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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Milton Keynes fears Prescott's housing plans
Houses and countryside
The houses may have to be built on greenfield sites

John Prescott is planning 200,000 new homes in the south-east and wants many of those to be in Milton Keynes, which was described as a "target growth area".

But the city - originally dreamt up in 1967 as a New Town based around the old Buckinghamshire settlements of Bletchley, Wolverton and Stony Stratford - is not happy.

Milton Keynes is an acknowledged economic "hot spot" - unemployment is only 1.5% and business is booming.

Its population, one of the densest in Europe, it is expected to be more than 232,000 by 2006, up from 178,000 10 years ago and is also younger than the national average.

Last month Wimbledon, a former Premiership football club struggling with low crowds in south London, chose to move lock, stock and barrel to Milton Keynes, hoping to cash in on the growing population and thirst for sport and entertainment.

With a housing stock of just 87,000 or so, house prices are rising rapidly. Milton Keynes is currently one of the most expensive areas in the country outside London.


There isn't any brownfield land - most of the new houses will be on greenfield sites and will swallow up outlying villages

Alan Francis, Milton Keynes Green Party

So it would seem that the city is in urgent need of more housing.

John Prescott certainly thinks so. The Deputy Prime Minister told the Commons Milton Keynes was to be one of four areas to get 200,000 new houses between them.

That, most people have assumed, means Milton Keynes will get approximately 50,000 new houses.

The reaction has been furious.

Isobel Wilson, the Liberal-Democrat leader of Milton Keynes Council, told BBC News Online: "We are not pleased with the government's announcement.

"We don't want to build any new homes over and above what has already been planned by the council - which is 2,000 new homes a year."

Alan Francis, of Milton Keynes Green Party, pointed out that 50,000 would swell Milton Keynes' population by a quarter.


We don't want to build any new homes over and above what has already been planned

Council leader Isobel Wilson
"We're opposing this kind of large-scale expansion of Milton Keynes," he said.

"There isn't any brownfield land. Most of the new houses will be on greenfield sites and will swallow up outlying villages."

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP for south-east England, said in a statement that the developments would appear to be contrary to the government's own planning policies, "which require 60% of new housing to be on brownfield land."

Planning problems

The problem is that Milton Keynes has a rather unique heritage, built itself in the late 1960s as a planned, pleasant development to take the "spill-over" from London and the south-east.

This, the council found in its own investigation into the housing needs of the city, has led to several unique problems which means the scope for redevelopment is limited.


  • The planned, gridded nature of the city means there is limited spare space for redevelopment
  • Most of its housing was purpose built and is therefore difficult to subdivide into flats
  • There is not much derelict or "brownfield" land as few sites have changed their uses since the city was first built in 1967

The council's conclusions on what land could be developed or redeveloped have yet to be published.

Dr Lucas said it was appalling that Mr Prescott had announced his development plans before such studies had been concluded.

"It is outrageous for the government to make a decision on new developments in these locations before the completion of these studies.

"We urge affected councils to consider Judicial Review of any specific decisions made for their area," she said.

"We will fight these dictatorial proposals from central government and prevent the government from building these massive developments on greenfield sites."

See also:

18 Jul 02 | Politics
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