Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by Milton Keynes Council (NT 20(a))


1.   What was the original objective of the town?

  The primary purpose of designating Milton Keynes new town was to provide homes and jobs for people mainly from Greater London, with possibly some overspill from South Buckinghamshire. The scale of in-migration envisaged was 150,000 people over about 20 years. The aim was to produce a balance of housing and employment and avoid congestion.

  The master plan (the Plan for Milton Keynes) had six goals:

    —  Opportunity and freedom of choice.

    —  Easy movement and access.

    —  Balance and variety.

    —  To create an attractive city.

    —  Public awareness and participation.

    —  Efficient and imaginative use of resources.

  The structuring principles to achieve these goals were:

    —  A grid road layout now largely completed.

    —  A new city centre 80 per cent completed—new Development Framework adopted.

    —  A system of linear Parks successfully provided.

    —  Overlapping catchments for local facilities followed for local centres.

    —  Segregated pedestrian and cycle routes—redways largely completed.

2.   Which of those objectives do you think have been met?

  Milton Keynes has been very successful in providing new homes and jobs, predominantly from Greater London but also from many other parts of the UK. However, very few people have moved to Milton Keynes from southern Buckinghamshire. Nearly 60,000 houses have been built since the start of new town development in 1970, an average of around 1,900 per year. Annual completions peaked at just under 3,000 in the 1980s but have been below 2,000 per year since the 1990s.

  The aim of providing sufficient employment opportunities to prevent Milton Keynes becoming a dormitory settlement has been more than achieved. Indeed, Milton Keynes is now a net importer of workers, with net in-commuting of around 10,840 and a surplus of jobs over labour supply of around 8 per cent. More than 80,000 new jobs have been created in the City since 1967. Unemployment at less than 2 per cent is below the national and regional level, although there are some ward where the rate is considerably higher.

  Congestion is not yet a significant problem but it is clear that it will become so, if the city's current dependence on the private car is not changed.

3.   What do you consider to be its role in the region/sub-region in the future?

  Milton Keynes is now a significant regional and sub-regional centre in its own right. It is recognised by SEEDA as one of the economic growth engines of the South East and is a net importer of labour from the surrounding area. Milton Keynes' underlying economic buoyancy means that it is likely to continue to grow. The long term future role of Milton Keynes is being considered via the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Study, currently being carried out by consultants for the Government Offices for the South East, East Midlands and East of England and the three Regional Planning Bodies. The study, which is investigating the possibility of a further regional growth role, is due to report in the autumn and will inform forthcoming reviews of Regional Planning Guidance.

4.   To what extent is the original masterplan for the town still used as a guiding principle for development and redevelopment?

  The original masterplan and New Town Act 7,1 approvals based on it are still significant in the remaining development areas, particularly on the western and eastern flanks. EP owns virtually all the remaining development land within the former Designated Area and is able to authorise the details of development proposals that are consistent with 7,1 approvals. In Central Milton Keynes, the Council and EP have recently commissioned and adopted a new Development Framework that proposes a significant increase in the amount and density of development envisaged under the original Development Corporation plans.

5.   How well have the old and new parts of your town been integrated? If they have not been well integrated, what form does this take in physical/spatial terms and what are the implications of this for the growth of the town?

  The development of the new town has generally integrated the villages and small towns within the Designated Area fairly, sensitively and successfully. The integration of the larger pre-existing settlements, notably Bletchley in the south and Wolverton in the north, has been less successful. These two settlements do not enjoy the same quality of physical and social infrastructure as the new areas, which makes them less attractive for new investment and their town centres have suffered from competition from the new city centre. Both towns now need physical and economic regeneration.

6.   Has/can the town achieve the population that was originally planned?

  At designation, it was envisaged that Milton Keynes would have a population of about 250,000, on completion of development. This was later reduced to 200,000, mainly due to the fall in average household size. The current population is 175,270, and this is expected to rise to 200,000 by the completion of planned development around 2008.

7.   How does the age profile of your population relate to the national average? Is this related to your being a New Town? How do local agencies and strategies respond to that?

  The Milton Keynes population age profile is younger than that for England as a whole, with half the population aged under 34 years old (the median age), (nationally, half of the population is aged less than 38).

  The number of children in their early years is expected to increase from 12,740 in 2001 to 13,250 in the year 2011, an increase of 4 per cent. In contrast, the national projections show a 5 per cent decrease between now and 2011 for the 0 to four year olds.

  There will be an 8 per cent increase in the number of children aged five to 16 between now and 2011, from 30,520 in 2001 to 33,020 in 2011. In contrast, the figures for England show a 5 per cent drop in the number of school age children over the same period.

  Young adults are expected to increase from 19,220 in 2001 to 22,500 in 2011, an increase of 17 per cent. This percentage increase is twice that expected in England as a whole over the same period.

  The number of people aged 25 to 34 is expected to fall over the period 2001 to 2011 by around 2 per cent. For England, a much larger decrease of 11 per cent is expected over the same period.

