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Milton Keynes

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Milton Keynes
MK Montage.jpg
Top to bottom, left to right: The Xscape and Theatre seen from Campbell Park; former railway works and new housing in Wolverton; Milton Keynes Central railway station; the Central Milton Keynes skyline; the central ecumenical Church of Christ the Cornerstone; and Bletchley's high street "Queensway".
Milton Keynes is located in Buckinghamshire
Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes
Location within Buckinghamshire
Area89 km2 (34 sq mi) [1]
Population229,941 (Urban Area, 2011 Census)[2]
• Density2,584/km2 (6,690/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSP841386
• London50 mi (80 km)[a] SSE
Unitary authority
  • Milton Keynes
Ceremonial county
  • Buckinghamshire
  • South East
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtMK1–15, MK17, MK19
Dialling code01908
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
List of places
52°02′N 0°46′W / 52.04°N 0.76°W / 52.04; -0.76Coordinates: 52°02′N 0°46′W / 52.04°N 0.76°W / 52.04; -0.76

Milton Keynes (/knz/ (About this soundlisten) KEENZ) is the largest town[b] in Buckinghamshire, England, 50 miles (80 km) north-west of London. At the 2011 Census, the population of its urban area was almost 230,000. The River Great Ouse forms its northern boundary; a tributary, the River Ouzel, meanders through its linear parks and balancing lakes. Approximately 25% of the urban area is parkland or woodland and includes two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

In the 1960s, the UK Government decided that a further generation of new towns in the South East of England was needed to relieve housing congestion in London. This new town (in planning documents, 'new city'), Milton Keynes, was to be the biggest yet, with a target population of 250,000 and a 'designated area' of about 22,000 acres (9,000 ha). At designation, its area incorporated the existing towns of Bletchley, Fenny Stratford, Wolverton and Stony Stratford,[c] along with another fifteen villages and farmland in between. These settlements had an extensive historical record since the Norman conquest; detailed archaeological investigations prior to development revealed evidence of human occupation from the Neolithic age to modern times, including in particular the Milton Keynes Hoard of Bronze Age gold jewellery. The government established a Development Corporation (MKDC) to design and deliver this New City. The Corporation decided on a softer, more human-scaled landscape than in the earlier English new towns but with an emphatically modernist architecture. Recognising how traditional towns and cities had become choked in traffic, they established a 'relaxed' grid of distributor roads about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) between edges, leaving the spaces between to develop more organically. An extensive network of shared paths for leisure cyclists and pedestrians criss-crosses through and between them. Again rejecting the residential tower blocks that had been so recently fashionable but unloved, they set a height limit of three storeys outside the planned centre.

Facilities include a 1,400-seat theatre, a municipal art gallery, two multiplex cinemas, an ecumenical central church, a 400-seat concert hall, a teaching hospital, a 30,500-seat football stadium, an indoor ski-slope and a 65,000-capacity open-air concert venue. Seven railway stations serve the Milton Keynes urban area (one inter-city). The Open University is based here and there is a small campus of the University of Bedfordshire. Most major sports are represented at amateur level; Red Bull Racing (Formula One), MK Dons (association football), and Milton Keynes Lightning (ice hockey) are its professional teams. The Peace Pagoda overlooking Willen Lake was the first such to be built in Europe. Milton Keynes also is the site of the Concrete Cows, a well known work of art.

Milton Keynes has one of the more successful economies in the UK, ranked highly against a number of criteria. It has the UK's fifth highest number of business startups per capita (but equally of business failures). It is home to several major national and international companies. Despite this economic success and personal wealth for some, there are pockets of nationally significant poverty. The employment profile is composed of about 90% service industries and 9% manufacturing.


Birth of a 'new city'[]

It may startle some political economists to talk of commencing the building of new cities ... planned as cities from their first foundation, and not mere small towns and villages. ... A time will arrive when something of this sort must be done ... England cannot escape from the alternative of new city building.

