Next stages of Milton Keynes estates’ regeneration will “continue to be led by residents”
Milton Keynes councillors and their officers say they remain committed to estate regeneration where residents play a leading role.
But how they make that happen was the subject of intense debate at Thursday’s meeting of the regeneration scrutiny committee.Some support the continued use of specially-formed regeneration steering groups (RSGs), while others are in favour of using established residents’ associations.
The committee was called together to discuss lessons learned from the recent ballot on Fullers Slade, where residents voted in a ballot in favour of an option involving some demolition of homes.But it has left private homeowners whose houses may have to be demolished under what one councillor called “regeneration blight”.
The ballot process led to arguments between the Fullers Slade Residents Association and the resident-lead Regeneration Steering Group. A similar situation has also caused arguments in the Lakes Estate.
Now, as the council gears up to submit a planning application in the new year for the demolition of Serpentine Court, and other changes in the Lakes Estate, and to starting work on the plans for Fullers Slade, attentions have turned to improving the process.
Cllr Charlie Wilson (Lab, Stony Stratford) supported talking to residents associations, rather than constructing regeneration steering groups.
“They have their roots in the community,” he said. “We made a mistake by bypassing them, which caused confusion, division, and arguments.”
But Cllr Terry Baines (Cons, Campbell Park and Old Woughton) said very few if any residents associations represented more than 25 or 30 per cent of local people.
“Except on Tinkers Bridge, where 80 per cent of people are members,” he said.
Michael Kelleher, the council’s head of housing and regeneration, said a revised strategy on regeneration will be made public in January, when it would be opened for another round of consultation.
The council’s policy to ditch wholesale demolition remains a fault line between the ruling Labour group and the Conservative opposition.
The Tories support giving residents the option of wholesale demolition of estates, while Labour says such a policy in the past has created fear and worry.
But Mr Kelleher said that he believed residents associations are the key, and the council intends to talk to them about what to do, instead of setting up RSGs. “The aim is that we put the residents at the heart of communities,” he said.
Aniekan Umoren, the council’s head of regeneration, said: “We have learnt lessons about the community, in terms of ensuring that we bring the community together.
“So having had the ballot at Fullers we are now looking to have a community-wide discussion about how we deal with the consultation for the next stage, which will be just as important in terms of delivering the design and the procurement.
“We need to make sure that whatever structure we want to use to make those decisions we have to agree up front before we begin.”