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City status would be the ultimate honour

Becoming a city officially will drive inward investment and cement the status of Milton Keynes on the international map, says Nicholas Mann, chair of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.

ANYONE visiting Milton Keynes may be inclined to label our ‘new town’ as a city. With its modern architecture, large shopping centre, theatre, football stadium and thriving economy, it is an easy mistake to make. 

In fact, several local organisations have incorporated the word ‘city’ into their titles. Think Milton Keynes City Football Club and Milton Keynes City Orchestra, even the original architects of our town created the ‘City Club’ back in the 1970s. 

For many within Milton Keynes, receiving the official civic honour will simply validate our town’s position. Which is why, in December, we will once again put our bid forward to achieve city status as part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Nicholas Mann

But what will we gain from having this civic honour bestowed upon us? For a town which is, according to reports, leading the UK’s post-pandemic economy, it will be the ultimate honour, one which will cement our status on the international map and drive inward investment. 

Nobody can deny that Milton Keynes is not already a magnet for investment. According to commercial property consultancy Bidwells, investment activity in the company’s M1 south office market was dominated by transactions in Milton Keynes with a total of £20.6 million of office transactions completed in Milton Keynes in the first six months of 2021 alone. 

Invest MK has reported an increase in activity in lettings in the retail and leisure sector. We have two new industrial parks under construction and the imminent opening of Hotel La Tour. 

And when mixed use development company First Base, which is behind the regeneration of Saxon Court, spoke at a MKBLP event last year, their ardent enthusiasm for the huge growth potential in the area was potent.   

Mixed-use developer First Base’s vision for the redevelopment of Saxon Court in Central Milton Keynes.

Also, by 2023, the first sight to greet people as they leave Milton Keynes train station will be the £150 million Santander headquarters, a move which has signalled a gravity pull for many multinational companies to move out of London and into regional towns. Our strategic position in the so called ‘Golden Triangle’ provides many logistical benefits to these migrating organisations and becoming a city will fuel this growth. 

Milton Keynes is without doubt on an upward economic trajectory. However, in my mind, achieving city status will also bring recognition. Not only for our booming business economy and reputation as an incubator of technology but also for the great strides we have made in our people, our diversity, and our environment. 

This is what makes the fabric of Milton Keynes rich and worthy of receiving the title of city.

Our vibrant and varied community thrives on diversity and as the population has grown, so too has the percentage of people from ethnic groups. In fact the latest annual pupil data records over 140 languages being spoken by children and young people in Milton Keynes’ schools. Our desire to upskill and retain homegrown talent is reflected in the development of MK:U and the South Central Institute of Technology. 

Our sustainable ambitious are lauded on a national platform, while our position within the centre of the Oxford Cambridge Arc growth corridor will also see our reputation as a testbed for smart mobility projects grow exponentially. 

On the subject of the Arc, let us not forget that becoming a city will also create a voice for the inner towns. With a vision to become one of the world’s premier growth corridors and global leader in sustainability, the coalition of the five counties within the Arc are bookended by two historic cities. 

It is vital that, to fulfil this ambition, the very fabric which the towns at the heart of the Arc are built upon are not lost and they can be championed and fairly represented through a single inner Arc city voice.  

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