T. J. Maslen, 1843[6][7]

In the 1960s, the UK government decided that a further generation of new towns in the South East of England was needed to relieve housing congestion in London.[8] Since the 1950s, overspill housing for several London boroughs had been constructed in Bletchley.[9][10][11] Further studies[8][12] in the 1960s identified north Buckinghamshire as a possible site for a large new town, a new city,[13][d] encompassing the existing towns of Bletchley, Stony Stratford, and Wolverton.[14] The New Town (informally and in planning documents, 'New City') was to be the biggest yet, with a target population of 250,000,[15][16] in a 'designated area' of 21,883 acres (8,855.7 ha).[1] The name 'Milton Keynes' was taken from that of an existing village on the site.[17]

On 23 January 1967, when the formal "new town designation order" was made,[1] the area to be developed was largely farmland and undeveloped villages. The site was deliberately located equidistant from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford, and Cambridge,[18][19] with the intention that it would be self-sustaining and eventually become a major regional centre in its own right.[8] Planning control was taken from elected local authorities and delegated to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC). Before construction began, every area was subject to detailed archaeological investigation: doing so has exposed a rich history of human settlement since Neolithic times and has provided a unique insight into the history of a large sample of the landscape of North Buckinghamshire.[20]

The Corporation's strongly modernist designs were regularly featured in the magazines Architectural Design and the Architects' Journal.[21][22][23] MKDC was determined to learn from the mistakes made in the earlier New Towns,[24][25] and revisit the Garden City ideals.[26][27] They set in place the characteristic grid roads that run between districts ('grid squares'), as well as a programme of intensive planting, balancing lakes and parkland.[28] Central Milton Keynes ("CMK") was not intended to be a traditional town centre but a central business and shopping district to supplement local centres embedded in most of the grid squares.[29] This non-hierarchical devolved city plan was a departure from the English New Towns tradition and envisaged a wide range of industry and diversity of housing styles and tenures.[30] The largest and almost the last of the British New Towns, Milton Keynes has 'stood the test of time far better than most, and has proved flexible and adaptable'.[31] The radical grid plan was inspired by the work of Melvin M. Webber,[32] described by the founding architect of Milton Keynes, Derek Walker, as the 'father of the city'.[33] Webber thought that telecommunications meant that the old idea of a city as a concentric cluster was out of date and that cities which enabled people to travel around them readily would be the thing of the future, achieving "community without propinquity" for residents.[34]

The government wound up MKDC in 1992, 25 years after the new town was founded, transferring control to the Commission for New Towns (CNT) and then finally to English Partnerships, with the planning function returning to local council control (since 1974 and the Local Government Act 1972, the Borough of Milton Keynes). From 2004–2011 a Government quango, the Milton Keynes Partnership, had development control powers to accelerate the growth of Milton Keynes.[35]

Along with many other towns and boroughs, Milton Keynes competed (unsuccessfully) for formal city status in the 2000, 2002 and 2012 competitions.[36]


Labour Minister Dick Crossman …looked at [a] map and saw [the] name and said "Milton the poet, Keynes the economic one. 'Planning with economic sense and idealism, a very good name for it.'"

Jock Campbell, Baron Campbell of Eskan[37]

The name 'Milton Keynes' was a reuse of the name of one of the original historic villages in the designated area,[37] now more generally known as 'Milton Keynes Village' to distinguish it from the modern settlement. After the Norman conquest, the de Cahaignes family held the manor from 1166 to the late 13th century as well as others in the country (Ashton Keynes in Wiltshire, Somerford Keynes in Gloucestershire, and Horsted Keynes in West Sussex).[38] The village was originally known as Middeltone (11th century); then later as Middelton Kaynes or Caynes (13th century); Milton Keynes (15th century); and Milton alias Middelton Gaynes (17th century).[38]

Prior history[]

