Last post from me today as this afternoon we’re off on a bus tour of MK, guided by David Lock, which I’m looking forward to hugely and expect to find fascinating, but I’ll get travel sick if I try to blog at the same time.
Dave Chetwyn, Historic Towns Forum and Urban Vision CIC
Planning for heritage in new towns
Oversupply of new housing in some parts of country but conversation is all about south-east housing crisis. Growth agenda is driven by London, not the whole of the country. New work/life patterns – big growth in home working.
Difficulty of understanding MK – where are the pavements?! [And the houses – that thing people say about ‘I drove round the outer ring road once’ – ‘no you didn’t, you drove through the middle’]. But actually the town centre is very permeable to pedestrians. Need a handbook to explain how it works.
Same issues about conservation and regeneration for MK as for any other city. But in most cities declining industrial and commercial areas preserve architectural heritage and then are regenerated by creative and knowledge-based start-ups (because cheap rents) [and liking for edgy urban atmospheres]. But MK it isn’t about the decline of industrial and commercial areas. More about housing areas. E.g. Netherfield only meant to have a 25 yrs life and problem of isolation because of car-centricness of the design [and it doesn’t give you an edgy urban vibe].
Neighbourhood planning as the answer – bringing micro local interests into the planning process. Links with Third Sector.
(cc) Tim Ebbs
David Lock, David Lock Associates
A plan for Milton Keynes: A framework, not a blueprint
Story of new towns is all about the wider political context of the model of state intervention.
MK is on the turn of a page between state planning and private sector development of new towns
Initial plans for MK were on this model, CMK, gridroads etc. Then under Thatcher all became much more privatised. Christ the Cornerstone built only because managed to get office blocks on either side to pay for it – social goods could only be delivered by the private sector.
First new town planners were all demobbed architects, no profession of town planning [is that true?] – built a town as objects with spaces in-between. MK built the spaces in-between, then other people do the infill. MK plan as trellis – what flowers grow is entirely separate. You should judge the quality of MK on the flexibility and resilience of the trellis [he would say that though, wouldn’t he!]
People moving into a new town, as they continue to do in huge numbers to MK, buy the vision of a city in a way they don’t in an old town [?]
People say MK is too big and spread out, but actually all the infrastructure (flood defence measures, sewage, industry etc.) are within the grid, whereas old towns impinge on their surroundings loads.
Photos of MK only ever show the rigidly gridded city centre, whereas the rest of the city is fluid and bendy.
Deliberate plan to build roads right up to the edge of the grid, to allow for future expansion – but this has not been done for newest estates.
City centre is still only about 60% built. Cornish (now Chinese) granite for kerb stones. Covered porches to encourage pedestrians to cross road at particular points, no pedestrian crossings needed. Design for cars to recognise the realities of people’s preferences. Separation of cars from pedestrians.
Closing off of underpasses and breaking of the boulevard line in the city centre (Intu) was based on the usual (non-MK) planning assumption of buildings up to the grid-edge. And doesn’t work at all because the edges are air-conditioning units and blank staff entrances to shops – not the kind of liveable urban spaces that designers wanted.
- Pioneers and new arrivals have unusually strong commitments to ‘the promise’ of their new town
- The framework and the buildings are not the same thing
- The pressures from outsiders and passers-through to ‘normalise’ new towns are very strong
- Respect, understand, celebrate and cultivate the difference of new towns!