Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes, town (1991 pop. 36,886) and borough, S central England. Milton Keynes was designated one of the new towns in 1967 to alleviate overpopulation in London. It is the seat of the Open Univ.; students there receive instruction by correspondence and through the media.
Milton Keynes often abbreviated to MK, is a large town in South East England, about north-west of London. It is also the principal town of the Borough of Milton Keynes, itself part of ceremonial Buckinghamshire. It was formally designated as a new town on 23 January 1967. Its area incorporated the existing towns of Bletchley, Wolverton and Stony Stratford along with another fifteen villages and farmland in between. It took its name from the existing village of Milton Keynes, a few miles east of the planned city centre. Uniquely for the United Kingdom, the urban form uses a 1 km grid for the top level of street hierarchy: the local form of most districts is more traditional. At the 2001 census the population of the Milton Keynes urban area, including the adjacent town of Newport Pagnell, was 184,506, and that of the wider Borough, which has been a unitary authority independent of Buckinghamshire County Council since 1997, was 207,063 (compared with a population of around 53,000 for the same area in 1961).


Birth of a "New City"

In the 1960s, the Government decided that a further generation of new towns in the South East was needed to relieve housing congestion in London, where thousands of people were still living in dilapidated Victorian terraces which lacked many basic amenities.

Since the 1950s, overspill housing for several London boroughs had been constructed in Bletchley. Further studies in the 1960s identified north Buckinghamshire as a possible site for a large new town, a new city, encompassing the existing towns of Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Wolverton. The New Town (informally, "New City") was to be the biggest yet, with a target population of 250,000, in a 'designated area' of . The name "Milton Keynes" was taken from the existing village of Milton Keynes on the site.

The site was deliberately located equidistant from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge with the intention that it would be self-sustaining and eventually become a major regional centre in its own right. Planning control was taken from elected local authorities and delegated to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC).

The Corporation's strongly modernist designs featured regularly in the magazines Architectural Design and the Architects' Journal. MKDC was determined to learn from the mistakes made in the earlier New Towns and revisit the Garden City ideals. They set in place the characteristic grid roads that run between districts and the intensive planting, lakes and parkland that are so evident today. Central Milton Keynes was not intended to be a traditional town centre but a business and shopping district that supplemented the Local Centres in most of the Grid Squares. This non-hierarchical devolved city plan was a departure from the English New Towns tradition and envisaged a wide range of industry and diversity of housing styles and tenures across the city. The largest and almost the last of the British New Towns, Milton Keynes has stood the test of time far better than most, and has proved flexible and adaptable. The radical grid plan was inspired by the work of Californian urban theorist Melvin M Webber (1921-2006), described by the founding architect of Milton Keynes, Derek Walker, as the "father of the city". Webber thought that telecommunications meant that the old idea of a city as a concentric cluster was out of date and that cities which enabled people to travel around them readily would be the thing of the future achieving "community without propinquity" for residents. With both car ownership and ever more emphasis on e-commerce, his ideas, launched in the 1960s, have proved far-sighted.

Moving to maturity

The Government wound up MKDC in 1992, transferring control to the Commission for New Towns (CNT) and then finally to English Partnerships, with the planning function returning to local authority control (since 1974 and the Local Government Act 1972, the Milton Keynes Borough Council, which was subsequently made a unitary authority in the 1990s). Most recently, the Government has assigned significant planning control to English Partnerships, charging it with increasing the population beyond to 300,000 by 2030. The Milton Keynes Partnership has also been formed, charged with co-ordinating the necessary and sometimes conflicting interests across the community as Milton Keynes enters its next phase.

Along with many other towns and boroughs, Milton Keynes competed for formal city status in the 2000 and 2002 competitions, but was not ultimately successful.

Prior history

The area that was to become Milton Keynes encompassed a landscape that has a rich historic legacy. The area to be developed was largely farmland and undeveloped villages, but with evidence of permanent settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. Before construction began, every area was subject to detailed archaeological investigation: doing so has provided a unique insight into the history of a large sample of the landscape of south-central England. There is evidence of Iron Age, Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Medieval and Industrial revolution settlements. Collections of oral history covering the 20th century completes a picture that is described in detail at the main article.

When the boundary of Milton Keynes was defined, some 40,000 people lived in three towns and seven villages in the "designated area" of 21,833 acre (88.4 km²).