  A large increase of 22 per cent is expected in the number of more mature adults, going from 60,880 in 2001 to 74,390 in 2011. A more modest increase is expected for this age group nationally, which will rise by 4 per cent over the same period.

  There are currently 22,380 people aged 60 and over and this number is expected to increase by a massive 47 per cent to 32,840 by 2011. The corresponding percentage increase nationally is 15 per cent.

  The atypical age profile is wholly due to Milton Keynes being a new town. The growing number of school age children and elderly people poses particular challenges in education and social service/health planning, which are not always appreciated by central government or their regional offices.

8.   How strong is the demand for the existing commercial land? Is there a demand for further commercial development in the town? What is the effect of commercial development in the town on other towns in the sub-regional economy?

  The demand for commercial land remains strong, particularly for flat sites close to the M1 motorway, suitable for distribution warehousing and other large format uses. Such sites are now in short supply and there is pressure to release additional land outside the former Designated Area. Demand for further commercial office development in Central Milton Keynes is also strong.

  It is sometimes claimed that the success of Milton Keynes has prejudiced the prospects for regeneration in places such as Luton and Bedford. However, few businesses have moved to Milton Keynes from nearby towns—most have either come from London or are inward investments from overseas, particularly Japan, Germany and the USA. Neither Bedford nor Luton would be able to offer the locational advantages necessary to attract these businesses.

9.   Can you describe the sub-regional planning arrangements that are in place to regulate/facilitate development? Can you describe the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach?

  Milton Keynes is on the edge of three regions: the South East, the East Midlands and the East of England and has transport and functional links with parts of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire that are at least as significant as those with Aylesbury Vale (the only part of Buckinghamshire with which there is any functional relationship). For these reasons, the conventional sub-regional planning arrangement of a county structure plan is unhelpful and on becoming a unitary authority, Milton Keynes Council decided that in future it would produce a Milton Keynes structure plan, rather than a joint structure plan with Buckinghamshire.

  The forthcoming Milton Keynes and South Midlands inter-regional study may recommend the production of specific sub-regional guidance for the area around Milton Keynes, possibly on the model of that for Thames Gateway (RPG9A). This could help to overcome some of the difficulties of cross-regional co-ordination inherent in present arrangements.

10.   What is the regional/sub-regional role of the shopping centre in your town? What investment is proposed in the town centre in the next few years?

  Central Milton Keynes is now a major regional shopping centre, with well over 1.5 million square feet of high quality durable goods floorspace in two developments: the centre:mk and Midsummer Place, plus specialist shopping and leisure opportunities in the Theatre District and Xscape developments.

  Milton Keynes Council and EP have recently jointly commissioned and adopted as supplementary planning guidance, a new 30 year Development Framework for Central Milton Keynes. This envisages a significant intensification of the amount and density of development in the city centre, including more retail, commercial, leisure and residential development.

  In the immediate future, further substantial retail investment is proposed by the joint owners of the centre:mk, who intend to submit a planning application for a phased expansion of the centre, later this year. The owners of the Theatre District and Xscape developments also have plans for further development and are in discussions with the Council and EP.


11.   Can you give some numerical examples of the problems that have arisen with clawback and covenants in housing, amenity space and other land uses?

  The effect of clawback is to inhibit change and to fossilise land uses. This is contrary to the flexibility and ability to evolve that characterised the planning and development of Milton Keynes under the Development Corporation. Clawback acts as a powerful disincentive to use urban land more intensively and therefore works contrary to the Government's objective to secure more brownfield redevelopment.

12.   The Committee has been made aware that in some cases clawback has made Right to Buy marginal or even negative, in terms of receipts to the local authority. Has this been the case in your authority, if so can you give a financial example? What are the implications of this?

  Clawback has had a significant impact on the Council's ability to use right to buy receipts to improve the inherited Development Corporation housing stock, much of which requires heavy remedial investment.

13.   Can you quantify the outstanding liabilities facing your authority, firstly as a result of the package of assets and liabilities transferred to the authority at the winding up of the Development Corporation, and secondly as a result of design and other issues relating to the New Town?

  The segregated footpath and cycleway network (``redways") represents a major maintenance liability for which the Council receives no funding via the SSA. Much of the inherited Development Corporation housing stock comprises "non traditional" materials and designs that have not stood the test of time and which now require massive remedial investment to bring them up to an acceptable standard. Our estimates of the amount we needed to spend are as follows:

    —  5 years: £59.1 milion;

    —  10 years: £139.9 million;

    —  20 years: £283.9 million;

    —  30 years: £375.6 million.

  These estimates cover renewal of, and improvements to, existing components (internal and external) to all properties. They also include an estimate of assumption of £30 million for additional improvements such as environmental and structural improvements. Any remodelling of stock, whole sale structural and remedial works on non-traditionally built stock over and above £30 million is additional to this. The total amount of expenditure required to bring all properties to a decent standard with high property standards is therefore likely to be in excess of the totals shown above.

