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Milton Keynes - Celebrates Fifty Years

Author: Hamish Thompson Published: 23rd January 2017 01:39
Milton Keynes has more than 220 works of public art.Milton Keynes has more than 220 works of public art.
Milton Keynes, Britain’s most famous and successful product of the New Town movement, celebrates its 50th anniversary today.  A city that started as the dream of politicians and planners in the late 1960s is now home to almost 270,000 residents and 11,000 businesses, and is a cultural artefact in its own right.  Today, Milton Keynes forms a model for new cities worldwide, with developments in India and China based on the proven MK formula.

On January 23rd 1967, Housing Minister Anthony Greenwood read an Act of Parliament to the House of Commons that fired the starting gun for the creation of a unique green metropolis on 8,850 HA of farmland and undeveloped villages, positioned perfectly in the heart of England, roughly equidistant from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge.  

Throughout the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, Milton Keynes was the fastest growing economy in the UK.  It contributes over £10 billion of the nation’s Gross Value Added (GVA) economic output and has the UK’s third highest start-up rate and its fourth highest density of businesses.  Last year the National Infrastructure Commission launched its interim report into the Cambridge – MK – Oxford corridor stating Milton Keynes could become a global showcase for science, technology and innovation – effectively Britain’s Silicon Valley.  Innovative, knowledge-based businesses are significant investors in Milton Keynes, with a third of its employment in this sector compared a quarter nationwide.  

Showing a sense of humour, in 2016 Milton Keynes launched the Unexpected MK campaign challenging people's pre-conceived ideas of the city.  Adverts included “Nothing but roundabouts they said” featuring images of rolling landscape, and “No history they said” alongside an artwork of Sir Alan Turing – father of the modern computer and codebreaking genius.  His wartime base, Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, is an internationally recognised heritage attraction.

Around two-fifths of Milton Keynes is open space, with residents never more than half a mile from parkland.  With 15 lakes and 11 miles of canals, the city has more bridges than Venice and more shoreline than the island of Jersey.  There are more than twenty two million trees and shrubs, around 100 for every resident, and more than 180 miles of dedicated bridleways, footpaths and cycletracks.  

The 50th anniversary is also an opportunity to look forward, and Milton Keynes:

  • Has announced it will bid in the European Capital of Culture 2023 competition.
  • Recently launched the UK’s first trial of driverless pods in pedestrianised areas as part of the LUTZ Pathfinder project led by the Transport Systems Catapult based in MK. By 2018 a fleet of 40 pods will be operating revolutionising how people travel around the city centre.
  • Is a Go Ultra Low city with initiatives including a network of electric car charge points, and electric bus fleets.  The number of electric vehicles driven in MK tripled during 2016.
  • Is undergoing a large collaborative initiative known as MK:Smart, which is developing clever ways to support economic growth in Milton Keynes. Alongside business and education engagement programmes, this includes the creation of a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’. This hub will gather and analyse vast amounts of city data - everything from energy and water consumption through to transport data, social trends and information acquired through satellite technology.
  • Established the MK2050 Futures Commission, chaired by Sir Pete Gregson.  The Commission’s report Making A Great City Greater set out six big ideas for the further development of Milton Keynes including plans for a smart, integrated transport network and the establishments of MK:IT a new style university promoting Living Lab research into the problems facing fast growing cities everywhere.

Cllr Pete Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council said: “People came to MK to be part of something new where everyone could shape their place called home.  This created a community keen to progress and move forward.  We’re incredibly proud of the progress that MK, its residents, businesses and organisations have made in its first fifty years and we are as ambitious and optimistic for the future.  As originally designed, nothing stands still in Milton Keynes and we’re ready for our next phase of growth.”

A year-long programme of activities marking the city’s impressive progress as a world-class centre for urban design, technology, commerce, culture, environmental leadership and innovation is planned for the anniversary.  Events reflect on what the city has achieved since 1967, as well demonstrating its goals for the future.    

The programme starts with an exhibition telling the story of the city’s transformation from farmland to bustling metropolis over the past fifty years.  Other events include:

  • City Club - a programme of new art, performances, family activities and talks inspired by the original plans for MK including mobile public artwork The Citizen Ship, which will tour MK over the summer before going on display outside MK Gallery.
  • Party Like it’s 1967 – a series of parties held at Midsummer.
  • Red Bull Racing takeover day - pit stop challenges, driving simulators, merchandise and more.
  • 50 Walks for MK - a series of walks held over 2017 to celebrate MK’s picturesque parks and open spaces.
  • MK History Festival - giant re-enactment event sharing the sights, sounds and smells of various periods in MK’s history.
  • Milton Keynes City Orchestra – a series of high profile concerts including a giant Proms in the Park.
  • 50 golden landmarks trail – interactive trail, based around an app, celebrating MK’s iconic places and spaces from Bancroft Villa to Elizabeth Frink’s Black Horse sculpture.
  • Short story competition  - with prizes for the best story based in MK.

Milton Keynes’ position as a global centre of excellence in urban planning, design and living will also be celebrated.  Leading urban designers from around the world will attend the International New Town Conference to be held in June featuring seminars from city planners, while transport infrastructure experts from across the globe will discover the city’s plans for building smart, shared sustainable public mobility systems. National and international businesses based in Milton Keynes will showcase the city’s many drivers for growth.  

