Urban Design 104 - Autumn 2007

Milton Keynes at 40

Publication Date: 01 October 2007

This specially extended issue of Urban Design looks at Milton Keynes, the UK’s last New Town designated in 1967. Milton Keynes is unusual in that it was designed around the car and as a city of trees; it has become such a successful place to live and work, that it now needs to grow. How that growth is designed and managed poses the question – should it reproduce the original city’s design or is it time to update the master plan?

The Topic Editor Liezel Kruger, Associate Urban Designer at planning and urban design consultants David Lock Associates has first hand experience of living in Milton Keynes (MK) and working on proposals for its growth, and brings together a wide array of contributors to the city’s development to-date.

Mike Macrae, one of the original Llewelyn-Davies team describes the design process and ideas prior to the ‘handover’ of the master plan to Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC). Derek Walker, MKDC’s Chief Architect and Planner, describes how the in-house team designed the city structure and many grid squares in more detail. Andrew Mahaddie reveals the origins and development of the city’s famous grid system, and Mike Synnott of the City Discovery Centre debates the handling of heritage and local identity in MK’s planning. Neil Higson and Andrew Mahaddie describe the greening of MK and its maintenance by Milton Keynes Parks Trust.

With Milton Keynes Partnership (MKP), a partnership between English Partnerships (the major land owner of undeveloped MK), Milton Keynes Council (MKC) and local organisations now driving the delivery of growth, Jane Hamilton describes MKP’s co-ordination and implementation roles. This includes the innovative £18,500 Infrastructure Tariff payable by developers per property built, and how this is used to provide facilities and amenities for local communities. John Best, Chief Executive of MKC and Kevin Whiteside, Chief Highways and Transportation Engineer, describe expansion areas and newer developments, and how they are challenging the city’s initial master plan. Neil Sainsbury gives his perspective on the work of an urban designer at MKC. Miles Leigh, of architects Allies and Morrison, explains proposed changes and extensions to the popular Shopping Building to respond to the growth in demand. Challenging preconceptions, Pacquita Lamacraft and Edna Read describe the city’s diverse and lively culture and public art scenes, and how these have been nurtured over the last forty years.

Local architect, Bill Sung laments the city’s lack of strong architecture and highlights recent successful designs proposals. Richard Cole undertakes another in his ‘Revisited’ series, and wonders whether MK is ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ as it changes? To conclude, David Lock having set out a valuable summary of MK’s evolution in the introduction, urges readers to learn urban planning and design lessons from the city, especially as new initiatives such as Eco-Towns are being considered.

This issue also sees the first two short listed case studies for the Francis Tibbalds Urban Design Project Awards – from EDAW and Pollard Thomas Edwards architects with Levitt Bernstein Associates. Claire Freeman describes a ‘new town’ movement in New Zealand, and further new town parallels are made with the development of Letchworth by Anne Woods of CABE.