A development brief that earmarks land for 1,500 new homes next to Milton Keynes’ Campbell Park has been approved despite local opposition.
The 16 hectares of land called Campbell Park Northside, opposite Downs Barn, has been on the books for use for the last 10 years, and the development brief is a stepping stone on the route to the diggers eventually moving in.
Cllr Mick Legg, Milton Keynes Council’s cabinet member for customer services, decided to approve the Campbell Park Northside Development Brief at a meeting on Tuesday (February 26).
But not before four members of the public appealed for him to change it.
Resident Gill Kirkup said: “I chose to live in the city centre and knew the land is going to be developed. I look forward to living in a vibrant city centre.”
But she did not have confidence that the council would protect the cycle tracks, underpasses and redways that she loves. And she already sees a deterioration of the city environment.
“The new John Lewis car park has been emptied of trees and vegetation. I feel that my council has not protected my area.”
Linda Inoki, of campaign group Xplain, said the brief ‘lacks clarity’ and was likely to lead to conflict between residents and developers.
She is worried that more surface pedestrian crossings in Skeldon Gate and Overgate would not be the “MK way” of doing things.
She said crossings, and the removal of parking spaces, would lead to delays on the single-carriageway Silbury Boulevard, which is a major route for buses heading into the city centre.
Cllr Rebecca Kurth, who chairs CMKTown Council, said that even though the document has ‘limited weight’ in a planning context, it would still be used by developers who had a lot of money to bring their plans forward. She urged that the document be clearer.
Cllr Andrew Thomas, also of CMK Town Council, wanted developers to have to pay for new underpasses and overbridges.
Tim Skelton, who used to be involved in the marketing of MK, and is now with the MK Forum, said the normal planning protocols had not been followed. “The brief should have been approved before the site is marketed. But it has been marketed and a developer has been chosen. Why was the protocol not followed?”
Mr Skelton also said it was “scandalous” and a “folly” to not reserve any of the site for a potential flagship employer.
“We seem to have lost the art of city building,” said Mr Skelton, formerly of the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
“We are now looking to double the size of the city and sites should be held in reserve to dangle in front of a major employer. It’s folly to drop this site for housing.”
He asked for the decision to be deferred.
Neil Sainsbury, MK Council’s head of placemaking, said any issues involving public transport and road crossings would have to be subject to a transport assessment when a planning application is lodged. A development brief does not prescribe precise details.
While he said that current underpasses and the redways will remain, he rejected the idea that pedestrian surface crossings were not the norm in Milton Keynes.
“There are seven at-grade crossings in Silbury Boulevard and it is standard practice for them to be used on 30mph roads in the UK,” he said.
There was also concern at the word “re-imagining”, which Mr Sainsbury said should be used by developers to find ways of using the city layout to integrate with the rest of Campbell Park.
Cabinet member Cllr Legg said the all-powerful Plan:MK had seen modifications by an planning inspector that meant “this will be a residential-led development”.
“I appreciate the Tim’s (Skelton) offer to work together but we have done our best with the consultation and this issues has already been deferred once. I will raise the issue of the protocol with officers.
“This development brief is a document for marketing the site and the fine details will be considered by the Development Control Committee. I agree the brief.”
The brief will now be considered by MK Council’s cabinet and eventually the full council.