Electrotype reproductions of the Milton Keynes Hoard at Milton Keynes Museum

The area that was to become Milton Keynes encompassed a landscape that has a rich historic legacy. The area to be developed was largely farmland and undeveloped villages, but with evidence of permanent settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. Before construction began, every area was subject to detailed archaeological investigation: this work has provided an unprecedented[e] insight into the history of a very large sample of the landscape of south-central England. There is evidence of Stone Age,[39] late Bronze Age/early Iron Age,[40] Romano-British,[41][42] Anglo-Saxon,[43] Anglo-Norman,[44] Medieval,[45][43] and late Industrial Revolution settlements such as the railway towns of Wolverton (with its railway works) and Bletchley (at the junction of the London and North Western Railway with the Oxford–Cambridge Varsity Line).[46][47] The most notable archaeological artefact was the Milton Keynes Hoard, which the British Museum described as 'one of the biggest concentrations of Bronze Age gold known from Britain and seems to flaunt wealth.'[48]

Bletchley Park, the site of World War II Allied code-breaking and Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic digital computer,[49] is a major component of MK's modern history. It is now a flourishing heritage attraction, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.[50]

When the boundary of Milton Keynes was defined in 1967, some 40,000 people lived in three towns and fifteen villages or hamlets in the "designated area".[51][52]

Urban design[]

The radical plan, form and scale of Milton Keynes attracted international attention.[25] Early phases of development include work by celebrated architects, including Sir Richard MacCormac,[53] Norman Foster,[54] Henning Larsen,[55] Ralph Erskine,[56] John Winter,[57] and Martin Richardson.[31] Led by Lord Campbell of Eskan (Chairman) and Fred Roche (General Manager), the Corporation attracted talented young architects,[58] led by the respected designer,[58][59] Derek Walker. In the modernist Miesian tradition is the Shopping Building designed by Stuart Mosscrop and Christopher Woodward, a grade II listed building, which the Twentieth Century Society inter alia regards as the 'most distinguished' twentieth century retail building in Britain.[60][61] The Development Corporation also led an ambitious Public art programme.[62]

The urban design has not been universally praised. In 1980, the then president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Francis Tibbalds, described Central Milton Keynes as "bland, rigid, sterile, and totally boring."[63] Michael Edwards, a member of the original consultancy team,[f] believes that there were weaknesses in their proposal and that the Development Corporation implemented it badly.[64]

Grid roads and grid squares[]

The geography of Milton Keynes – the railway line, Watling Street, Grand Union Canal, M1 motorway – sets up a very strong north-south axis. If you've got to build a city between (them), it is very natural to take a pen and draw the rungs of a ladder. Ten miles by six is the size of this city – 22,000 acres. Do you lay it out like an American city, rigid orthogonal from side to side? Being more sensitive in 1966-7, the designers decided that the grid concept should apply but should be a lazy grid following the flow of land, its valleys, its ebbs and flows. That would be nicer to look at, more economical and efficient to build, and would sit more beautifully as a landscape intervention.

David Lock[65]

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation planned the major road layout according to street hierarchy principles, using a grid pattern of approximately 1 km (0.62 mi) intervals, rather than on the more conventional radial pattern found in older settlements.[66] Major distributor roads run between communities, rather than through them: these distributor roads are known locally as grid roads and the spaces between them – the districts – are known as grid squares.[67] This spacing was chosen so that people would always be within six minutes' walking distance of a grid-road bus-stop.[29] Consequently, each grid square is a semi-autonomous community, making a unique collective of 100 clearly identifiable neighbourhoods within the overall urban environment.[68][g] The grid squares have a variety of development styles, ranging from conventional urban development and industrial parks to original rural and modern urban and suburban developments. Most grid squares have a local centre, intended as a retail hub, and many have community facilities as well. Each of the original villages is the heart of its own grid-square. Originally intended under the master plan to sit alongside the grid roads,[70] these local centres were mostly in fact built embedded in the communities.[71][64]

Although the 1970 master plan assumed cross-road junctions,[70] roundabout junctions were built at intersections because this type of junction is more efficient at dealing with small to medium volumes. Some major roads are dual carriageway, the others are single carriageway. Along one side of each single carriageway grid road, there is usually a (grassed) reservation to permit dualling or additional transport infrastructure at a later date.[h] As of 2018, this has been limited to some dualling. The edges of each grid square are landscaped and densely planted – some additionally have noise attenuation mounds – to minimise traffic noise from the grid road impacting the adjacent grid square. Traffic movements are fast, with relatively little congestion since there are alternative routes to any particular destination other than during peak periods. The national speed limit applies on the grid roads, although lower speed limits have been introduced on some stretches to reduce accident rates. Pedestrians rarely need to cross grid roads at grade, as underpasses and bridges were specified at frequent places along each stretch of all of the grid roads.[70] In contrast, the later districts planned by English Partnerships have departed from this model, without a road hierarchy but with conventional junctions with traffic lights and at grade pedestrian crossings.[73][74][i]


Cycleway network in Milton Keynes. The national cycle routes are highlighted in red.

