‘They saw the future of Milton Keynes and believe it to be the right time to invest’

Dec 14, 2020

Developer First Base’s vision for the Saxon Court site in Central Milton Keynes.

Mixed use developer First Base has unveiled its plans for the redevelopment of Saxon Court in Central Milton Keynes, highlighting the opportunities within the new hub for the city’s independent businesses and how the development will have a social value of £100 million within a decade.

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THE NEEDS of business now and into the future are a key driver behind the plans for Saxon Court in Central Milton Keynes.

The former Milton Keynes Council offices have been sold to mixed-use developer First Base and real estate investment house Patron Capital, which have begun consultations on their plans for the building ahead of a formal planning application in the spring.

The heritage site is set to be regenerated into 160,000 sq ft of office workspace, retail, and community outlets and more than 250 build-to-rent apartments, around one-third of which will be affordable accommodation.

At an online forum with business leaders in Milton Keynes, First Base’s engagement and social value lead Liam Ronan-Chlond and project director Marc Corbett outlined the long-term vision for the building and how the planned development would be futureproofed.

Cutting edge technology is set to be embedded throughout the development to ensure the site remains sustainable. Delivering a mix of coworking and modern workspace for corporate occupiers and remote workers, the site will also meet the need for more agile ‘hub and spoke’ developments, in a shift away from traditional corporate headquarters – a move accelerated by Covid-19. 

The sale of the ex-Milton Keynes Council site to First Base and real estate investor, Patron Capital forms part of the council’s £2 billion Covid-19 recovery plan to transform the site into a tech and innovation hub with high-quality new homes.

Saxon Court

While the development of the mixed-use scheme is set to meet the council’s vision for good quality and affordable housing, business leaders were also keen to understand the connectivity between the site and local retailers. First Base is looking for variance in the offering and as a result would be turning to independent businesses rather than chains, Mr Ronan-Chlond said.

“Retaining the value of developments ten, 20 years down the line is really important to us,” he added. “To hold value, we are interested in creating a bespoke place which is about people, not just bricks and mortar. And to do this we need to invest in the community around the site.

“We want to understand what makes the area tick and are working with businesses, charities and communities to create a vision which pulls the best of Milton Keynes together.”

One of the original office buildings in Milton Keynes, Saxon Court is among many old office blocks in need of regeneration. Originally focusing on developing affordable housing in London, First Base pivoted to a different business model five years ago, following the trend of businesses moving away from the capital.

With developments in Brighton, Bristol and Cambridge, First Base saw the value in Milton Keynes.

Mr Corbett said: “Milton Keynes has been significantly undervalued. Patron Capital shares our enthusiasm for the huge growth potential in the area. During the Covid-19 crisis, when everyone said the office was dead, they saw the future in Milton Keynes and believe it to be the right time to invest.”

The online forum was hosted by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.

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