I’m concluding this series on options for strategic sites in the forthcoming Arc framework and local plans by looking at Milton Keynes (here) and in a couple of days Buckinghamshire (new unitary).
In theory options for Milton Keynes should be straightforward as it is the only part of the Arc to have a published strategic growth study: MK2050 (undertaken by David Lock Associates and published in 2019), growth is not was however as across three flanks Milton Keynes District is tightly bounded by Central Beds, West Northants (new unitary) and Buckinghamshire (new unitary), the study was jointly commissioned with then South Northants and Aylesbury Vale. Central Beds declined the invitation to partner in the Study but wished to be kept informed.
Before the general election the government was due to announce support for the MK:500,000 project, the aim of supporting Milton Keynes Growth to 500,000, necessary to support the current rate of growth (the highest in the uk) over 30 years. However with opposition from local mps the government bottles the launch. This was a mistake this was the one part of the arc where plans for growth could have been in the bag, well almost there could have been legal problems without consultation involving the affected overspill authorities, and now with the forthcoming framework we have a platform to do this. It should be stated though that some of the directions for Growth take you out of the traditional, even expanded, reasonable definition of what is Milton Keynes into Marden Vale and around Winslow, growth in these two areas is good but they should not be part of a city of Milton Keynes with a new expanded development corporation, they are places in their own right and Marston Vale should be planned as a whole not split in half as at present. An expanded City of 500k is possible however it means much more growth to the North – of which more in a moment.
The growth of Milton Keynes has been controversial over whether to expand its grid or not. The initial plans for the western and western growth of MK 15 years ago planned to abandon the grid in favour of a more new urbanist form along hige density ‘city streets’. This led to objections by fans of the original grid plan such as Urban Eden, though local plan policies sought expansion in grid form for main road and the green infrastructure grid. Certainly the road and landscape patter is so strong that it should be continued where the expansion of the grid makes sense, providing pedestrian and cycle orientated district and local centres can be created away from the grid. Where you have to leapfrog, such as the M1 or a river, it makes no sense to continue the original 60s grid form, the grid squares are too large and the road pattern is too car orientated in terms of contemporary city design thinking. There is also the problem that the original masterplan proposed strategic roads running right through the city, such as the A5 and A421, though in some places on the A421 there were only single carriageway, now being expanded to two. Milton Keynes was never built with bypasses, as its car orientated design was not thought to need one, however there is only so far you can expand any grid layout before you start to get critical conflicts and congestion through mixing of strategic and local traffic.
Lets go through section by section the David Lock Study which forms the basis of the local plan consultation.
I should stress that overall the above growth corridors have been modelled alongside a BRT based rapid transit model, and an expanded Green Grid.
I wont cover in depth the plans for intensification on Central MK and remodeling of outmoded existing estates, as this has been much studied and plans are evolving. Nor will I consider the proposals for growth around smaller settlements such as Olney. Nor will I consider Marston Vale which I have already looked at.
Looking first at land south of Newport Pagnall which is already in the local plan. There are already two bridgings of the M1 and third as a transit spine is proposed. I agree broadly with the concept below although continuation of the City Grid should not be rigid due its distorted form and the ability to be more innovative east of the M1.
The second area ill consider is South East of Milton Keynes. Here the proposals have been somewhat undermined by the decision to drop the expressway. They proposed two tunnelled section of expressway on a route to the South of Milton Keynes
This is not going to happen. Was this to provide access, in which case it would be car deominated, or to provide a strategic route and south of Milton Keynes bypass? Here a series of connector roads rather than one through route is much more likely, if you are to bypass Milton Keynes to the South I think it is only viable south of the Green Sand Ridge.
To the South Easy of Milton Keynes a growth area is proposed focused around a new Station on East West Rail. This makes perfect sense providing you can get the station. With the dropping of the expressway it would still be necessary for a more localised link road between Winslow and the A416, and for a road to the new Southern COnnector Road to link to the proposed Wadden Chase communitiesbelow.
The study looks at a growth corridor out to Cranfield and Cranfield univeristy. I proposed this myself independetly and it makes perfect sense.
They also propose a transit/TOD corridor to the West of MK through Wadden Chase and linking to a much expanded Winslow north of the East West Rail station. This makes sense but requires more study as the proposals here need to be more ‘landscape led’ around the restoration of a Wadden Chase Green corridor and have the necessary supporting connector roads.
Finally a Growth Area is proposed North of the Great Ouse.
This would require a new Motorway junction M14a and potentially could see reopening of Castlethorpe WCML station.
This would need to be a sister city rather than just a grid extension as to avoid disrupting the Ouse Valley most north /South connections would be pedestrian /cycle only. To justify therefore a new station and motorway junction it needs to include a new major employment area, nearer the M1, and more population, nearer 40,000-60,000 I suggest than 20,000, 4-6 secondary schools rather than two, and extend further to the North and East of Castelethorpe and a new more direct road to the V6 at Wolverton. Also the opportunity should be taken for a Northern bypass of MK here from new junction 14a serving the new startegic employment area south of Hanslope Park and linking to the A508/A5.
The new expanded bounds of Milton Keynes should be enclosed by a New Green Belt and series of Nature Recovery Areas/New Parks.