There is a separate network (approximately 170 miles (270 km) total length) of cycle and pedestrian routes  – the redways  – that runs through the grid-squares and often runs alongside the grid-road network.[75] This was designed to segregate slow moving cycle and pedestrian traffic from fast moving motor traffic.[69] In practice, it is mainly used for leisure cycling rather than commuting, perhaps because the cycle routes are shared with pedestrians, cross the grid-roads via bridge or underpass rather than at grade, and because some take meandering scenic routes rather than straight lines. It is so called because it is generally surfaced with red tarmac.[76] The national Sustrans national cycle network routes 6 and 51 take advantage of this system.[77][78]


The Hub:MK, built between 2006 and 2008. The taller glass tower, Manhattan House, has fourteen storeys.

The original design guidance declared that commercial building heights in the centre should not exceed six storeys, with a limit of three storeys for houses (elsewhere),[21] paraphrased locally as "no building taller than the tallest tree".[79] In contrast, the Milton Keynes Partnership, in its expansion plans for Milton Keynes, believed that Central Milton Keynes (and elsewhere) needed "landmark buildings" and subsequently lifted the height restriction for the area.[79] As a result, high rise buildings have been built in the central business district.[j] More recent local plans have protected the existing boulevard framework and set higher standards for architectural excellence.[83][k]

Linear parks[]

Caldecotte Lake, Milton Keynes

The flood plains of the Great Ouse and of its tributaries (the Ouzel and some brooks) have been protected as linear parks that run right through Milton Keynes; these were identified as important landscape and flood-management assets from the outset.[85] At 4,100 acres (1,650 ha) – ten times larger than London's Hyde Park and a third larger than Richmond Park[86] – the landscape architects realised that the Royal Parks model would not be appropriate or affordable and drew on their National Park experience.[86] As Bendixson and Platt (1992) write: "They divided the Ouzel Valley into 'strings, beads and settings'. The 'strings' are well-maintained routes, be they for walking, bicycling or riding; the 'beads' are sports centres, lakeside cafes and other activity areas; the 'settings' are self-managed land-uses such as woods, riding paddocks, a golf course and a farm".[86]

The Grand Union Canal is another green route (and demonstrates the level geography of the area – there is just one minor lock in its entire 10-mile (16 km) meandering route through from the southern boundary near Fenny Stratford to the "Iron Trunk" aqueduct over the Ouse at Wolverton at its northern boundary). The initial park system was planned by Peter Youngman (Chief Landscape Architect),[87] who also developed landscape precepts for all development areas: groups of grid squares were to be planted with different selections of trees and shrubs to give them distinct identities. The detailed planning and landscape design of parks and of the grid roads was evolved under the leadership of Neil Higson,[88] who from 1977 took over from Youngman.[89]

In a national comparison of urban areas by open space available to residents, Milton Keynes ranked highest in the UK.[90]

Forest city concept[]

The Development Corporation's original design concept aimed for a "forest city" and its foresters planted millions of trees from its own nursery in Newlands in the following years.[33] Parks, lakes and green spaces cover about 25% of Milton Keynes;[91][92] as of 2018, there are 22 million trees and shrubs in public open spaces.[93][92] When the Development Corporation was being wound up, it transferred the major parks, lakes, river-banks and grid-road margins to the Parks Trust,[94] a charity which is independent of the municipal authority.[91] MKDC endowed the Parks Trust with a portfolio of commercial properties, the income from which pays for the upkeep of the green spaces.[91] As of 2018, approximately 25% of the urban area is parkland or woodland.[95] It includes two Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Howe Park Wood and Oxley Mead.


