Growth, Drivers for Change and the Importance of Public Realm for City Centres – A Case Study of Central Milton Keynes: PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Class 2022


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Given drivers for change such as the covid pandemic, sustainability, health and wellbeing, and changes to the way we shop, the need for high quality public realm within city centres plays an increasingly critical role. Milton Keynes is one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and its 2016-2031 plan expects 26,500 new homes to be built and the creation of 28,000–32, 000 new jobs. The New Local Plan to 2050 will see MK’s population increase from its current 287,000 to 410,000.

Neil Sainsbury, Head of Placemaking at Milton Keynes Council, outlined at PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Class 2022 how the significant forecast growth for the city provides an additional key role for high quality public realm, not only to address these drivers for change but to support and provide for such growth. “Growth”, explained Neil, “represents significant urban design opportunity in terms of placemaking and in particular delivery of high quality public realm and urban spaces”. His insightful keynote explored existing ideas and proposals provided by developers as well as Milton Keynes Council and also identified unique opportunities presented within Central Milton Keynes to repurpose existing public realm.

Neil’s presentation provided examples of ‘smart’ street furniture in the city centre and demonstrated how a public realm handbook will bring clarity to what is required within the bulk of the boulevards, gates and streets. Neil also overviewed the work his team are currently undertaking with transport colleagues to design a smart mobility hub along one of the main CMK boulevards and explained how this could act as a prelude to wider transformation of the same boulevard.

Presentation highlights included:

  • Renaissance CMK – strengthening MK’s role as hub of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc with a public realm to match;
  • Repurposing existing public realm in MK such as the Station Square key gateway space and significant new office and residential development;
  • Linking destinations through improved public realm: Midsummer Boulevard East – temporary transformation and workshopping a series of ‘rooms’; Theatre District mobility hub; Midsummer Boulevard at the centre of a 15 minute neighbourhood; Pedalling culture – promoting active travel to access and connect cultural infrastructure across the city; Walking trails as a new way of exploring urban spaces;
  • Smart street furniture – helping meet a carbon reduction agenda;
  • A rigorous and uniform approach to the design of the public realm in CMK – CMK’s handbook for the public realm and new HQ with publicly accessible space;
  • Saxon Gateway – A new way of providing shared communal space

If you meet our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us at Greencoat Place Conference Centre, London, for the live in-person event on July 7th, CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Neil’s keynote).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling and partnering leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers, planners, place makers, architects, green space managers, urban designers, highways & street scene, transport & mobility and high streets & regeneration professionals from councils and local authorities (city, borough, metropolitan, district, county and combined); people and place partnerships; developers, landowners and creators of privately owned public spaces; prime contractors and city centre management companies; DfT, DEFRA, MHCLG, EA and supporting governmental bodies; transport authorities, highways agencies and public transport operators; civic organisations and community groups; and other key players from the public realm ecosystem with responsibility for managing, maintaining and operating our streets, squares, forecourts, parks, pathways, retail centres, car parks, airports, ports, travel hubs, hospitals, housing estates, campuses, communal gardens and the assets contained within these public or semi-public spaces.

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A brand new addition to our events portfolio, PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Classes show key buyer side stakeholders how to harness innovation, technology and data science to create the next generation of smarter spaces and places in our cities and regions. PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Class 2022 will be hosted in London on 7th July 2022.


   London, UK

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