Fifty facts about Milton Keynes
  1. MK covers 119 square miles and is 40% green space.  No-one in MK is ever more than half a mile from a park.
  2. More than 22 million trees and shrubs and 250 million daffodils are planted in MK.
  3. We have more than 180 miles of dedicated bridleways, footpaths and cycletracks (known locally as Redways) across the borough.  The Redway was originally to be called the Pedway, being a cross between pedestrian and pedal.
  4. MK has more bridges than Venice and more shoreline than Jersey – thanks to 15 lakes and 11 miles of canals.
  5. The UK’s first solar powered house was opened in Bradville, MK in 1972
  6. MK started the country’s first kerbside household recycling in 1992.
  7. MK was first place in the UK to require all new developments (homes and buildings) to be carbon neutral.
  8. Britain’s first self-driving ‘pod’ vehicle was unveiled in MK in 2015, and is being trialled in the borough.
  9. The Blue Lagoon has at least 28 species of butterfly as well as being the site of rare British Orchids.
  10. Midsummer Boulevard is so called because the sun rises at its east end on the Summer Solstice.
  11. Fenny Lock is the smallest canal lock in the country.
  12. If London was built to the same density as Milton Keynes, it would cover East Anglia.
  13. MK has more than 220 works of public art.
  14. Milton Keynes Theatre is the most popular theatre in the UK outside London.
  15. We’re bidding to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.
  16. Around 2.5m visits are made to arts or heritage sites and facilities in MK each year.
  17. 65,000 people can fit in the National Bowl – which has attracted artists including David Bowie, Take That and Queen.
  18. There are over 2,000 listed buildings in the Milton Keynes area
  19. The Stables is Milton Keynes premier live music venue and was founded by the late Sir John Dankworth and his wife, Dame Cleo Laine in the grounds of their home at Wavendon.
  20. The ten day MK International Festival has taken place bi-annually in July since 2010 and has attracted over 90,000 visitors each year.
  21. By 2026, almost 300,000 people will live in Milton Keynes and 325,000 by 2037 (ONS Estimate).
  22. 18 million people live within 60 minutes’ travel of Milton Keynes.
  23. Around 13 people move to MK each day.
  24. MK has more than 1,400 voluntary and community groups in total involving an estimated 84,500 volunteers
  25. More than 100 languages are spoken in MK’s schools.
  26. MK is one of the UK’s top five locations for business start-ups.
  27. The Open University was established in Milton Keynes in 1969 - the world’s first degree-awarding distance learning institution.
  28. Around 27 million visits are made to MK’s shopping centres each year.
  29. Snozone in Xscape has two 220ft high real snow slopes, topped up each day with fresh snow.
  30. The ‘motorist’s friend’, WD40, is produced in Milton Keynes.  Only six people know the recipe.
  31. The Quadrant:MK, headquarters of Network Rail, opened in 2012, covers a massive 400,000 sq ft and 3,000 people go to work there every day.
  32.  World famous Marshall Amplification is based in Bletchley, MK.
  33. The MK Dons Football Club is based at stadiummk which is a 30,000 all seater stadium. In October 2015, Milton Keynes was a host city for the Rugby World Cup with three matches being played at stadiummk.
  34. Red Bull Racing F1 team, who are based in MK, won four back-to-back Constructors and Drivers Championships in 2010/11/12/13. In December 2011, over 60,000 people took to the streets to watch Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber drive their F1 cars on the boulevards in Central Milton Keynes.
  35. 2012 Gold medal winning long jumper Greg Rutherford grew up in MK.  His winning jump was 8.31 metres.
  36. Richard I granted Stony Stratford right to hold a market in 1194.  
  37. An annual pancake race in Olney dates from 1445.
  38. Traffic in Newport Pagnell still passes over one of the oldest working cast iron bridges in Britain.  
  39. In the 1700s, travellers would try to outdo each other with tall tales while resting at The Cock and The Bull inns in Stony Stratford, leading to the popular phrase “a cock and bull story”.
  40. In the 1860s, Billy Smith of Woolstone claimed to be the first man to cultivate a farm entirely by steam.
  41. Home of the Royal Train, Wolverton has produced coaches for Queen Victoria in 1869, King Edward VII in 1903 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1961.
  42. Amazing Grace was written by John Newton while he was curate of Olney, MK.
  43. MK’s Church of Christ the Cornerstone was the first purpose-built ecumenical church in the UK.
  44. The Peace Pagoda in Willen Park was the first to be built in the western hemisphere.  1,000 cherry and cedar trees grow around the Peace Pagoda in memory of those killed in all wars.
  45. Charles Dickens visited Stony Stratford and based a character in Bleak House on a resident.
  46. Bletchley was the home of Caves Solid Beer.  Sold in slabs, water was added to make the drink.
  47. In Saxon times, there was a Royal Mint in Newport Pagnell.
  48. The world’s first semi-programmable electronic computer, Colossus, was built at Bletchley Park.
  49. The Enigma code was cracked in Bletchley during WWII, considered to have shortened the war by two years.
  50. Human settlement started in MK in 2000BC and the village of Milton Keynes is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086.
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peter k
At 13:53 on 23rd January 2017, peter k commented:
Yes a marvellous aceivement, especially the vast tree and bush planting, designed from a visionary master plan. The results are now appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

Sadly I know of no statue of recognition to the man or team. Not even mentioned in the article above. I think the masterful Capabiliy Brown would have been chalenged by the task

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