Developers have won their fight with the council to turn part of an office block above Central Milton Keynes railway station into 200 flats.
A government planning inspector said that Milton Keynes Council had not taken the opportunity to comment on transport, flood risk and noise assessments prepared by the applicant, a company called Permitted Development No 13.
Planning inspector Alexander Walker in his decision notice, announced on October 18, said: “Based on my own observations on site and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I find no reason to dispute the findings in each of these documents.
“Consequently, I find that the proposal would not have any unacceptable impact on transport and highways, contamination risks or flood risk.”
Mr Walker decided that the developers do have automatic permitted development rights. The issue of offices being turned into flats is a growing issue in Milton Keynes, but the Station House application has been particularly controversial because of potential parking problems.
Cllr Amanda Marlow (Cons, Loughton & Shenley) asked, at last week’s full council meeting, to know exactly what went wrong with the council’s case at the planning appeal.
She added: “As Loughton & Shenley residents already suffer daily with commuter parking, the addition of 200 flats, with inadequate parking on the site, is undoubtedly going to have a negative impact on our residents.
“How do we ensure that the Loughton Controlled Parking Zone isn’t going to be further impacted negatively by the inspector’s decision?”
Cllr Martin Gowans (Lab, Bletchley East) holds the council’s planning and transport portfolio, and said he was worried about how turning offices into flats could change the city. He has called on council officers to carry out a detailed review and report back.
Cllr Gowans said: “This kind of permitted development coming forward could drastically change the way our city centre is, and in my opinion, not in a good way, because they are providing homes that are not a home where anybody would want to live in.
“In the case of Station House, I think it’s appalling that such a scheme could go ahead.”
On parking he said the council has two cars with number plate recognition technology which will be used to enforce controlled parking zones in the city.
Cllr Gowans said there are a “number of empty office blocks” subject to these changes and the council wants to be able to respond to them “having learned those lessons.”
After the meeting, Cllr Dan Gilbert (Cons, Loughton & Shenley) said: “MK Central Train Station is the strategic gateway to the city and it is astonishing to think that the ball might have been dropped at this critical juncture.
“There is some small relief for nearby residents. The developer has committed to establish parking spaces for new residents so there is not unplanned parking all around the station and adjoining Loughton. The planning inspector requires the council to sign this plan off as a condition.”