Princely plan causes battle over Agora building

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A dream inspired by Prince Charles’ love of architecture has ended in a right royal rumpus over one of Milton Keynes’ biggest eyesores.

The subject is Wolverton’s controversial Agora Centre, which has been awaiting demolition for years.

This week the building’s fate prompted a war of words so heated that a warning of legal action has been issued.

Firing the threat is Bletchley-based developer Brickhill Estates, which bought the dilapidated Agora last year and applied for planning permission to fill the site with more than 100 flats and shops.

Accused of damaging words are residents behind Future Wolverton, a 118-member group pushing to improve the historic railway town.

They are objecting to Brickhill’s £15 million scheme because they say it does not match a ‘dream plan’ drawn up three years ago with the help of the Prince’s Foundation, the architectural standards group founded by Prince Charles.

Prince’s Foundation advisor Jonny Anstead was recruited via a government grant to help devise a neighbourhood plan for the town.

The unloved Agora made such an impression that his own development company wanted to buy it – but was pipped to the post by Brickhill Estates.

This week Mr Anstead said his company called Town, which outlines its thwarted plans for the Agora on its website, had no involvement in the current protest.

Future Wolverton director Marie Osborne said: “It is nothing to do with Jonny. We object to Brickhill Estates’ plan because it is contrary to the neighbourhood plan and it is not what the people of the town need or want.”

Ms Osborne confirmed Future Wolverton had received a letter from lawyers threatening action over comments on its website and Facebook page.

“It is not a nice feeling to be threatened like this,” she said.

Brickhill Estates boss Neil Hollingworth told the Citizen: “Wolverton is in danger of passing over a once in a generation opportunity to regenerate their town centre, to bring massive economic benefits, jobs, and make Wolverton a viable destination.”

The planning application has been welcomed by the Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council and was recommended for approval by Milton Keynes Council officers this month.

But it was adjourned at the eleventh hour because paperwork was not ready – prompting committee chairman Andrew Geary to admit: “This is embarrassing.”