David Bainbridge, director in the planning team at Savills Oxford, outlines the ambitions of Milton Keynes which sits at the heart of the Oxford – Cambridge Growth Arc.

An ambitious vision for the growth of Milton Keynes over the next 30 years has been published.

Milton Keynes Strategy for 2050 is the culmination of work started by MK Futures 2050 Commission, and then taken on by Milton Keynes Council.

Introducing the strategy, the political leader Cllr Pete Marland said: “COVID-19 may have changed how we live right now, but it hasn’t changed our ambition for low-carbon growth and an excellent quality of life for everyone in Milton Keynes, especially the children and young people who will be our future citizens, and those who choose to move here and join us in the ongoing story of our great city.”

MK sits at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc, and once even featured in the name of this initiative when it was known as the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.

For more than a decade, MK Council has had no overall political control, with elections three out of every four years. Despite this, or maybe because of it, MK has enjoyed collaboration between many stakeholders over ambitions to seek out new investment and to grow further.

The town itself sits close to the edge of the borough and has for many years grappled with cross-boundary co-operation which has been challenging.  Collaboration is needed to see through the planned growth of MK and to maintain the original vision of housing, employment and leisure areas accessible within landscaped grid roads.

Milton Keynes Strategy for 2050, offers Seven Big Ambitions which seek to improve the lives of residents and attract investment and visitors.

The strategy includes plans for a further 35,000 new homes across the borough by 2050.  This is in addition to existing plans for about 10,000 new homes which are close to the boundary of MK but are within other authority areas.

The strategy includes establishing Green City Gateways where sustainable development could be located outside of the area controlled by MK Council, in parts of Aylesbury Vale, South Northamptonshire and Central Bedfordshire.

With additional hearings in the examination into the Local Plan for Central Bedfordshire scheduled to commence in December and the prospect of an almost immediate review, this strategy document for MK, will hold wider implications for the amount, type and location for new growth across Bedfordshire.

Infrastructure projects such as East-West Rail, connectivity to the west coast and east coast train lines and a new section of the A428 south of St Neots are relevant parts of the jigsaw puzzle for the central and eastern parts of the Growth Arc.

The Government is working on a long-term spatial framework for the Growth Arc but this seems unlikely to be bought into effect for at least two years.  In the meantime, stakeholders need to collaborate to properly plan for future investment and growth decisions.

The Milton Keynes Strategy for 2050 is scheduled for consideration at a Cabinet meeting of MK Council on December 15.  If agreed, the council will formally launch the strategy and prepare an updated delivery programme.  A programme that will need buy-in and collaboration if it is to succeed.

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