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Fate of ACV in MK’s hands

Suffolk Punch; Asset of Community Value?

This week, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said that we must tackle isolation and detachment caused by globalisation. Perhaps, we find ourselves facing a challenge of a similar nature with the pub known as The Suffolk Punch which residents of Heelands wholeheartedly consider to be an Asset of Community Value (“ACV”).

The Localism Act 2011 introduced protections so that community organisations can nominate property or land which they believe to be of importance to the local community, so that large developers can not purchase that land to develop for commercial interests, such as residential dwellings. This is precisely the issue with The Suffolk Punch, whose owners, The Parks Trust (“MKPT”), have been keen to sell to developers despite the property being subject to an ACV order.

Both The Parks Trust and Milton Keynes Council claim a “relevant disposal” took place on 01st June 2016 and removed The Suffolk Punch from the list of ACVs on 26th July. Meanwhile, during that period, the developer High Street Homes, at 300 South Row, Central Milton Keynes, submitted a planning application to Milton Keynes Council proposing to demolish the whole site and to erect 27 dwellings.

Subsequently, a neighbourhood group called the Friends of Suffolk Punch (“FOSP”) led by Councillors Mr Bradburn and Mr Exon, made a second nomination to re-list The Suffolk Punch as an ACV, although this was objected by MKPT and Riverside Clapham, an associated company of High Street Homes. A Delegated Decision took place on 15th November to consider the nomination and was chaired by Ms Gifford, a Councillor who previously served on the board of MKPT for many years. The nomination to re-list The Suffolk Punch as an ACV was rejected. Councillors leading the FOSP group Called-In the Decision because they said that the Chair, having previously served for nearly two decades on the board of MKPT, had an undeclared interest in the matter. This led to an Executive Scrutiny Meeting earlier this week where the majority of Councillors on the Committee decided to refer the Decision back to Ms Gifford to reconsider.

A decision is due to be decided in the coming days, but it’s unclear what the outcome might be. The Suffolk Punch was the first property in Milton Keynes to be subject to an ACV order. When its owners considered the potential profits which could be generated by selling the site for development purposes, they ingeniuously managed to have it removed from the Council’s ACV list, circumventing the protections afforded by the Localism Act. The story so far demonstrates the organised nature of corporate agendas when it comes to eroding and constructively destroying community interests – and it’s at the expense of people, including those people who consider themselves part of that corporate machinery. A residential development will only bolster GDP figures, but it wont offer residents and people generally the quality of life and happiness which we all seek. This flawed metric will conveniently avoid acknowledging the real cost to the environment and people. It will only be a continuation of turning what was once a green and natural environment into an unsustainable high-energy-demanding artificial reality full of detached and isolated people. Is this what the Milton Keynes’ Parks Trust is setting out to achieve?

You may add your own comments on the current planning application which can be found using the search option (using the search term “Suffolk Punch”) at the following link: https://publicaccess2.milton-keynes.gov.uk/online-applications/

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