Regeneration ballot result will be the ‘start of the process’ says Milton Keynes housing chief

A Milton Keynes estate will not be 'punished' if residents do not vote for regeneration in a crunch two day ballot that starts tomorrow (Friday), says the man in charge.

Residents in part of Fullers Slade have been invited to vote to choose between three options on what they want the council to do in their area.

The regeneration ballot has divided opinions on Fullers Slade

The regeneration ballot has divided opinions on Fullers Slade

A fourth option on complete demolition was removed in the summer on cost grounds.

On Wednesday the council’s housing chief, Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), faced questions from residents about the ballot.

And he had a spiky exchange with Tory leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) over the council’s regeneration strategy.

Jeanette Marling, of the Lakes Estate in Bletchley, asked whether residents in Fullers Slade would be “penalised for rejecting regeneration.”

Cllr Long said there had been “under-investment in housing” over the years but now the council had £165 million to spend on estates across Milton Keynes.

“If residents vote for option one (no regeneration) the estate will be included in the council’s investment strategy,” he said. “Whatever the result I hope there will be a good turnout. The council is absolutely committed to investing the housing stock.

“Fullers Slade will get a good deal, whatever what they vote.”

Bianca Bendig-Ceesay, who chairs the Fullers Slade Residents Association, worried whether residents would be “living on a building site” for 18 years if they vote for regeneration. It has taken the council months to get a Portacabin in Fullers Slade and she scaled the time up.

But Cllr Long, who apologised for the delay in getting the community Portacabin in place, said: “I don’t believe it will take 18 years.”

And answering another resident’s question he said that the ballot result would only be the start of the process. “Residents will be working with the council, like they have on the Lakes Estate, to make changes.”

David Lee, secretary of the Residents of Regeneration Estates (RoRE) pressure group asked whether the costs that private owners had been given for work they would have to pay for included VAT.

Cllr Long said: “The matter will be looked at to ensure the right figures are in place. Home owners will have to meet costs. We can’t meet those costs for them as we have to spend on tenants.”

But he said the private owners may be able to get good deals if they opt into the contracts the council ends up using.

The council’s Tory leader, Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) and Cllr Long clashed over a decision to scrap a policy of wholesale estate demolition.

Cllr Walker said: “You have made a right dog’s breakfast of this, and I fear you will sick it up and make a hell of a mess.”

Cllr Long hit back, calling Cllr Walker a “third rate leader of the opposition” who was expressing “incoherent, obnoxious views.”

“We do not believe in demolition, it is foolhardy and destroys communities.”