Plans for a major expansion of one of Britain’s best known “new towns” were dropped from the Budget at the eleventh hour after heated objections from a government whip and a defence minister, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
Iain Stewart and Mark Lancaster, the Tory MPs for Milton Keynes, opposed proposals for some 100,000 new homes on the outskirts of the town, over fears that an influx of residents could clog up its roads and overburden the local hospital.
Mr Lancaster told The Sunday Telegraph that while he was “in favour of planned development and sustainable growth” for Milton Keynes, the Government needed to be “very careful” about how it allocated large numbers of homes to the area.
The interventions by both MPs led to the plan being pulled from the Budget a week before it was delivered by Philip Hammond last Monday, after months of discussion with the Labour-led local council.
Talks are now being resumed at a more gradual pace with the hope of reaching a deal to which Mr Stewart and Mr Lancaster will consent.
The row highlights the Government’s battle to gain local support for new developments as it attempts to meet Theresa May’s target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
Milton Keynes, which is about 45 miles north-west of London, was designated as a new town in 1967 to help to relieve pressure on the capital’s housing.
Ministers had hoped to announce a deal to expand the town as part of the Government’s plans to build up to one million homes in the “corridor” between Cambridge and Oxford.
Under the proposals, the council would have agreed to the construction of around 100,000 new homes, in exchange for millions of pounds worth of government funding.
Kid Malthouse, the housing minster, has described the scheme as “exactly the sort of ambition the government wants to see”.
But Mr Lancaster and Mr Stewart, the Government’s “champion” of the planned corridor, told ministers they had not been properly consulted and raised fears the new homes could be “unsustainable” without planned infrastructure to support a larger population.
Sources said the MPs feared that if the plans for Milton Keynes were pursued ahead of those for the surrounding areas, neighbouring local authorities could go on to strike their own deals for new housing which could put further pressure on the town’s roads and health services.
Alex Walker, the leader of the Conservative group on Milton Keynes council, said: “We only have one hospital and it was designed for Milton Keynes as planned. Our roads were designed for 250,000 people and we’ve already gone above that.”