A Green party bid to put a lower limit on housing growth ambitions in Milton Keynes was dismissed as “cloud cuckoo land”.
Councillors are dotting the i’s and crossing t’s on their strategy for how the city could develop up to 2050 – dubbed MK Futures.
A finalised strategy is due to be presented to next week’s meeting of the full council (20 January 2021). All three political parties on the council are said to be seeking consensus.
A controversial ambition for a cross-border strategy for growth to 500,000 people in a Metropolitan Milton Keynes, encompassing Central Beds, Buckinghamshire and South Northamptonshire, has been retreated to within the borough boundaries.
But planning for growth up to 410,000, limited to within MK borough, is still too much for Milton Keynes Green party. The current population of the borough is about 265,000.
The Greens don’t hold a seat on MK Council but the party’s Alan Francis made the case at a meeting last week for the in-borough strategy to be scaled back from 410,000 to 350,000.
Mr Francis said: “We welcome the dropping of the 500,000 population target figure for Metropolitan Milton Keynes but the 410,000 is really hardly any different.
“Within Milton Keynes it’s going to mean the equivalent of 30 extra grid squares which is too much to be accommodated, would require lots of land and put pressure on resources such as water, energy and the environment.”
He said the figure for 2050 should be something like 350,000.
The committee was told the city is set to grow to 325,000 by 2031 anyway and that it is “inconceivable” that it wouldn’t grow to beyond 350,000 up to 2050.
And Cllr Jenni Ferrans (Lib Dem, Monkston), who chairs the community and housing scrutiny committee, said: “Suggesting that the city doesn’t need to grow this fast, I’m afraid, is cloud cuckoo land.”
She said that with that target the city’s population would grow but would not be housed.
“It will bring us back to huge levels of homelessness and huge levels of overcrowding because Milton Keynes population grows mainly from within.”
Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney), chairing Wednesday’s meeting of the strategic placemaking scrutiny committee, said: “I have huge sympathies with what Alan has said but for us to change that figure at this stage would mean this report going back for months.”
He added that it might influence the way he votes next week at full council.
“I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between now and then,” he said.
Former mayor Cllr Sam Crooks (Lib Dem, Broughton) said he suspected that the original document had been “watered down” to please neighbouring councils.
“I remain an unrepentant devotee of Greater Milton Keynes,” he added.
But his Tory ward co-habitee, Cllr John Bint (Broughton) said he welcomed the downgrading of “what has come across as an aspiration to colonise and bully our neighbours.”
Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West) made an impassioned plea for truly affordable housing.
“When people talk about affordability they talk about houses that are not affordable for most people,” he said.