This FAQs page provides answers to questions that have been raised about the Love Wolverton development proposals, particularly by local residents and businesses in Wolverton.
Delivery process and timescales
Why is Milton Keynes Council investing in the project?
In summary, the Council has long-term policy commitment to regenerating the Agora site. The Love Wolverton scheme represents a high-quality place-making proposal with significant social value benefits but, as with previous proposals, cannot be realised by the private sector.
Investment by the Council will secure delivery of the scheme and these benefits, as well as producing a long-term rental income stream for the Council.
What is Milton Keynes Development Partnership’s role?
MKDP will lease the completed residential dwellings from the Council, let them to tenants and manage the development as a whole. This utilises the capability of MKDP to manage assets on the Council’s behalf.
What is TOWN’s role going forward?
TOWN will act as development manager on behalf of the Council, providing continuity from its previous role as co-developer in which it conceived and designed the scheme. TOWN will also act directly as developer for the Still Green Cohousing scheme in Block C.
What stage is the project at, and what happens next?
You can read a timeline here. The Council has now purchased the Agora Centre and procured a demolition contractor, and detailed technical design work is under way in advance of tendering for a main contractor to build the scheme in Spring 2022. Construction of the regeneration scheme will start later in 2022.
Will the development be built in phases or all in one go?
The development will be built in a single phase, but the six blocks will start and finish in a sequence to be determined, and which will have to be approved by the Council acting as local planning authority. The expectation is that the blocks occupying the footprint of the Agora (Blocks A, B and E) will commence first, with the Agora Car Park remaining open while new town centre car parking provision is constructed at St George’s Way, and Blocks C, D and F on the footprint of the car park following on. Completions of the blocks will take place over a period of around four months, anticipated in Summer / Autumn 2024.
Will the demolition and redevelopment process cause a lot of hassle for town centre residents and businesses?
Construction invariably generates additional vehicle movements, noise, dirt and dust. These impacts will be limited by control measures that will have to be approved by the Council acting as a local planning authority, and there will be strict controls on hours of working and traffic movements specifically.
The construction process should also create opportunities locally: construction projects bring a lot of workers into town who will use local cafes and shops, and builders often require local labour.
What consultation will there be with residents living close to the site and most affected by the work?
The Wolverton Town Centre Regeneration Group has been retained and re-established with resident representation to ensure full discussion of issues arising from the implementation of works on and around the site.
The main contractors for the demolition of the Agora and the construction of the regeneration scheme will be required to provide regular information and an advertised means of contact for local residents, and regular liaison meetings will be held so that local people know what to expect when and have the chance to address any issue arising.
Homes and residents
Why is the housing going to be for rent?
Renting is the fastest-growing sector of the housing market and, with median house prices almost nine times median earnings in Milton Keynes, renting provides an important choice for people who don’t want to, or can't buy a home at a particular stage of their life.
29 of the 86 rent units to be held by MKDP will be let at discounted market rents, making a much-needed contribution to meeting affordable housing supply locally.
How do I express interest in renting a home here?
MKDP will advertise opportunities in due course – please register to keep in touch.
How does Still Green Cohousing fit into the project?
Cohousing is a form of development that enables residents to live in a neighbourly, supportive way. In additional to their own private dwellings, residents have the benefit of shared facilities including space to cook, dine and socialise together, and work together to manage the community themselves.
Still Green Cohousing is a long-established over-50s cohousing group in Milton Keynes. Cohousing is particularly suitable for older people, who are at greater risk of isolation and loneliness and can benefit strongly from networks of mutual support.
The proposed development for Still Green within Block C of the development comprises 29 one-, two- and three-bed apartments (25 for sale and four for social rent) and shared facilities.
Still Green Cohousing welcome enquiries from prospective members. Further details are available on their website.
Business, community and public services
What difference will regeneration make to the local economy?
As well as the physical improvements that removing the Agora and building high-quality new development will bring, economic experts Lichfields estimate that regeneration will bring:
- £2.3m in increased economic output from the commercial uses within the development, creating 46 direct new full-time-equivalent jobs;
- £2.2 million per annum of additional resident expenditure within local shops and services, supporting a further 26 new full-time equivalent jobs directly and 21 supply chain jobs indirectly;
- over £1.8 million of new revenues to the public purse in the first four years after completion, including £752,000 of New Homes Bonus payments alongside Council Tax and Business Rates income.
Additionally, over £50m of additional output and over 300 full-time equivalent jobs will be created or sustained during the construction period.
What will the social impact of the regeneration be?
Social value experts Greengage have assessed the social value generated by the development in the order of £22.8 million. Social value is a term describing the economic, environmental and social benefits that will be experienced by people as a result of the regeneration, both now and in the future. In practical terms, the benefits include things like reduced anti-social behaviour and a better appearance to the town centre as a result of the Agora being demolished, additional opportunities for neighbourly contact and recreation as a result of the new car-free streets being built, and reduced risk of loneliness and isolation on the part of older people living in the proposed cohousing community.
What new shops and services will be provided by the development?
Eight new shop units ranging from 64 square metres to 240 square metres in size will be provided along Church Street, on the reinstated Radcliffe Street and the Square. A small convenience supermarket is proposed to replace the former Co-op. Several units will be equipped to allow restaurant/catering uses, with others for general retail use.
