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University plan comes under fire

Former MP Brian White (pictured), a committee member of the FSB North Bucks branch, was speaking at a forum hosted by the Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber of Commerce at which the growth options for the city again came under scrutiny.

Milton Keynes already had three unique institutions: the Open University, the University of Buckingham and Cranfield University.

“Why do we need a ‘bog standard’ university?” Mr White asked. “We need to create skills and opportunities rather than university buildings.”

Milton Keynes had transformed over the past 15 years from a city with unemployment running at 12.5 per cent to one with full employment, inward commuting, regeneration, training enterprises skilling people, surplus money for infrastructure.

Mr White said: “We must remember where we came from. We have transformed the city because we recognised the drivers – the Parks Trust for the environment, lots of small businesses, talks about building infrastructure and recognising population movement. Now we have something that has been successful and we have to build upon it.”

Substantial change since 1991 would be dwarfed by the changes over the next 25 years, he added. “If I have a criticism of the MKPC plan, it is that it still thinks in terms of the employment opportunities of the 1990s and not how it’s going to be. I fear that we will try to fit the model from somewhere else into Milton Keynes and forget the drivers that have made us successful.”

Mr White echoed the views of Chamber chief executive Sean Hickey, who warned that enterprise was key to the continued success of Milton Keynes, in particular the city centre.

He said: ” I am deeply concerned that if we damage the enterprise within the city, we damage all our experiences in terms of public services, schools and everything else.

“The Chamber drive is to create a wealthy city but also a healthy city. Growth is not a blank cheque. Infrastructure, skills and enterprise have to be given focus.”