I live in a small market town on the edge of the “Borough and New City of Milton Keynes“, a source of great ridicule to many but actually not a bad place to live (and there are over 200,000 of us living here).
Most (in)famous for the concrete cows (which are not actually made of concrete) and its highly efficient grid road system linked with roundabouts, the “New City” is celebrating its 40th birthday today.
Even though the development area has huge swathes of green space (as well as rural countryside to the north and east of the Borough), people who have never visited are led to believe that Milton Keynes is a concrete wasteland (as many new towns are). The truth is rather different – the original towns and villages within the Milton Keynes development area have been expanded with new developments and a commercial centre, linked by a grid of (largely uncongested) national speed limit roads passing through parkland and past giant lakes, lined with 40 million trees (meaning that Milton Keynes is probably the only UK town/city of its size which can be traversed between any two points in just 15 minutes). For those who are still unconvinced about Milton Keynes’ green spaces, just a stone’s throw from the city centre shopping centre and Theatre District is Campbell Park, where sheep can often be found grazing.
As for technology (which is, after all, the purpose of this blog), Milton Keynes has had a number of firsts: one of the first cable TV networks in the UK; the UK’s first multiplex cinema; the UK’s first indoor snow slope; Europe’s first purpose-built body-flying tunnel, and now the largest continuous area of high-speed wireless broadband service in the UK as well as the UK’s first WiMAX deployment. It’s also situated next to the UK’s first long-distance motorway (the M1, opened in 1959) and is half way between two significant technology research centres – Oxford and Cambridge (sadly, these two cities have appalling transport links, with the “express” X5 coach service taking 3 and a half hours to cover just 90 miles and no direct rail link since the 1960s, although proposals to reinstate the railway do exist). Continuing the research theme – the Open University is based in Milton Keynes and the Enigma code was cracked at Bletchley Park (now within Milton Keynes) during the second World War.
Let’s hope the next 40 years bring as much prosperity to the region as the last 40 did – in spite of Milton Keynes Partnership‘s best attempts to wreck it with ill-conceived government-backed expansion plans.