The aim is to attract a mix of occupiers to build on the independent, community-oriented ethos of Wolverton’s retail offer.
Is a new public toilet going to be provided?
Plans are being developed in partnership with Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council to provide a new public toilet as part of plans for new public car parking at St George’s Way.
Energy and sustainability
Is this a ‘green’ development?
Yes. Milton Keynes aims to become the greenest city in the world, and carbon-negative by 2050. The Council has strong planning policies on environmental sustainability, but new development has to go beyond these policies if it is truly to contribute to combating the climate emergency. Energy use in buildings and transport are the two biggest causes of domestic carbon emissions, and this project will set an example and provide learning as to what is possible in regeneration and development.
Key features include:
- development that targets 80% lower carbon emissions than current building regulations (70% lower than required by Council planning policy) by building highly energy-efficient, insulated and airtight buildings and supplying them with renewable electricity generated and managed by an on-site microgrid; and
- mitigating transport emissions by taking advantage of the location, the existing range of transport choices and the opportunity to introduce new bike-share and car-club schemes to reduce reliance on the private car and encourage residents who do own a car to shift to electric vehicles.
It’s not only the environment that will benefit from this approach: residents will enjoy low, predictable energy bills from an ethical source and be enabled to adopt healthier lifestyles through active travel, better air quality and good opportunities in the landscape for socialising and play.
What is the proposed energy ‘microgrid’?
A ‘microgrid’ is a small electricity network formed by connecting solar photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on roofs to a large on-site battery. Electricity is fed into and stored in the battery, which then supplies individual homes and businesses in the usual way. The battery is also connected to the National Grid, so that any additional electricity needed to meet peaks in demand can be bought in when needed.
The benefit of a microgrid over individual renewable installations for each property is that the battery avoids any surplus electricity being wasted – which is important given that the supply of renewable electricity is usually greatest when demand is least, and vice versa. The battery means that around two-thirds of the development’s total energy needs will be generated on site.
Streets and access
What changes are proposed to Church Street and when will these be delivered?
Through delivery of the Love Wolverton scheme, a new modern bus shelter will provided on Church Street with buses stopping on-street rather than pulling into the existing bay, which will be filled in to provide a continuous pavement.
By agreement with the Council in its capacity as highways authority, plans to make Church Street one-way between Creed Street and Radcliffe Street, improve the public realm, introduce formal bus bays and provide additional short-stay car parking spaces on Church Street were removed from the Love Wolverton planning application prior to determination. The highways authority will now develop these plans itself, consulting as appropriate, and they will be implemented toward the end of the construction programme for the main Love Wolverton scheme.
Why aren’t the streets within the development to be adopted by the Council? How will they be managed, and what rights of access will the public have?
The streets within the development have been designed so that they function as spaces for people, with vehicles as guests. In order to make the environment nicer for people, aspects of their design, including paving and landscaping, vary from Milton Keynes Council’s normal highways standards. This means it is better for the development, and easier for the Council, for the streets to be managed and maintained under the same estate management arrangements as the rest of the development. This also allows on-street parking within the development to be allocated and managed for residents.
Existing public rights of way will be maintained and new formal public rights of way and permissive paths created to ensure that public access is maintained to privately-managed streets within the development.
Given the limited residents’ parking in the scheme, how will this be managed to prevent parking spilling over into surrounding streets?
As a professionally-managed rented development, there will be mechanisms for ensuring that the scheme does not generate more demand for car parking than there is space for. Larger homes, including all houses, will be able to lease a parking space as of right, with a pool of spaces available for smaller flats and some genuinely car-free – although with membership of the new four-car electric car club to be provided, as well as sustainable alternatives.
Limitations on car parking, which are to be expected in a highly sustainable scheme, will be made clear upfront to prospective tenants. This will be backed up with provisions in tenancy agreements to stipulate that storing vehicles on public land, such as neighbouring streets, is prohibited and constitutes a breach of tenancy. Unlike most new developments, the scheme will be actively managed, including allocating and enforcing on-site parking restrictions and ensuring tenant’s obligations aren’t breached.
Are there plans for a Controlled Parking Zone in the town centre?
As part of the Section 106 agreement for the Love Wolverton scheme, a bond is being provided for the funding necessary to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone around the site as a backstop to prevent resident parking spilling over from the site.
The impact of the development will be closely monitored and the Council in its capacity as highways authority will determine if and when it deems a CPZ to be merited and consult accordingly.
What is happening about town centre visitors’ parking with the Agora car park being built on?
In July 2021, the Council took a decision to make funding available for the remodelling of the landscape of the St George’s Way estate to the east of the Agora car park. This will include the demolition of underused garages, the provision of new residents’ car parking spaces closer to the homes they serve, and the conversion of the parking area at the north of the estate – adjacent to Church Street – to a new town centre car parking with around 60 spaces. This is now being progressed to a planning application.
When will new town centre parking be delivered and how will it be allocated and managed?
The Council has committed that the new town centre parking at St George’s Way will be made available for public use before the Agora car park is closed for redevelopment. It is likely to open in Spring 2023.
During 2022, the Wolverton Town Centre Working Group will be consulted on the regulation management of the new car parking including on the mix of short- and long-stay provision and on the charging regime.