Milton Keynes is perhaps the best known of Britain’s post-war new towns and indeed the scale of its ambition and its unique identity have done much to raise its profile in the nation’s psyche.
Of course Milton Keynes is of its time and aspects of its design including its car friendly approach are in many ways the counter-opposite of the ‘Garden Community’ ethos, but there is some significant learning which can be taken from how old and new have been brought together successfully.
Despite the name ‘new town’ Milton Keynes was not created from scratch. Rather the land on which the town was originally designated on was home to a number of existing towns and villages including Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell as well the original Milton Keynes village.
Milton Keynes village now sits very much within the new town to which it gave its name and it serves as an excellent example of how an existing community can be integrated into new development in a positive way. Indeed many now consider the village to have significantly benefited from the wider growth of the new town.
From an accessibility point of view, as the new town grew, the existing community enjoyed better access to the strategic road and rail network as well as new foot and cycleways. In terms of green infrastructure the surrounding development brought forward abundant areas of new parkland including new balancing lakes (pictured) at Willen (under the stewardship of the successful MK Parks Trust) within close walking distance.
Elsewhere new employment opportunities were made available to existing communities in new commercial parks. New social infrastructure including a secondary school at nearby Oakgrove was also provided, again, within walking and cycling distance of the historic village.
Elsewhere in Milton Keynes the retention of historic character is demonstrated in the continuous use of the original settlement names. For example residents of Newton Pagnell will often proudly associate themselves both with Newport Pagnell and with Milton Keynes. This point is neatly illustrated in Milton Keynes village itself which falls within an area now known as Middleton. Why is it now known as Middleton? Well, besides the obvious need to differentiate the original village from the new town, the original village was in fact called Middleton de Keynes. Places may change over time but their identities tend to hold true.
Milton Keynes’s development emphasised the seamless integration of old places with new. Central to this approach was always being mindful of the impact on people and communities rather than focusing on arbitrary distances or buffers from new development.
Each settlement was approached carefully and incorporated into a comprehensive masterplan for the area ensuring that they retained their unique character whilst also benefiting from the new facilities, connectivity and vibrancy surrounding development brought. (Pictured a cycleway running alongside All Saints Church in Milton Keynes village)
Chris Downes, Strategic Planning Specialist