Labour in Milton Keynes defends “city of half a million” plan against Tory critics

Labour has defended its support for a boundary-busting vision that would see a “Metropolitan” Milton Keynes grow from 315,000 people today to a city of 500,000.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 6:25 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 2:06 pm

Conservative critics of the Milton Keynes Strategy for 2050, which was launched on Monday, called for it to be binned on Wednesday.

“When we do take control of Milton Keynes Council in May this strategy and the race to 500,000 by 2050 will be put in the bin,” said Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker at Wednesday’s full council.

The strategy, which also sees the creation of a £1.1bn Mass Rapid Transit public transport system, is out for consultation.

The council is looking at how to fund a 1.1billion "Mass Rapid Transit" system of road trams

MK Council is looking for comments by April 17, just before May’s round of local elections.

The Conservatives believe the policy is unpopular in the city and is one of the political differences between the parties that will help propel them to control of the council at the polls in the spring.

But council leader Cllr Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton) said the housebuilding figures are based on numbers imposed by the Conservative central government.

Cllr Marland asked why Cllr Walker was “sticking up for rural North Buckinghamshire”.

The strategy imagines how a Metropolitan MK might emerge

He says council has to build new homes, the question is how and where.

“He can’t go round consistently sticking up for rural Buckinghamshire without the knowledge that if places on our borders aren’t going to take that growth with a proper conversation, then it will have to come within our boundaries,” he said.

“That’s his choice: High-density growth in our boundaries or proper planned growth.”

Cllr Marland added: “Alex knows deep down that the numbers proposed within the MK Futures 2050 document are more or less the numbers that are being imposed on us by central government anyway.

“When we are faced with proposals like Salden Chase and Shenley Park, I believe that we should have had a prior conversation with those in the traditional Milton Keynes way.”

Outside of the council chamber, the strategy has come under fire from MK’s two Conservative MPs, Iain Stewart and Ben Everitt, and neighbouring Buckinghamshire.

Although the MPs support “new housing to meet local demand”, they believe these plans have not been properly thought through.

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South), said: “We have over 20,000 unbuilt new houses already agreed. Why are we not concentrating on building those, and then taking time to think about what additional housing might be needed in the long-term?”

Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) said: “We need to protect our green spaces and ensure that local transport and public services are able to cope with extra demand.”

Tory-led Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) and Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) say they are “very concerned”.

Angela Macpherson, leader of AVDC, said council had its own plans and these “are unhelpful”, while Martin Tett, leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, said: We are ambitious for Buckinghamshire, but any growth should be where we decide.”