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Milton Keynes to ballot residents over regeneration plans

Milton Keynes Council is to ballot estate residents over regeneration plans as it makes changes to its partnership with the Mears Group.

The council’s cabinet met on Tuesday (10 July) to agree on a number of changes to how regeneration is delivered in the borough, including giving residents on one estate – Serpentine Court – a ballot on proposed improvements.

Milton Keynes Council set up a joint venture with the Mears Group – YourMK – in 2016 to lead on regeneration and manage the repairs and maintenance service for al council-owned properties.

Speaking to New Start, council leader Cllr Pete Marland, said the council is also now bringing some of the partnership’s community engagement work back in-house because some residents were confused about the work being done and ‘who was answerable’.

Cllr Marland said the cabinet also agreed to some ‘technical changes’ to the repairs and maintenance contract with Mears, but it ‘happy’ with the work being carried.

‘YourMK still exists and we are still in a partnership with Mears, but it will concentrate on when local communities have a referendum and say yes to whatever regeneration they want,’ said Cllr Marland.

‘It will be YourMK’s job to go away and do it and it will be YourMK’s job to talk about how it will be financed.

‘The partnership will still exist but it will separate out in the minds of some of the residents that YourMK are not pushing for any particular model.

‘We’re being clear that if the council does the engagement, which will ultimately by resident-led, it will give a bit of clear separation as to how the process works.’

Cllr Marland added he sees the idea of giving estate residents as a ‘positive’ move.

‘I think we will be one of the first big regeneration schemes that will go to a ballot of residents, and it was the residents presented me with a letter, asking to go ballot.

‘We’ve been clear throughout the regeneration process that the residents are in the driving seat.

‘If you look at what we have promised council tenants, you won’t find a more generous regeneration scheme anywhere, ever. We are promising like-to-like replacements, no net loss of social housing, and the final stamp of approval will ultimately come from them.’

Cllr Marland added there has been a ‘big loss of confidence’ in many regeneration schemes around the country.

‘We’ve always said the ballot ultimately gives the residents control. My mantra has always been regeneration, not gentrification and hopefully, by giving residents the final say, it will buy them into the scheme.

‘It’s not just estates in Milton Keynes,’ said Cllr Marland. ‘We are dealing with 40 or 50 years of mistrust in regeneration schemes and local authorities. They don’t believe us even when we say we are not reducing social housing and we are giving them a room-for-a-room replacement. People always say “yeah, but there’s something behind the curtain”.

‘There’s a deep level of mistrust. It will be difficult to overcome that, but hopefully, some of these changes, particularly the referendum, will put residents in control.’

 

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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