As a key element of the planners' vision,[96] Milton Keynes has a purpose built centre, with a very large "covered high street" shopping centre,[97] a theatre,[98][99] municipal art gallery,[98][99] a multiplex cinema,[100] hotels,[101] central business district,[96] an ecumenical church,[102] Borough Council offices[103] and central railway station.[104]

Original towns and villages[]

During World War II, British, Polish and American cryptographers at Bletchley Park broke a large number of Axis codes and ciphers, including the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers.
The 1815 windmill near New Bradwell village, beside the playing fields
Stony Stratford high street in festive mood
Peace Pagoda

Milton Keynes consists of many pre-existing towns and villages that anchored the urban design,[14] as well as new infill developments. The modern-day urban area outside the four main towns (Bletchley, Newport Pagnell, Stony Stratford, Wolverton) was largely rural farmland but included many picturesque North Buckinghamshire villages and hamlets: Bradwell village and its Abbey, Broughton, Caldecotte, Fenny Stratford, Great Linford, Loughton, Milton Keynes Village, New Bradwell, Shenley Brook End, Shenley Church End, Simpson, Stantonbury, Tattenhoe, Tongwell, Walton, Water Eaton, Wavendon, Willen, Great and Little Woolstone, Woughton on the Green.[14] These historical settlements were made the focal points of their respective grid square. Every other district has an historical antecedent, if only in original farms or even field names.[105]

Bletchley was first recorded in the 12th century as Blechelai.[46] Its station was an important junction (the London and North Western Railway with the Oxford-Cambridge Varsity Line), leading to the substantial urban growth in the town in the Victorian period.[46] It expanded to absorb the village of Water Eaton and town of Fenny Stratford.[46]

Bradwell is a traditional rural village with earthworks of a Norman motte and bailey and parish church.[106] There is a YHA hostel beside the church.[107]

Bradwell Abbey, a former Benedictine Priory and Scheduled Ancient Monument,[108] was of major economic importance in this area of North Buckinghamshire before its dissolution in 1524.[109] Nowadays there is only a small medieval chapel and a manor house occupying the site.[110][111]

New Bradwell, to the north of Bradwell and east of Wolverton, was built specifically for railway workers.[106] The level bed of the old Wolverton to Newport Pagnell Line near here has been converted to a redway, making it a favoured route for cycling.[112] A working windmill is sited on a hill outside the village.[113]

Great Linford appears in the Domesday Book as Linforde, and features a church dedicated to Saint Andrew, dating from 1215.[114] Today, the outer buildings of the 17th century manor house form an arts centre.[115]

Milton Keynes (Village) is the original village to which the New Town owes its name.[17] The original village is still evident, with a pleasant thatched pub, village hall, church and traditional housing. The area around the village has reverted to its 11th century name of Middleton (Middeltone).[116] The oldest surviving domestic building in the area (c. 1300 CE), "perhaps the manor house", is here.[117]

Stony Stratford began as a settlement on Watling Street during the Roman occupation, beside the ford over the Great Ouse.[118] There has been a market here since 1194 (by charter of King Richard I).[119] The former Rose and Crown Inn on the High Street is reputedly the last place the Princes in the Tower were seen alive.[118]

The manor house of Walton village, Walton Hall, is the headquarters of the Open University and the tiny parish church (deconsecrated) is in its grounds.[120]

The small parish church (1680) at Willen was designed by the architect and physicist Robert Hooke.[121][122] Nearby, there is a Buddhist Temple and a Peace Pagoda, which was built in 1980 and was the first built by the Nipponzan-Myōhōji Buddhist Order in the western world.[123]

The original Wolverton was a medieval settlement just north and west of today's town.[47] The ridge and furrow pattern of agriculture can still be seen in the nearby fields.[124] The 12th century (rebuilt in 1819) 'Church of the Holy Trinity' still stands next to the Norman motte and bailey site.[47] Modern Wolverton was a 19th-century New Town built to house the workers at the Wolverton railway works, which built engines and carriages for the London and North Western Railway.[47]