Urban design

The concepts that heavily influenced the design of the town are described in detail in article urban planning - see 'cells' under Planning and aesthetics (referring to grid squares).See also article single-use zoning.

Since the radical plan form and large scale of Milton Keynes attracted international attention, early phases of the town include work by celebrated architects, including (Sir) Richard MacCormac, (Lord) Norman Foster, Henning Larsen, Ralph Erskine, John Winter, and Martin Richardson. The Corporation itself attracted talented young architects led by the young and charismatic Derek Walker. Though strongly committed to sleek "Miesian" minimalism inspired by the German/ American architect Mies van der Rohe they also developed a strand of contextualism in advance of the wider adoption of commercial Post-Modernism as an architectural style in the 1980s. In the Miesian tradition were the Pineham Sewage Works, which Derek Walker regarded as his finest achievement, and the Shopping Building designed by Stuart Mosscrop and Christopher Woodward, which is widely regarded as the finest twentieth century retail building in Britain (due for major redevelopment in 2007, following the failure of attempts to have it protected as a Listed building). The contextual tradition that ran alongside it is best exemplified by the Corporation's infill scheme at Cofferidge Close, Stony Stratford, designed by Wayland Tunley, which carefully inserts into a historic stretch of High Street a modern retail facility, offices and car park. The Development Corporation also led an ambitious Public art programme.

Grid squares

Milton Keynes Development Corporation planned the major road layout according to street hierarchy principles, using a grid pattern of approximately 1 km interval, rather than on the more conventional radial pattern found in older settlements. Major roads within the town run between communities, rather than through them: the major roads are known locally as grid roads and the spaces between them are known as grid squares. Intervals of 1 km were chosen so that people would always be within walking distance of a bus stop. Consequently each grid square is a semi-autonomous community, making a unique collective of 100 clearly identifiable neighbourhoods within the overall urban environment. The grid squares have a variety of development styles, ranging from conventional urban development and industrial parks to original rural and modern urban and pseudo-rural developments. Most grid squares have Local Centres, intended as local retail hubs and most with community facilities as well. Originally intended under the Master Plan to sit alongside the Grid Roads, the Local Centres were mostly in fact built embedded in the communities and some are becoming unviable as a result of this and pressure from the new hypermarkets.

Roads and cycleways

Roundabout junctions were built at intersections since the grid roads were intended to carry large volumes of traffic: this type of junction is efficient at dealing with these volumes. The major roads are dual carriageway, the others are single carriageway. Along one side of each single-carriageway grid road, there is a (grassed) reservation to permit dualling or additional transport infrastructure at a later date. The edges of each grid square are landscaped and densely planted, some additionally have berms. The purpose of the berms is to reduce traffic noise for adjacent residents; but traffic noise can be significant at many locations, even some distance from the grid roads. Traffic movements are fast, with little congestion since there are many alternative routes to any particular destination. The national speed limit applies on dualled sections of the grid roads (70 mph) and most single carriageway grid roads (60 mph), although some single carriageway speed limits have now been reduced to 40 mph. Consequently the risk to unwary pedestrians and turning traffic is significant, although pedestrians rarely need to cross grid roads at grade, as underpasses exist in several places along each stretch of all of the grid roads. Some pedestrians avoid some of the underpasses through fear or inconvenience, though this is not typical. Monitoring station data shows that pollution is lower than in other settlements of a similar size. This can be partially attributed to the large number of trees, especially as trees line grid roads in most places.

There is a separate cycleway network (the "redways") that runs through the grid-squares and sometimes runs alongside the grid-road network. This was designed to segregate slow moving cycle and pedestrian traffic from fast moving motor traffic. In practice, it is mainly used for leisure cycling rather than commuting, mainly because the cycle routes include many underpasses beneath the grid-roads and because they take meandering scenic routes rather than straight lines. Despite what appears to be a desirable facility, rates of cycle commuting in Milton Keynes are well below the national average for urban areas. The detailed article includes a critical appraisal.


The original design guidance declared that "no building [be] taller than the tallest tree". However, the Milton Keynes Partnership, in its expansion plans for Milton Keynes, believes that Central Milton Keynes (and elsewhere) needs "landmark buildings" and has recently lifted the height restriction for the area. As a result, 14-storey buildings are now being built in the town centre. Some of the pedestrian underpasses are being closed in order to 'normalise' the townscape of Central Milton Keynes and the character of the area is set to change under government pressure to increase densities of development.

