Tory councillors put spoke in the wheel of Milton Keynes' eastern expansion

Milton Keynes East
Milton Keynes East

Tory councillors have placed a huge spoke in the wheel of the council’s plan to lay the ground rules for the huge eastward expansion of Milton Keynes.

The current and former chairman of Milton Keynes Council’s Development Control Committee have called in a decision by a Labour cabinet member to put a draft blueprint for Milton Keynes East out for public consultation.

Milton Keynes East would see 5,000 new homes in the triangle of land on the opposite side of the M1 to Willen, and to the south of Newport Pagnell. If the council gets money from the government, it would also see a new bridge across the M1.

Cllr Martin Gowans, Labour’s planning and transport cabinet member, used his delegated decision making powers to start a six week public consultation processes for the Draft Milton Keynes East Development Framework Supplementary Planning Document.

The council wants to be ready by the autumn to handle developer planning applications for the land.

But now Cllr John Bint, the current Tory chairman of the Development Control Committee, and Cllr Keith McLean, last year’s chairman, have “called in” the decision. It now faces scrutiny at next Thursday’s (July 11) meeting of the Strategic Placemaking Scrutiny Sub Committee.

Councillors Bint and McLean say the framework is premature, and is “incompatible with the clear consensus wishes expressed during the recent workshops on the subject.”

They add: “The document in its current form is not fit to be the council’s proposal for the development framework and therefore should not have been approved as the version for consultation.”

They add that a six week consultation process is too short.

The Conservative councillors objected to a decision by Cllr Gowans at the Delegated Decision meeting on June 18 to have a brief adjournment to talk to council officers in private.

“This exclusion of councillors and the public from a vital part of the meeting has dubious legality and undermines confidence in the process, and should not have happened,” they say.

“For the above reason, the decision made by Cllr Gowans was procedurally seriously flawed and needs to be reconsidered, with all officer input either fully in the public domain or kept out of the public domain for proper reasons, none of which have been put forward in this case.”

Next week’s sub-committee has the power to either refer the item back to Cllr Gowans, not refer the item back, or refer its views to the council. The committee has two Labour members, two Tories, and one Lib Dem.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service was unable to contact Cllr Gowans for comment either by email or mobile phone before publication.