Among the smaller villages and hamlets are three – Broughton, Loughton and Woughton on the Green – that are of note in that their names each use a different pronunciation[l] of the ough letter sequence in English.[125]



In early planning, education provision was carefully integrated into the development plans with the intention that school journeys would, as far as possible, be made by walking and cycling. Each residential grid square was provided with a primary school (ages 5 to 8) for c.240 children, and for each two squares there was a middle school (ages 8 to 12) for c.480 children. For each 8 squares there was a large secondary education campus, to contain between two and four schools for a total of 3000 – 4500 children. All the schools on a campus were served by a central Resource Area. In addition, the campus included a Leisure Centre with indoor and outdoor sports facilities and a swimming pool, plus a theatre. These facilities were available to the public outside school hours, thus maximising use of the investment.[126] Changes in Central Government policy from the 1980s onwards subsequently led to much of this system being abandoned. Some schools have since been merged and sites sold for development, many converted to academies, and the leisure centres outsourced to commercial providers.

As in most parts of the UK, the state secondary schools in Milton Keynes are comprehensives,[127] although schools in the rest of Buckinghamshire still use the tripartite system.[128] Private schools are also available.[129]

Universities and colleges[]

The Open University's headquarters are in the Walton Hall district; though because this is a distance learning institution, the only students resident on campus are approximately 200 full-time postgraduates. Cranfield University, an all-postgraduate institution, is in nearby Cranfield, Bedfordshire. Milton Keynes College provides further education up to foundation degree level. University Campus Milton Keynes, a campus of the University of Bedfordshire, provides some tertiary education facilities locally. As of 2020, Milton Keynes is the UK's largest population centre without its own conventional university, a shortfall that the Council aims to rectify.[130] In January 2019, the Council and its partner, Cranfield University, invited proposals to design a campus near the Central station for a new university, code-named MK:U.[131] Through Milton Keynes University Hospital, the city also has links with the University of Buckingham's medical school.

City development archive and library[]

Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre at Bradwell Abbey holds an extensive archive about the planning and development of Milton Keynes and has an associated research library.[132] The Centre also offers an education programme (with a focus on urban geography and local history) to schools, universities and professionals.[132]

Culture, media and sport[]


65,000 capacity by the Green Day Bullet in a Bible concert at the National Bowl

The open-air National Bowl is a 65,000-capacity venue for large-scale events.[133]

In Wavendon, the Stables – founded by the jazz musicians Cleo Laine and John Dankworth – provides a venue for jazz, blues, folk, rock, classical, pop and world music.[134] It presents around 400 concerts and over 200 educational events each year and also hosts the National Youth Music Camps summer camp for young musicians.[135] In 2010, the Stables founded the biennial IF Milton Keynes International Festival, producing events in unconventional spaces and places across Milton Keynes.[136]

Milton Keynes City Orchestra is a professional freelance orchestra based at Woughton Campus.[137]

Arts, cinema, theatre and museums[]

The municipal public art gallery, MK Gallery, presents free exhibitions of international contemporary art.[138] The gallery was extended and remodelled in 2018/19 and includes an art-house cinema.[139][140][141] There are also two multiplex cinemas; one in CMK and one in Denbigh.

In 1999, the adjacent 1,400-seat Milton Keynes Theatre opened.[142] The theatre has an unusual feature: the ceiling can be lowered closing off the third tier (gallery) to create a more intimate space for smaller-scale productions.[142][143] There is a further professional performance space in Stantonbury.[144]

Liz Leyh's iconic Concrete Cows

There are three museums: the Bletchley Park complex, which houses the museum of wartime cryptography;[145] the National Museum of Computing (adjacent to Bletchley Park, with a separate entrance), which includes a working replica of the Colossus computer;[146] and the Milton Keynes Museum, which includes the Stacey Hill Collection of rural life that existed before the foundation of MK, the British Telecom collection, and the original Concrete Cows.[147] Other numerous public sculptures in Milton Keynes include work by Elisabeth Frink, Philip Jackson, Nicolas Moreton and Ronald Rae.[148]

