Effective delivery of strategic sites: Milton Keynes Strategy for 2050

As part of the preparation for the new city of Milton Keynes reaching its half century, the Milton Keynes Futures 2050 Commission - a group of nine individuals, chaired by the Vice Chair of Cranfield University, with other commissioners being either experts in their fields or local champions - produced a series of reports entitled ‘Milton Keynes: Making a Great City Greater’.  


Fact file

Type – non-statutory strategic plan 

Local Planning Authority – Milton Keynes Council  

Landowner – n/a 

Promoter / Developer – n/a 

Scale – looking at growth options for a doubling of the population of the Milton Keynes between 2018 and 2050 or thereabouts  

Strategic infrastructure requirements – full suite of city-scale infrastructure investment including exploration of city-wide rapid transit options 

Other key uses – n/a 

Status – adopted as council strategy (December 2020). 

View Milton Keynes Strategy for 2050 


Inception and strategy 

As part of the preparation for the new city of Milton Keynes reaching its half century, the Milton Keynes Futures 2050 Commission - a group of nine individuals, chaired by the Vice Chair of Cranfield University, with other commissioners being either experts in their fields or local champions - produced a series of reports entitled ‘Milton Keynes: Making a Great City Greater’.  

The Commission process was supported by council officers and political group leaders attended the Commission meetings to be able to contribute to the debate. The group discussed the issues, challenges and opportunities facing Milton Keynes and the global drivers that will influence place shaping in the future.   

The Commission’s role and recommendations were much wider than planning policy and spatial plan making. The importance of ‘inclusive growth’ was emphasised to ensure that the benefits of growth will be across the whole community, not just those living in new areas or working in newly created jobs. Education and mobility were identified as fundamental to the future prosperity of the city and addressing those two issues were recommended as a priority.   

As part of delivering its 2050 vision, the Commission recommended six big projects, two of which - ‘Growth and Strategy’ and ‘Smart Shared Mobility’ – have a direct relationship with spatial planning.  

The role of the MK Futures 2050 Commission came to a formal end in July 2016 once its report was published.  


Plan making  

Following the Commission’s recommendations, the council commissioned a series of evidence base studies including a strategic growth study to progress the six big projects and inform the preparation of a Growth Strategy for 2050.   

The growth study took forward the ambitions expressed through the Futures work and the Council Plan 2016-22, which already advocated planning for the growth of the Milton Keynes area to a population of 500,000 people by 2050, to analyse how this level and type of growth might manifest itself spatially and over time. 

A particular spatial priority for the growth study was to examine the links between planned growth and a shift to more sustainable travel. This resulted in recommendations around the optimum scale and direction of growth to support a city-scale rapid transit system. 

Other priorities such as health and education were factored in to spatial considerations whilst acknowledging that other council policies would take the lead on delivery of objectives.  

Due to the need to look further ahead than local plan periods, have an eye to cross-boundary issues, and to encompass other strategies and policies of the council, the council elected to bring together this evidence with other council strategy documents to pursue a non-statutory growth plan. 

Whilst not forming part of the statutory development plan, the MK Strategy for 2050 is now adopted as council policy and will be a material consideration in the preparation of further rounds of local plans.   


Engagement and consultation  

The growth study identified a number of opportunities for planned cross-border growth related to Milton Keynes. Although the strategic growth study was commissioned jointly by Milton Keynes and two of its neighbouring authorities, MK Council prepared and adopted the subsequent Growth Strategy to inform strategic growth needs and priorities within its own administrative boundaries, identifying where cross-boundary considerations would come into play.  

An Engagement Draft of the Strategy was published, and a year-long programme of broad consultation took place which focused on local stakeholders and hard-to-reach groups, particularly children and young people (those likely to shape and benefit most from a 30-year growth and investment strategy). 

This has ensured that the Strategy has a far wider reach than traditional planning documents and is already shaping wider stakeholder plans and strategies.  


Futureproofing and adaptation 

In the Milton Keynes tradition, it is recognised that the Strategy is a beginning and includes some high-level spatial masterplans only in the sense they provide a strategic framework within which to consider future development and infrastructure options, allocations and delivery. 

But as with all good strategies it defines the main objectives whilst retaining flexibility to allow adjustments to new situations or technologies as they develop.  This means that the Strategy can influence planning for longer than a single plan period, and can also draw together the different strands of council responsibility – transport, housing, education, health and green infrastructure for example – to test different policy and plan options against a set of agreed social, economic and environmental outcomes.  


Ensuring delivery of infrastructure alongside development 

MK already has its own infrastructure ‘tariff’ to ensure that the number of concurrent strategic development area allocations can fund district scale infrastructure. The Strategy for 2050 has supported the council in exploring ways in which the tariff model could be developed to lever in and capture more uplift in land value for infrastructure. 

Planning proactively for significant levels of long-term growth and development has also meant that the council has been able to open up conversations with central government about other funding and delivery mechanisms which might be possible to ensure city-scale infrastructure is delivered to support well-planned growth.