Milton Keynes Council Bid for UK Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF)

All details of the bid to secure funding for the infrastructure for the Eastern Expansion area can be found via the Milton Keynes Council website planning policy page

Moulsoe against Expansion 2 East

Some may relish the thought of the development of 5000 new houses east of the M1, others will consider it with utmost contempt and a feeling of betrayal on the part of MK Council and their planning department.

The area was always considered protected not only by the M1 as a northern boundary to Milton Keynes (as detailed in the “The New Plan for MK 2005”) but also by the fact that the potential for extensive building development is currently constrained by the lack of infrastructure – telecoms, drainage, energy supply, roads, public transport – all fundamental to any large scale residential building project.

The latest draft of Plan:MK has just been released for a consultation period ending Wednesday 20 Dec 2017.

The previous version closed its consultation in June 2017 and the draft designated the eastern area as a Strategic Reserve Area (SRA), an area that could be used for development after 2031 or prior to that if MKC could demonstrate a significantly reduced supply of deliverable housing sites in existing designated areas. The lack of infrastructure to the east were clearly identified as being an issue requiring substantial sums of forward funding to kick-start any development activity.

In July 2017, the government announced the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund to be awarded to local authorities on a competitive bid basis.  Awards are to be used to build new infrastructure to support housing developments in areas of greatest demand. The areas east of the M1are not areas of great housing demand, MK is the area of housing demand so housing needs to focus on areas closer to the heart of the city not locations remotely associated.

MKC have seen this as a potential golden egg and have decided to bid for funding to support the development of 5000 new homes east of the M1 on land bordering the A509 towards Newport Pagnell/extending east towards Moulsoe. This clearly rescinds the proposed designation of this area as a Strategic Reserve Area for use after 2031 in the last version of Plan:MK which we were all asked to comment on in June 17.

The cynics amongst us might say that we may have been misled by the contents of the last version of the draft! Consultation ended in Jun and the HIF was announced in July – are we to believe that pre-June no one had any idea that the HIF was coming and this proposal, to the east, was simply shoe-horned in at the last minute?

Any proposed development is conditional upon MK Council winning their bid estimated to be in region of £75m. The funding is supposed to cover:

  • Major upgrade to M1 J14 – this is needed anyway!
  • Public transport scheme linking CMK to the eastern development – surely maintaining and developing the existing failing public transport system in existing or identified housing development areas in the Jun draft would be a better investment.
  • A new bridge over the M1 and associated link road at Willen – estimated cost £25m. So as more traffic funnels onto the grid road system are the grid roads are being upgraded with extra lanes to cope with extra load being presented to them or will we end up with the inevitable bottleneck as we do currently on A509 from Olney. Adding to this will be a further few thousand vehicle movements from the eastern area.

This begs the question is a new bridge a sensible and rational use of these funds? Would spending £25m elsewhere in MK on infrastructure provide more in the way of benefit and housing potential than building what is in effect a dormitory in the east of the borough an area which could be considered so physically removed from MK it will more likely to be considered Greater MK rather than be part of the hub-bub of what living in MK people aspire to when they relocate to the area.

Draft Plan:MK (Jun 17) had embodied sufficient potential housing capacity with a contingency for going east if required. So what has changed so dramatically to make the eastern area so attractive when it was originally considered suitable as an SRA? The potential of a government handout or developers seeking to simple increase shareholder value.

We have yet to see whether the current version of the draft will stand the test of soundness when submitted to the planning inspectorate – has it been positively prepared, is it justified, is it effective and is it consistent with national policy?

We must not lose sight of the fact that we are in the grip of a housing crisis but critical problems deserve creative thinking and solutions that are economically and environmentally sound and sustainable. Simply dropping a development in an arbitrary area of open countryside because there is a potential of an infrastructure grant is not the product of sound thinking, especially since this option was placed in a “reserve” position in previous iteration of the draft.

It is imperative that all residents of Moulsoe, North Crawley, the surrounding rurals and any resident of MK Borough, especially those who will be affected by the collateral effects of construction traffic and the post-construction movements of thousands of extra vehicles, make their views known during the current consultation period and, we hope, object to any development east of the M1.

Without your input the development steam-roller will continue to roll across the UK without challenge and we will simply lose the balance we currently enjoy between the urban and the rural settings.

Steve Waters
Chair – Moulsoe Parish Council

Last updated 12 March 2020