Read below Iain’s submission to the Plan:MK Consultation:
I would like to register my comments on the Plan MK Strategic Development Directions Consultation. I write both as the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South, and as a resident of the Milton Keynes Borough.
In recent years I have become concerned with the direction Milton Keynes’ housing growth agenda has been travelling. I have previously expressed opposition to the site allocations plan and also developments such as Salden Chase. In each submission I have registered two primary concerns: the lack of infrastructure and the urgent need for a renewed long-term strategic vision for the future of Milton Keynes.
Both of those areas stem from the fact, as a new city, we have now reached our planned size both in terms of population and footprint. With the existing developments like the Western Expansion area we are already set to go way beyond that. I have long argued putting forward a plan on additional housing growth now is premature. We must set our vision for the future first and then set our planning policy around that vision.
I am pleased the Council has launched the Vision Commission to look at this issue. However, it is not due to publish its findings until June 2016 by which time Plan MK would have moved on substantially and it is already clear Plan MK has preferred strategic directions. In my mind this is the wrong way around. I understand there is dialogue between Plan MK and the Commission though I would like to see stronger evidence that they are working hand in hand rather than one pre-empting the other.
Also significant in this context is the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the recent Budget that the National Infrastructure Commission will be examining options for housing and infrastructure development along the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor. Surely it would be premature to decide on significant additional housing development before the NIC has completed its work.
There are also concerns about additional demand being placed on our infrastructure and public services in Milton Keynes. This is an issue that is regularly raised with me by residents, businesses and other organisations.
These are manifold but I would like to cite two areas, Health & Roads:
There is already an upward pressure of demand on primary and secondary care within Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes University Hospital would need significant investment to take on the thousands of new patients planned. GP surgeries across the Borough who are already stretched would be placed under additional strain. There is a clear example of this on the Western Expansion Area where the new Health Centre will not open until 2019 placing huge pressures on existing surgeries.
Many areas are already in need of significant investment both in the rural and urban areas. There has also been an obvious rise in congestion over the past few years and the lack of parking in the right areas in Central Milton Keynes is putting off potential investors. We need to think very hard about how we ensure our road infrastructure can take the huge number of additional vehicles that would hit our roads over the next decade or so.
In conclusion, I believe that Plan MK is premature. I do not believe there has been enough done to ensure the Vision Commission feeds in to the project that has deprived the City’s residents of the much needed debate on our future. The Vision Commission may well decide that our future as an economic hub belongs in the middle of the East West Arch. If that is the case we suddenly become a 10min journey from the new Garden City in Bicester and the substantial new developments planned in Winslow and Sandy. In my opinion looking at our housing growth in a regional context is a must and I am willing to play my part in lobbying Government to make that possible. I do not believe continuously adding on housing developments to Milton Keynes is the answer. We have been successful because we always ensure there were jobs and infrastructure in place before growing, I am concerned we may lose that on the path we are currently on.
If the principal motivation for implementing Plan MK on its current timescale is the current requirement to meet new house completion targets in the short-term, I am willing to act as an intermediary between MKC, the Government and the developers to see what can be done to bring forward developments that have already been granted outline permission (which I believe would more than meet short to medium demand).
Iain Stewart MP
Member for Milton Keynes South