Milton Keynes Arts Centre offers a year-round exhibition programme, family workshops and courses. The Centre is based in some of Linford Manor's historical exterior buildings, barns, almshouses and pavilions.[115] The Westbury Arts Centre in Shenley Wood is based in a 16th-century grade II listed farmhouse building. Westbury Arts has been providing spaces and studios for professional artists since 1994.[149]

Communications and media[]

For television, the area is allocated to BBC East and Anglia ITV.[150] For radio, Milton Keynes is served by Heart East (a regional commercial station based locally) and two community radio stations (MKFM and Secklow 105.5).[151][152] BBC Three Counties Radio is the local BBC Radio station.[153] CRMK (Cable Radio Milton Keynes) is a voluntary station broadcasting on the Internet.[154]

As of September 2021, Milton Keynes has one local newspaper, the Milton Keynes Citizen,[155][m] which has a significant online presence.


Stadium MK (in 2007)

Milton Keynes has professional teams in football (Milton Keynes Dons F.C. at Stadium MK), in ice hockey (Milton Keynes Lightning at Planet Ice Milton Keynes), and in Formula One (Red Bull Racing).[157]

The Xscape indoor ski slope and the iFLY indoor sky diving facility are important attractions in CMK;[157] the National Badminton Centre in Loughton is home to the national badminton squad and headquarters of Badminton England.[157][158]

Many other sports are represented at amateur level.

Near the central station, in a space beside the former Milton Keynes central bus station, there is a purpose-built street skateboarding plaza named the Buszy.[159]

Willen Lake hosts watersports on the south basin.[160][161]


Local government[]

The responsible local government is Milton Keynes Council, which controls the Borough of Milton Keynes, a Unitary Authority (and, in law, a non-metropolitan county) since May 1996.[162] Until then, it was controlled by Buckinghamshire County Council. Historically, most of the area that became Milton Keynes was known as the "Three Hundreds of Newport".[45]

Modern parishes, community councils and districts[]

The Borough of Milton Keynes is fully parished.[163] The urban parishes (and the districts they contain) are listed at Borough of Milton Keynes (urban area).

International co-operation[]

Although Milton Keynes has no formalised twinning agreements, it has partnered and co-operated with various cities over the years. The most contact has been with Almere, Netherlands, especially on energy management and urban planning.[164] Due to the twinning of the Borough of Milton Keynes and the equivalent administrative region of Bernkastel-Wittlich, the Council has worked with Bernkastel-Kues, Germany, for example on art projects.[165] In 2017 they partnered with the Chinese fellow smart city of Yinchuan.[166]



Milton Keynes University Hospital, in the Eaglestone district, is an NHS general hospital with an Accident and Emergency unit.[167] It is associated for medical teaching purposes with the University of Buckingham medical school.[168] There are two small private hospitals: BMI Healthcare's Saxon Clinic and Ramsay Health Care's Blakelands Hospital.[169][170]


There is a Category A male prison, HMP Woodhill, on the western boundary.[171] A section of the prison is a Young Offenders Institution.[172]


The Grand Union Canal passes over Grafton Street at New Bradwell via the modern New Bradwell Aqueduct.

The Grand Union Canal, the West Coast Main Line, the A5 road and the M1 motorway provide the major axes that influenced the urban designers.[85]

The urban area is served by seven railway stations.[173] Wolverton, Milton Keynes Central and Bletchley stations are on the West Coast Main Line and are served by local commuter services between London and Birmingham or Crewe.[174] Milton Keynes Central is also served by inter-city services between London and Scotland, Wales, the North West and the West Midlands: express services to London take 35 minutes.[174] Bletchley, Fenny Stratford, Bow Brickhill, Woburn Sands and Aspley Guise railway stations are on the Marston Vale line to Bedford.[174]

The M1 motorway runs along the east flank of MK and serves it from junctions 11a, 13, 14 and 15. The A5 road runs right through as a grade separated dual carriageway. Other main roads are the A509 to Wellingborough and Kettering, and the A421 and A422, both running west towards Buckingham and east towards Bedford. Additionally, the A4146 runs from (near) junction 14 of the M1 to Leighton Buzzard.[175] Proximity to the M1 has led to construction of a number of distribution centres, including Magna Park at the south-eastern flank of Milton Keynes, near Wavendon.[176]

