Date pencilled in for demolition homes in Milton Keynes as party fault lines over regeneration continue to divide council

Residents of a block of flats earmarked for demolition will have to live there for nearly two more years before they finally get brand new homes.

Milton Keynes Council has put a date of December 2021 on when new homes for the residents of Serpentine Court will be completed, and January 2022 when it will be demolished.

Serpentine Court, in Bletchley's Lakes Estate

Serpentine Court, in Bletchley's Lakes Estate

Nearly 200 residents of Serpentine Court, in Bletchley’s Lakes Estate voted in November 2018 by a massive majority to demolish the run-down buildings. It has taken MK Council since then to draw up plans.

The council’s cabinet on Monday approved submitting a planning application which proposes changes in two phases.

The first phase of the £124 million investment involves building 589 new council and private market homes across the Lakes Estate, 191 of which will house council tenants in Serpentine Court.

The second phase will see Serpentine Court demolished and a range of other schemes across the Lakes Estate.

The cabinet meeting heard how the plans have divided the community, with some residents who don’t live at Serpentine Court not being consulted on changes that will affect them.

Jeanette Marling, who chairs the Lakes Residents Association said: “There has been little input from residents living near Serpentine Court. They are concerned about the height of the new development and building works.”

Councillors also discussed the council’s future regeneration strategy, which the Labour administration is moving away from proposing wholesale demolition of estates.

Once again the council’s two main parties clashed over the change of approach, which had been to regenerate seven estates before the ruling Labour group forced a rethink.

“It was a distorted approach,” said elected housing chief, Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West). “It would cost £500 million to knock them down and £500 million to rebuild.”

He said the whole approach had been about the council telling residents what was best for them. “We’re moving away from demolition to working with communities.”

But Conservative group leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) said the demolition approach had been backed by residents in the Lakes Estate and in Fullers Slade.

He said the council had suffered a destructive lack of resilience and leadership.

“The new strategy does not deliver. It is maintenance, and does not improve people’s lives.”

But Cllr Long said the Tories are “missing the point” which was to listen to what residents want.

He said demolition destroyed communities but that the approach did not rule it out, if that is what residents want.

And council leader Cllr Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton) said: “When we went to estates people weren’t letting us in the door, because they do not trust us.

“For the Conservatives demolition is a starting point and I think that is massively, massively wrong.”

But Cllr Walker added: “You are abandoning people in those estates.”