The most recent building under construction is The Pinnacle MK on Midsummer Boulevard. The Pinnacle is the largest office building to be constructed in Milton Keynes in 25 years, it can bee seen in the town's modern skyline in the image above, where the 2 tower cranes are. Construction started in July 2007 and is due to complete in June 2009.

Linear parks

The flood plains of the Great Ouse and of its tributaries (the Ouzel and some brooks) have been protected as linear parks that run right through the town. The Grand Union Canal is another green route (and demonstrates the level geography of the town - there is just one minor lock in its entire 10 mile route through from Fenny Stratford to the "Iron Trunk" Aqueduct over the Ouse at Wolverton. The Milton Keynes redway system of cycleways and footpaths uses these and other routes. The Park system was designed by landscape architect Peter Youngman, who also developed landscape precepts for the whole town: groups of grid squares were to be planted with different selections of trees and shrubs in order to give them distinct identities. However the landscaping of parks and of the grid roads was evolved under the leadership of Neil Higson, who from 1977 took over as Chief Landscape Architect and made the original grand but not entirely practical landscape plan more subtle. A policy of creating "settings, strings, beads" for landscape features was introduced: 'settings' for historic villages and landscape features, 'strings' of landscape to make the linear parks hang together and 'beads' of public space where residents might linger. Higson also made the landscaping of the Grid Roads, one of the glories of Milton Keynes, more subtle, with 'windows' cut into the roadside planting so that motorists travelling through had a sense of the major town they were in; early critics had said of Milton Keynes 'there is no there there', as the town could not be seen by the motorist just passing through. Now that the trees and shrubs have matured, the skill and lavish scale of the Grid Road planting makes a dramatic and welcome change from the monotony of many British towns.

"City in the forest"

The original Development Corporation design concept aimed for a "forest city" and its foresters planted millions of trees from its own nursery in Newlands in the following years. As of 2006, the urban area has 20 million trees. Following the winding up of the Development Corporation the lavish landscapes of the Grid Roads and of the major parks were transferred to The Parks Trust, a charity which is independent from the municipal authority and which was intended to resist pressures to build on the parks over time. The Parks Trust is endowed with a portfolio of commercial properties, the income of which pay for the upkeep of the green spaces, a town-wide maintenance model which has attracted international attention.

Further development plans

In January 2004, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the Government's plan to double the population of Milton Keynes by 2025. He appointed English Partnerships to do so, taking planning controls away from Milton Keynes Borough Council and making EP the statutory planning authority. Their proposal for the next phase of expansion moves away from grid squares to large scale, mixed use, higher density development. The more detailed article expands on the details of their proposals. As the first stage in that plan, the Government expanded the boundaries of the designated area, adding large green-field expansion sites to the east and west that are to be developed by 2015.

As might be anticipated, these plans are controversial – especially as planning control has again been removed from elected local authorities and placed in the hands of a central government-appointed body. Changes to Central Milton Keynes have been especially controversial and include the redevelopment of the shopping building, the finest monument of the "new city".

Milton Keynes is at the centre of the South Midlands area identified by the government for growth.


The open air National Bowl is a 65,000 capacity venue for large scale concerts. It is situated off the A5 near Furzton.

The 1,400 seat Milton Keynes Theatre (Blonski-Heard) opened in 1999. Its high booking rate allows it to lay claim to the title "Britain's most popular theatre". The theatre has an unusual feature: the ceiling can be lowered closing off the third tier (gallery) to create a more intimate space for smaller scale productions. There are further performance spaces in Bletchley, Wolverton, Leadenhall, Shenley Church End, Stantonbury and Walton Hall.

The municipal (art) gallery (Milton Keynes Gallery, next to the main theatre) hosts various exhibitions.

In Wavendon, on the southeast edge of the town, The Stables provides a venue for jazz, blues, folk, rock, classical, pop and world music. It is closely associated with jazz artists Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. The venue also hosts an annual summer camp for young musicians.

Another music venue is The Pitz Club in the Woughton Centre, Leadenhall. It usually features a mixture of punk, alternative rock, and heavy metal.

There are two museums, the Bletchley Park museum of wartime cryptography, and the Milton Keynes Museum, which includes the Stacey Hill Collection of rural life that existed before the foundation of the new town.

The town also has a literature scene, with groups like Speakeasy meeting regularly and hosting performance events, and the town's only poetry magazine, Monkey Kettle coming out three times a year.


