Conservative councillors have called for a key development blueprint for 5,000 homes in the next big expansion of Milton Keynes to be delayed until a better masterplan can be made.
Milton Keynes Council’s Labour cabinet member for planning and transport says he is listening to concerns but decided at a meeting on Tuesday to put the Milton Keynes East Development Framework out for public consultation.
One of the three Tory councillors in attendance at the Delegated Decisions meeting, Cllr Peter Geary, said that the decision is “likely to get a call-in”, which would mean that the decision would face further scrutiny.
“I urge you not to put this document forward until we get a masterplan for the development,” he said.
Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) urged Cllr Gowans not to take the decision, saying it was “premature” and the development framework had been a “distortion” of the views expressed at workshops about the issue.
“We wanted it to have a centre, with no city streets, and to have a grid road around the outside,” said Cllr Bint. “But the framework shows nine estates, it appears to have city streets, and no grid road on the edge.
“It is a travesty because it does not represent the views of the workshops. Don’t do this consultation, unless you give people a right to object.”
But Andrew Turner, a council senior planning officer, said the workshops were a part but not all of the process of developing the framework. “The framework can never reflect the views of a particular body because we have to balance it out with other interests,” he said.
And after consulting with council officers, Cllr Martin Gowans, the Labour cabinet member, said: “I am taking what you are saying in mind, it is not my way or no way.
“The point of consultation is to get feedback and we do listen. If it doesn’t work we can then take steps back. I am not saying it is a done deal and that this is what I will put to cabinet.”
The council has already agreed to the principle of developing the triangle of mainly farmland on the Newport Pagnell side of the M1. It now has to have a development framework in place to be able to properly deal with planning applications.
At the same time it is waiting for an imminent decision from the government on a council bid for nearly £95million to pay for infrastructure in the Milton Keynes East Strategic Urban Extension (MKE SUE). This includes for schools and a controversial new bridge over the M1.
Anticipating that the money will be given, council planners want to be ready to be able to decide ‘in a timely manner’ on any planning applications that developers put forward.
Much of the land is already owned by developers, including Berkeley Group and Bloor Homes. The council is itself one of the patchwork of landowners in the 461-hectare site.
Cllr Gowans had already been advised that if the bid for money from the government is successful, the council could get its policy in place to be able to decide on planning applications.
As well as allocating land for around 5,000 homes, there would be 105 hectares of employment land, education and health facilities.
In the draft framework, planners are also looking at providing at least one district centre, a fast mass-transit system, and a linear park on the River Ouzel floodplain.