Strategy for 2050 - Frequently Asked Questions
During February and March 2020, we held a series of public meetings to talk about the draft Strategy for 2050. The list of FAQs below covers a summary of the points that were often raised in those sessions and from the comments we've received through social media and by email.
Why are you proposing development in neighbouring areas? What proportion of this growth would be within the borough? Will this require a boundary review?
The Strategy has been prepared on a ‘boundary blind’ basis, recognising that the way many of us live our lives across local authority boundaries, the nature of connections between places in this area and future infrastructure projects like East-West Rail that will have impacts across authorities. The Strategy sets out a view of a sensible and sustainable pattern of development, based on existing patterns of growth, future transport infrastructure and other opportunities and constraints. The Strategy in no way ties those neighbouring authorities to development in the way set out in the recommended spatial strategy, and all propositions need to be fully assessed through the robust, statutory plan-making process. Around 2/3 of the growth to 2050 in the recommended spatial strategy would be within Milton Keynes borough. There is no intention of pursuing a boundary review; we believe that high quality cross-boundary developments can be achieved through effective joint-working if all partners work together.
Milton Keynes was originally designed for 250,000 people and that has already been exceeded. Who decided that 500,000 people is the right target for continued growth?
Successful places, especially somewhere like Milton Keynes with its excellent connections to places like London and Birmingham, will continue to grow and we have the opportunity to plan for that growth to ensure it benefits everyone. The growth to 500,000 would be broadly in line with a continuation of existing levels of development that are already in local plans across the area.
Why not dual our existing grid roads where they are single carriageway, instead of using that capacity for mass rapid transit (MRT)? The future is about electric cars and driverless vehicles, so will we really need public transport?
Induced demand shows that expanding road space for normal traffic will quickly be taken up by new road users, meaning that it is not an effective way to deal with congestion. By using the space available in the grid road reservations for an efficient and attractive mass transit system, we can remove many journeys from the existing road space, helping to ease congestion for drivers whilst travel demand increases and at the same time providing alternative travel options for many residents, especially those in the 19% of households who don’t have access to a car. Just switching to electric cars or driverless vehicles may address some of the issues around sustainability (e.g. cutting tailpipe emissions) and accessibility for non-car owners, but is unlikely to be affordable for many users or address the congestion challenge. And whilst we know that driverless vehicles will play a major role in the long-term future the pattern and pace of the introduction of these technologies is uncertain so we cannot plan confidently right now for their impact.
What will happen to increase capacity at the hospital and at doctor’s surgeries?
Milton Keynes University Hospital is developing plans for expansion of the hospital on the existing site which has capacity for growth which the Council are supporting. They are also looking at the wider pattern of health provision as this is changing with more emphasis on significant facilities across the city to complement hospital provision. We know that understanding the future population as best we can is necessary if we are to plan future health services so this reinforces the importance of a long-term development strategy.
What are the implications if the Oxford-Cambridge expressway doesn’t go ahead?
Development of the Oxford-Cambridge expressway was paused in the Budget delivered on the 11th March 2020. The draft Strategy was prepared at a point in time where the Expressway project looked more likely to go ahead so will be revised to take account of the Expressway being paused. East-West Rail is still progressing.
Does this plan mean development on all our green spaces?
The recommended spatial approach in the draft Strategy for 2050 does include development within the urban area, which would need to be sensitive to the existing character of the area, rather than all new development being on greenfield sites at the edge of the city. This doesn’t mean development on our extensive linear park network, for example, but it may mean that some local spaces that are currently undeveloped, including the ‘reserve sites’ within many grid squares, are developed, helping to support public transport and other services in local areas. This level of detail will be developed through the Local Plan process. All communities, both new and existing, should have easy access to high quality open spaces, which may include helping to improve routes to nearby green spaces and extensions of the strategic open space network.
How will you achieve carbon neutrality at the same time as the city grows?
This is a major challenge for the city. The Council is already working on the sustainability challenge (Sustainability Strategy 2019-2050) and the growth of the city can contribute to this in several ways, including ensuring that new homes are built to the highest standards of sustainable construction; designing places that encourage people to use the most sustainable forms of travel (walking, cycling and shared, public transport), for example building at higher densities, in mixed, walkable communities; and finding ways to support local energy generation and food production. Without such changes in our approach to development we stand less chance of achieving our objectives for carbon reduction.
How will you make these homes are affordable to those who need them?
We know this is a big concern for many in our community and we recognise that the planning definition of ‘affordable’, which is based on a proportion of market prices and rents, isn’t necessarily affordable to a lot of people. The Strategy explores some alternative approaches to widen the ways of providing different types and tenures of homes. The council plans to build council homes and providing greater proportion of lower cost homes on council-owned sites. We are exploring options for a community land trust type model which could reduce the cost of homes. We are also exploring alternative delivery mechanisms which would enable us to capture greater land value which could be invested into affordable homes and other infrastructure provision, instead of being a developer-led model. Improving the supply of houses overall will also play an important role in minimising the increase in house prices.
Why are you thinking about the long-term future when we have near-term issues that need to be addressed?
It is important to think about the longer term as well as dealing with some of our current challenges. It helps us to secure the investment needed to support infrastructure and other services that will be needed for the future, and many of these projects and our major developments will take many years to go through the planning and construction process.
How will the infrastructure etc be funded?
We are committed to ensuring that we get the right infrastructure in place at the right time as part of future development Under the current model, developers contribute towards the cost of infrastructure.. We will also require central government funding and securing investment through alternative models, including being able to capture more of the land value from development sites. We are looking at ways that we can use different delivery mechanisms to make that possible, which may include a new form of development corporation.
There is a lot of focus about CMK and Bletchley, but what about other places?
CMK and Bletchley are both places where there is great potential for new development, including new employment growth. These aren’t the only places where these opportunities exist though and the quality place-making principles in the Strategy are relevant for everywhere. Through the new local plan, a lot more work will need to be done to consider the detail of how, where and when development happens across the area, including what opportunities there are for other communities.