Regeneration is a 'toxic' word in Milton Keynes

Some councillors think the word ‘regeneration’ has become so toxic in Milton Keynes that they need to change it.

They believe that multi-million pound plans to replace homes in seven estates across the city have been so badly handled that a whole new approach is needed.

Serpentine Court

Serpentine Court

Former Milton Keynes Council leader Kevin Wilson (Lab, Woughton and Fishermead), represents an area where several council estates face ‘regeneration’.

“I want the word regeneration replaced with something more community inclusive,” said Cllr Wilson at the Scrutiny Management Committee on Wednesday.

“The word ‘regeneration’ has become synonymous with the word ‘demolition’. The moment that you raise the spectre of ‘regeneration’, residents think that you are hiding something.”

He said the whole issue has become a poisoned chalice for the council.

“There is a danger of the whole regeneration programme going into the quicksand if we are not careful. The word itself has become toxic.

Plans to regenerate huge swathes of the city have already involved the council admitting problems, which Cllr Wilson called a ‘rescue attempt’.

Committee chairman Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park and Old Woughton) said the issue would have to be referred to the council’s cabinet to decide whether a rebrand or relaunch would help. “It would have to be a cabinet decision,” he said.

At the same time, the council is reviewing the way it consults with the community on issues. The scrutiny management committee hauled cabinet member Mick Legg over the coals on Wednesday, where he admitted that the single biggest complaint against the council is over planning.

“We need to come up with a better system,” said Cllr Legg, who admitted that in consulting over regeneration the council “got things wrong” and that this did not show the council with its ‘best face.’

Having admitted errors with the regeneration programme, he said that the cabinet is now ‘moving forward’. But he was not asked about the use of the word regeneration. That discussion followed, after he had left the meeting.

Now the council is shaking up the way it consults and with whom, and trying to find ways to define and to measure success. They are also looking for more professional input, from the council’s communications team, on refining its processes.

One aspect of planning consultation that councillors find particularly galling is that when people make long representations on planning issues they can be greeted with a one-word reply: “Noted.”

Cllr Norman Miles (Lab, Wolverton) said: “We need to up our act.”