The Open University's headquarters are based in the Walton Hall district, though as this is a distance learning institution, the only students resident on campus are approximately 200 postgraduates. Cranfield University, another postgraduate school, is located just outside the town, in Cranfield, Bedfordshire. Milton Keynes College provides further education to Foundation Degree level.

In the early-1990s a purpose built Polytechnic was opened at Kents Hill in Milton Keynes, opposite the Open University's Walton Hall site. At around the time the existing Polytechnics converted to Universities, "MK Poly" merged with the former Leicester Polytechnic, De Montfort University and the site was rebranded the DMU MK site. However in recent years, DMU closed the MK site and the Open University has expanded to take over the buildings.

Milton Keynes Council has identified the lack of a conventional local university as a problem. As an attempt to rectify this situation, a consortium of surrounding universities including De Montfort and Northampton, plus the Open University and Milton Keynes College have formed Universities for Milton Keynes.

Like many parts of the UK, the state secondary schools in Milton Keynes are Comprehensive schools, although schools in the rest of Buckinghamshire still use the Tripartite System. Results are above the national average, though below that of the rest of Buckinghamshire – but the demography of Milton Keynes is also far closer to the national average than is the latter. However 3 of the schools in Milton Keynes (Sir Frank Markham Community School, Leon School and Sports College and The Radcliffe School) were amongst the worse 190 schools in England for GCSE results.

Communications and media

Milton Keynes has one major commercial radio station dedicated to the area, Horizon Radio, a member of the G-Cap Media Group. The local BBC radio station is BBC Three Counties Radio, which covers Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, but has different programming from the Bow Brickhill transmitter at breakfast and lunchtime. Cable Radio Milton Keynes - 89.8fm(CRMK) is a voluntary cable radio station broadcasting on the Virgin Media Cable Network for Milton Keynes and on the Internet.

For television, the area is in the overlap between the Oxford and the Sandy transmitters and so receives BBC South and BBC East, and ITV Central and Anglia. Signal quality is weak in many areas due to distance and "terrain shadow". It was for this reason among others that Milton Keynes has one of the first Cable TV networks in the UK. However, the cable network is now ageing and in need of modernisation to cope with the imminent digital TV switchover due by 2012; many residents have already opted for roof-top aerials and satellite dishes.

Milton Keynes has two free-to-residents local newspapers, the Milton Keynes Citizen , which is twice-weekly, and the MK News , a weekly.


Milton Keynes has professional teams in football (Milton Keynes Dons F.C.), ice hockey (Milton Keynes Lightning) and in basketball (Milton Keynes Lions). It is represented at amateur level in many sports, some at national level. For details see Sport in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes is also home to the Xscape indoor ski slope.

Senior football was a relatively late arrival in Milton Keynes. There had been several non-league teams based in the area over the years, but it wasn't until the late 1990s that it looked as though Milton Keynes would have a senior side. Local Businessman Pete Winkelman approached several clubs in and near London about a move to Milton Keynes, as it was by now the largest town or city in England to be without a professional club. He got his wish in May 2002 when Wimbledon FC were given permission to relocate to Milton Keynes - 62 miles away from their home borough of Merton. Wimbledon moved into the National Hockey Stadium in September 2003 as a temporary home until a new, larger stadium could be built. A year later, Wimbledon FC became Milton Keynes Dons, and three years after that they moved into a new 22,000-seat in the Denbigh district of south Milton Keynes. They hope to have a 32,000 capacity by 2009.


As a key element of the "New City" vision, Milton Keynes has a purpose built centre, with a very large "covered high street" shopping centre, theatre, art gallery, two multiplex cinemas, hotels, business district, ecumenical church, Borough Council offices and central railway station.

Other amenities

Original towns and villages

The historical settlements have been focal points for the modern development of the new city. Every grid square has historical antecedents, if only in the field names. The more obvious ones are listed below and most have more detailed articles.

Bletchley was first recorded in the 12th century as Blechelai. Its station was a major Victorian junction (the London and North Western Railway with the Oxford-Cambridge Varsity Line), leading to the substantial urban growth in the town in that period. It expanded to absorb the villages of Water Eaton and Fenny Stratford.

Bletchley Park was home to the Government Code and Cypher School during the Second World War. The famous Enigma code was cracked here, and the building housed what was arguably the world's first programmable computer, Colossus. The house is now a museum of war memorabilia, cryptography and computing.

