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Keens City Round Up: A dynamic start to the year for our region

This is my first round up of the new year and I don’t know about you, but as far as I can see, 2018 has kicked off in a pretty dynamic way for the region, not just in terms of business activity, but with a reemphasis of the Government’s vision for the future of the area.

Over the last year, I have made mention of the MK 2050 Futures Commission report, which was published in July 2016, and the 1st of the six big projects mentioned in that report referred to the hub of the Cambridge Milton Keynes Oxford arc, and the opportunities which would arise from that.

Since then, the National Infrastructure Commission has issued its latest report, entitled “Partnering for Prosperity; A new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes- Oxford arc”. Catchy title, don’t you think?

Here it is, all 91 pages of it… and a lot of what was suggested in the 2050 Futures Commission report has been recommended to be adopted as government policy.

What it proposes (despite the Chairman, Lord Adonis, having resigned last month over a disagreement with Chris Grayling over railway franchises) is pretty radical, in terms of proposed house building (1m new homes in urban extensions and new towns by 2050), significant infrastructure investment (new OXCAM Expressway and East West rail by mid 2020s), and business investment and  development for the whole region, with MK at the centre. There are plans for a multibillion pound infrastructure spend, supported by the Government, but significant reliance on all “partners”, both public and private, working with each other to promote and support the plan. There’s even talk of new Development Corporations, being established, with new mechanisms for establishing Land Capture Values, i.e. to force developers and land owners to commit to additional contributions to infrastructure spend, which is also a bit radical.

The plan for MK uses the words “re-establishing Milton Keynes as a growth location of national significance through the intensification and expansion of the town to a population of at least 500,000 in line with local aspirations. This presents an immediate opportunity for growth”.

It also refers to the potential development of a “new town between Bicester and Bletchley, with a population in the hundreds of thousands and concentrated growth in the Marston Vale area between Milton Keynes and Bedford.” It will be interesting to see how that overlays on our current set of local goals, as it seems like a fairly major reset of local strategies is about to be placed on the city and the surrounding area.

At least it’s good to see that Iain Stewart, our local MP for Milton Keynes South, has been appointed to champion for the proposed development strategy for the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor, which has been dubbed “the UK’s Silicon Valley”. I’m sure that he will be keeping a watchful eye on the sense of all of this, with his experience of serving the Milton Keynes community over recent years.

The government is expected to formally respond to this report within the next 6 to 12 months, so I’m sure that we’re going to hear a lot more about this in the short term.

By Paul Davis

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