14.   How does the financial value of the liabilities caused as a result of your town being a New Town, compare to the financial value of the remaining assets held by English Partnerships in the town?

  The Council estimates that it would need to spend £140 million over the next 10 years to bring its housing stock up to the Government's decency standard. The majority of the problem of disrepair is in ex-Development Corporation housing. EP still owns a large quantity of development land in Milton Keynes, primarily on the Eastern and Western flanks and in Central Milton Keynes. The estimated value of this land is in the region of £900 million.

15.   To what extent has English Partnerships participated in regeneration partnerships in your town?

  Until very recently, EP has not played a significant role in the regeneration partnerships for the older towns in the city and some of the earliest new town estates.

16.   Many submissions have referred to the inadequacy of the existing SSA to reflect the needs of the New Towns. Can you detail those weaknesses and set out any suggestions about how any successor to the SSA could be improved?

  The principal problems with the current SSA funding regime are:

    —  that it is based on population figures that are three years out of date—in the case of Milton Keynes where the population is rising rapidly, this means that the Council has to provide services for several thousand people each year for whom it receives no government funding; and

    —  that it does not recognise some of the unique cost liabilities inherent in the design of a New Town—such as the redway system and the extensive (and expensive) system of urban grid roads, which are only subject to the national speed limit and therefore treated as "rural roads" for SSA grant calculation purposes.

17.   Has the pattern of ownership and CNT/EP's role had any implication in your ability to develop a housing strategy for the area?

  Although CNT/EP has supported the Council's strategy of seeking 30 per cent of all housing completions as affordable housing by making land available to registered social landlords, there has been a change from providing this land on a nil or deferred payment basis, to seeking a capital receipt. This has increased the cost of providing affordable housing in Milton Keynes and has contributed to a reduction in the amount of affordable housing being produced.

  There has also been a significant reduction in the proportion of smaller, more affordable open market housing being built on EP land over the last 10 years and an increase in the proportion of larger, detached properties. A jointly commissioned Housing Needs study has revealed a shortage of low cost market and shared ownership housing. This is having an impact on the ability of businesses to attract and retain key workers.

  The fact that the great majority of housing corporations in Milton Keynes are on EP land under New Town authorisations, rather than through the normal planning system, reduces the Council's ability to influence the type and size of housing to match local housing needs. Furthermore, the use of New Town authorisations means that the Council is unable to negotiate planning obligations to further its housing and other corporate priorities.


18.   Design and maintenance issues

  Most of the housing condition problems in New Town housing stock in Milton Keynes relate to the original design and materials used. Many of the earliest New Town estates were built to unproven designs using non-traditional materials. They typically suffer from very poor thermal insulation and water penetration through poorly constructed flat roofs. Remedying these inherent defects by retro-fitting pitched roofs and external thermal cladding is hugely expensive and accounts for the bulk of the upgrade cost identified in the answer to question 14. Unmodified housing is both more expensive to maintain and more expensive to run for tenants, because of higher heating costs.

19.   Crime and design

  Milton Keynes was designed for unrestricted car use and the grid road layout and comparatively low gross density of development make public transport difficult to operate commercially, with the result that the service is poor, especially at night. Residents are therefore more reliant on cars than in conventional towns of a similar size. This has probably contributed to a particular problem of car-crime, notably in Central Milton Keynes, where there are thousands of surface level car parking spaces. Until recently, most of these spaces were free and largely unsupervised. The Council has now introduced both an extensive CCTV system and a pay and display regime. This has dramatically reduced the incident of car-crime in Central Milton Keynes.

  There is a perception that the Milton Keynes redway network is prone to criminal activity, because of a lack of direct supervision and the indirect routes followed by many of the links. Although crime statistics do not support the view that the redways are unsafe, the perception undoubtedly contributes to their under-use, particularly at night.

20.   LTP and car dependence

  The Council's Sustainable Integrated Transport Strategy (SITS) and Local Transport Plan both include targets to achieve a modal shift away from the car towards more sustainable travel. Action has included extending pay and display parking in Central Milton Keynes—by the end of 2002 the majority of spaces will be charged. This not only provides a disincentive to use the car but also produces a revenue stream that is being used to support improvements to public transport, such as quality bus routes, park and ride, better buses and improved passenger information.

  The Council's new Local Plan and the recently adopted Central Milton Keynes Development Framework both seek to reduce car dependence through better urban design, higher densities and more bus-friendly layouts. The Council is also producing new maximum parking standards as supplementary planning guidance.

  The Council and EP have, as part of the implementation of the CMK Development Framework, recently commissioned consultants to produce a new long-term public transport vision for Milton Keynes, together with a realistic programme for funding and delivery.

21.   Mobility issues

  The Council has a well-established community transport scheme providing a door-to-door service for elderly and disabled residents unable to use conventional buses. The Council also offers a concessionary fares scheme that is significantly better than the statutory requirement.

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