David Lock (pictured) , whose company David Lock Associates, has played a part in previous expansion plans and designed new transport systems in Cambridge and Birmingham, said; “We can do better than this. We are aiming too low.”
He aired his concerns at a meeting in Central Milton Keynes, at which Milton Keynes Councilâ€™s chief highways and transportation engineer Kevin Whiteside and Alan Bates, senior regeneration manager for Milton Keynes Partnership outlined the plans for transport and parking in Central Milton Keynes.
Other business people at the event, organised by the Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber of Commerce and held at Juryâ€™s Inn, also voiced fears that the plans were not right for Central Milton Keynes and in particular its surrounding towns.
Mr Whiteside and Mr Bates outlined a series of schemes that would take place between now and 2016, including improvement work to M1 junctions 14 and 13, to the A421 and to more than 50 roundabouts at key points throughout the city.
Mr Bates explained the plans to build a series of multi-storey car parks around the city centre to accommodate the anticipated 30 per cent increase in traffic once the expansion, which would take Milton Keynes from a 250,000 population city to one of 400,000 and the tenth largest in the UK, was complete.
Mr Lock, however, was unimpressed. He described the plans as “a strategy for a small market town” and told the presenters: “We need to get you pumped up. We are designing a system not for the tenth largest city in the UK but for the 110th.
“Our city is a grid city, not a spiderâ€™s web. You can lift the spirits by doing something really different. We need more ideas, more vision and we want something world-famous, not this inadequate approach.”
Mr Whiteside said that the plans showed a pragmatic approach but were scheduled only up to 2016. “It is an approach that makes the most of what we have and that is the grid road system,” he said. “Further expansion may well require another dimension.”
Mr Whiteside had earlier outlined plans to improve the bus service in a bid to encourage more people out of their cars and on to public transport. Among the plans was one to create eight high-quality bus routes along the planned expansion corridors.
“Expansion is going to put a lot of pressure on the existing network,” Mr Whiteside said. “Traffic is forecast to increase by 30 per cent and when you consider that, in school holidays, traffic reduces by 10pc, you can see the impact that will have.”
The first tranche of improvements would take place over the next five years, he added.
Mr Bates told the meeting that both the council and Milton Keynes Partnership intended to keep the business community fully informed. “We need to share the emerging picture with the Chamber and with others in order to hear your feedback,” he said.
Questions from the floor were sceptical about the plans. They would destroy the character of the city centre boulevards, said one. Others raised concerns that out-lying towns such as Stony Stratford, Bletchley and Olney would suffer as the focus turned on to the city centre.
Tony Sellers, managing director of MK Web, said: “I feel an impending sense of doom that the situation is going to get worse. The schemes seem so trivial. I do not understand what is going on., except that it is going to get worse to the point where the whole city is going to reach gridlock.”