War of words over the future of Milton Keynes city centre land

Community groups are at odds with council planners over the future use of 16 hectares of undeveloped land north of a Central Milton Keynes beauty spot.

The Campbell Park Northside Development Brief will set the scene for the sale of the land to private operators, and what the council will eventually allow to be built on the site.

Campbell Park Northside

Campbell Park Northside

The site is owned by the Milton Keynes Development Partnership (MKDP), a limited liability partnership set up and owned by Milton Keynes Council.

One major difference of opinion is over whether the site should be entirely for housing or have some scope for a major use, such as future university expansion, or for an international company headquarters. Council planners have opted for “largely residential purposes”. They say it is in line with the overarching Plan:MK.

Rebecca Kurth, who chairs CMK Town Council, said even though Plan:MK had been approved, it was still possible for the council to take a strategic view. “Even though Plan:MK has been approved, they can still have their cake and eat it too, if they decide to set land aside, and increase the density of housing.

“Where would we accommodate the next Network Rail if all the sites have gone for housing?”

CMK Town Council said it supported the council’s aspiration to develop the northern flank of Campbell Park but “strongly objects” to plans to promote a ‘residential-led mixed use scheme’ in one of three blocks of land.

The town council and others support plans for “major developments of strategic importance, such as a university campus, major research or similar institute or international headquarter offices or government establishment which would raise the profile of Milton Keynes nationally and/or internationally.”

The town council’s response continues: “It is astonishingly short-sighted of the council to allocate (the land) for the easy option of residential development for which Milton Keynes has ample land.”

The town council had proposed a scheme which has the flexibility to accommodate a major extension of MK:U or a new entrepreneurial hub for spinoffs from MK:U, for example, over the next 20-50 years.

“Instead, the brief treats this prime city-centre location as a suburban ‘residential-led mixed use scheme’, no different from Oakgrove.”

MK Forum also objected on the same grounds. Their response said they were concerned that the brief “looks at Campbell Park Northside at an apparently superficial level in that it appears to consider what might be appropriate for the site itself in isolation of its context within the rest of MK in general and CMK in particular.”

It added: “If MK wishes to attract high quality employers and compete with other locations then we have to be able to offer high quality sites.

“The continuing growth of MK will place an even greater emphasis upon the primacy of CMK and the sustainable need to have major employers within the city centre rather than dispersed through the urban area.”

But council planners say in response that “The brief is certainly not treating the development like Oakgrove – it will attract an entirely different sector of demographic to Oakgrove, it will be built at much higher densities and not have a school.

“These matters have been considered in detail through the Plan:MK Examination and this brief is consistent with the proposed Main Modification MM14 which states that ‘the northern side of Campbell Park will be developed for largely residential purposes.”

Councillor Mick Legg, the cabinet member for customer services, will be deciding whether to approve the Campbell Park Northside Development Brief at a meeting today (Tuesday).