estates. Estates where young people fall behind at school, are highly unlikely to go to university and who have a life expectancy seven years younger than the national average"
The Conservative Group is now considering all options to protest, including a vote of no confidence.
"We are proud to stand for regeneration and we will fight to keep it alive," said Cllr Walker.