Victory for Milton Keynes landscape campaigners in planning blueprint

Campaigners looking to defend the Milton Keynes grid road system have won a victory against developers ‘re-imagining’ the city’s much-loved layout.

The Campbell Park Northside Development Brief had proposed the encouragement of crossings instead of underpasses in Skeldon Gate and Overgate.

Skeldon Gate, Milton Keynes

Skeldon Gate, Milton Keynes

It also opened the door to off-road parking areas being “re-imagined”, which campaigners feared could lead to homes being built close to roads and public transport routes being clogged up when people used the crossings.

Campaigners do not want to see more “city street” developments, like Countess Way, in Broughton, where homes are directly next to roads, not set back in the traditional MK style.

At a meeting this week, Cllr Mick Legg, the cabinet member for customer services at MK Council, agreed to cancel a decision that he made to approve the development brief at a meeting on February 26.

The issue caused such outrage that Central Milton Keynes Town Council, campaign group Xplain, and 20 members of the public led by MK Forum, objected during a five-day cooling off period.

It led to a mediation meeting, involving Cllr Legg, and a reference to the Strategic Placemaking Scrutiny Sub-Committee. The sub-committee met on March 21 at which Cllr Legg agreed to rescind the decision.

At a delegated decision meeting on Tuesday (April 2), Cllr Legg agreed to revisions in the Campbell Park Northside Development Brief. These included deleting the word ‘reimagined’ and surface road crossings in Skeldon Gate and Overgate.

MK Forum had objected to the loss of land that had been reserved for a major employer. But the forum withdrew its opposition after Cllr Legg agreed that the council would look for an alternative site, if a large company like Network Rail was looking for a base in the city.

Rebecca Kurth, of MK Town Council, and Linda Inoki, of Xplain, thanked councillor Legg for understanding campaigners’ concerns.

Cllr Kurth said: “This should result in development which won’t affect vehicle movements and public transport routes in Central Milton Keynes.”

They had feared that traffic would back up all the way to Portway (H5).

Linda Inoki said development briefs are key documents for planning decisions in the future. By setting the scene for developers now, she said it would avoid conflict when they come forward, spend lots of money, and then dig their heels in when objections are raised.

“It is better to get it right now, rather than rush it,” she said.

The plan also allocates land for 1,500 new homes, and the campaigners welcomed “good quality” housing in an environment which will stay as recognisably Milton Keynes.