The Benedictine Priory of Bradwell Abbey at Bradwell was of major economic importance in this area of north Buckinghamshire before the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The routes of the medieval trackways (many of which are now Redways or bridleways) converge on the site from some distance. Nowadays there is only a small medieval chapel and a manor house occupying the site.

New Bradwell, to the north of the medieval Bradwell (Abbey) and just across the canal and the railway to the east of Wolverton, was built specifically for railway workers. It has a working windmill. The level bed of the old railway from Newport Pagnell to Wolverton ends here and has been converted to a Redway, making it a favourite route for cycling.

Great Linford appears in the Domesday Book as Linforde, and features a church dedicated to Saint Andrew, dating from 1215. Today, the outer buildings of the 17th century manor house form an Arts Centre, and Linford Manor is a prestigious recording studio.

Milton Keynes Village is the original village to which the New "City" owes its name. The original village is still evident, with a pleasant thatched pub, village hall, church and traditional housing. The area around the village has reverted to its original name of Middleton, as shown on old maps of the 1700s. The oldest surviving domestic building in the area, a 14th century manor house, is here.

There has been a market in Stony Stratford since 1194 (by charter of King Richard I). The Rose and Crown Inn at Stratford is reputedly the last place the Princes in the Tower were seen alive.

The manor house of Walton village, Walton Hall, is the headquarters of the Open University and the tiny parish church (deconsecrated) is in its grounds.

The tiny Parish Church (1680) at Willen contains the only unaltered building by the architect and physicist Robert Hooke. Nearby, there is a Buddhist Temple and a Peace Pagoda. The district borders the River Ouzel: there is a large balancing lake here, to capture flash floods before they cause problems downstream on the River Great Ouse. The north basin is a wildlife sanctuary and a favourite of migrating aquatic birds. The south basin is for leisure use, favoured by wind surfers and dinghy sailors. The circuit of the lakes is a favoured "fun run".

The original Wolverton was a medieval settlement just north and west of today's town. The Ridge and Furrow pattern of agriculture can still be seen in the nearby fields and the Saxon (rebuilt in 1819) Church of the Holy Trinity still stands next to the Norman Motte and Bailey site. Modern Wolverton was a 19th century New Town built to house the workers at the Wolverton railway works (which built engines and carriages for the London and North Western Railway).

Economy, Demographics, Geography, Politics

Data on the economy, demographics and politics of Milton Keynes is collected at the Borough level and can be found at Economy of the Borough and Demographics of the Borough. However, since the urban area is predominant in the Borough, it is reasonable to assume that the figures are broadly the same. Milton Keynes is one of the most successful (per capita) economies in the South East, itself the economic powerhouse of the United Kingdom. The population is significantly younger than the national averages. As of 2008, there is effective full employment. According to 2005 estimates, the ethnic makeup of the city is 88.0% White, 4.7% South Asian, 3.5% Black, 2.1% Mixed Race, 1.7% Chinese or other.

Modern parishes and districts

The Borough of Milton Keynes is fully parished. These are the parishes, and the districts they contain, within Milton Keynes itself. For a list of parishes in the Borough, see Borough of Milton Keynes (Rest of the borough)

Notable people


The Grand Union Canal between London and Birmingham provides a major axis in the design of Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes is situated on the West Coast Main Line, which served Bletchley railway station and Wolverton railway station before the development of Milton Keynes. These stations are now only served by local services, and the Milton Keynes Central station has been developed between these and serves the town centre. The Marston Vale Line branches from the WCML at Bletchley, and has two stations : Fenny Stratford railway station and Bow Brickhill railway station.

The M1 motorway runs to the east of the town, and is served by junctions 13, 14, and 15A. The A5 road runs through the west of the town. Other main roads include the A509, which links Milton Keynes with Wellingborough and Kettering, and the A421 which goes west to Buckingham and east to Bedford.

Many coaches stop at the Milton Keynes Coachway, beside M1 Junction 14, near a park and ride car park, about 3 miles (5 km) from the centre (3.5 miles from Milton Keynes Central station).

The main bus operator is MK Metro, providing a number of routes which mainly pass through or serve Central Milton Keynes.

Milton Keynes is served by routes 6 and 51 on the National Cycle Network.

The nearest international airport is London Luton Airport which is accessible by route VT99 from MK Central station, this service runs with wheelchair accessible coaches. There is a direct rail connection to Birmingham International Airport. There is an aerodrome at Cranfield, 6 miles (10 km) from the centre.

See also


External links

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