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Call for clear leadership on city’s expansion

Speaking at a breakfast briefing to business on the plans for the city centre, Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sean Hickey (pictured) described the control structures around plans to develop Milton Keynes into a city the size of Cardiff by 2031 as “extremely difficult to understand”.

He warned: “It has to be made more simple. The key point is that enterprise is not forgotten in how we grow the city.”

The meeting, organised by Invest Milton Keynes and held at Jury’s Inn, heard that 102,000 new jobs were needed to support the planned growth, of which 30,000 would be required in the city centre. A marketing campaign was targeting major organisations, particularly those in the technology and financial sectors from London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Invest Milton Keynes director of investment Grant Seeley said: “It is not just about attracting jobs it’s about attracting job quality. Pushing wealth generation higher and higher is the key aim.”

Mr Hickey said: “It is all about the quality of what we are building and whom we are attracting. We are living in a global economy where people are coming out of the education system with the right skills is critical to moving the city forward.”

Transport issues also came under scrutiny. Milton Keynes Council leader Isobel McCall warned that public transport had to improve to allow the 20 per cent of the population without access to a car to take advantage of employment opportunities. If not, increased volume of traffic would double journey times around the city within five years.

Mr Hickey said: “The two USPs that Milton Keynes has are its environment and ease of movement. The Chamber is supportive of improving public transport but we are not happy to risk the very significant USPs that Milton Keynes currently has.

“The bigger game plan is that we are a small but strategic part of what the UK is facing – the competitiveness of British industry and its place in the 21st century. I am very excited about the prospects for the city but unless enterprise is successful and we have clear leadership, it is all for nothing.””