Many long-distance coaches stop at the Milton Keynes coachway,[177] (beside M1 Junction 14), about 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from the centre and 4.3 mi (7 km) from Milton Keynes Central railway station.[178] There is also a park and ride car park on the site. Regional coaches stop at Milton Keynes Central.[179]

Milton Keynes is served by (and, via its Redway network, provides part of) routes 6 and 51 on the National Cycle Network.[77][78]

The nearest international airport is London Luton and is easily reached by coach.[180] Cranfield Airport, an airfield, is 8 miles (13 km) away.[181]


Population trend of Borough and Urban Area 1801–2011

At the 2011 census, the population of the Milton Keynes urban area, including the adjacent Newport Pagnell and Woburn Sands, was 229,941.[2] The population of the Borough in total was 248,800,[182] compared with a population of around 53,000 for the same area in 1961.[183] In 2016, the Office for National Statistics estimated that it will reach 300,000 by 2025.[52] As of June 2019, the population is estimated to have reached 245,404.[184]

The average age of the population is lower than is typical for the UK's 63 primary urban areas: 25.3% of the Borough population were aged under 18 (5th place) and 13.4% were aged 65+ (57th out of 63).[185][2] The mean age is 35.7 and the median age is 35.[2] 18.5% of residents were born outside the UK (11th).[185] At the 2011 census, the ethnic profile was 78.9% white, 3.4% mixed, 9.7% Asian/Asian British, 7.3% Black/African/Caribbean/Black British, and 0.7% other.[2] The religious profile was that 62.0% of people were reported having a religion and 31.4% having none; the remainder declined to say: 52% are Christian, 5.1% Muslim, 3.0% Hindu; other religions each had less than 1% of the population.[2]

Economy, finances and business[]

Milton Keynes is one of the most successful economies in the UK, ranked third (by gross value added per worker) for its contribution to the national economy.[185]

Major businesses[]

Milton Keynes has consistently benefited from above-average economic growth, ranked as one of the UK's top five cities.[186] It is ranked fifth in the UK for business startups (per 10,000 people).[185]

Milton Keynes is home to several national and international companies, notably Argos,[187] Domino's Pizza,[188] Marshall Amplification,[189] Mercedes-Benz,[190] Suzuki,[191] Volkswagen Group,[192] Red Bull Racing,[193] Network Rail,[194] and Yamaha Music Europe.[195]

Santander UK and the Open University are major employers locally.[196][197]

Small and medium enterprise[]

In 2013,[n] 99.4% of enterprises being SMEs, just 0.6% of businesses locally employ more than 250 people (but more than one third of employees),[199] whereas 81.5% employ fewer than 10 people.[199] The 'professional, scientific and technical sector' contributes the largest number of business units, 16.7%.[199] The retail sector is the largest contributor of employment.[199][2] Milton Keynes has one of the highest number of business start-ups in England, but also of failures.[185] Although education, health and public administration are important contributors to employment, the contribution is significantly less than the averages for England or the South East.[199]


75% of the population is economically active, including 8.3% (of the population) who are self-employed.[2] 90% work in service industries of various sorts (of which wholesale and retail is the largest sector) and 9% in manufacturing.[2]

Social inequality[]

In 2015, the Borough of Milton Keynes had nine 'lower super output areas'[o] that are in the 10% most deprived in England, but also had twelve 'lower super output areas' in the 10% least deprived in England.[201] This contrast between areas of affluence and areas of deprivation in spite of a thriving local economy, inspired local charity The Community Foundation (in its 2016 'Vital Signs' report) to describe the position as a 'Tale of Two Cities'.[202]

In 2018, the number of homeless young people sleeping rough in tents around CMK attracted national headlines as it became the apex of a national problem of poverty, inadequate mental health care and unaffordable housing.[203][204] On a visit to refurbishment and extension work on the YMCA building, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler declared that 'Nobody in this day and age should be sleeping on the street'.[205]


Location and nearest settlements[]

Milton Keynes is in south central England, at the northern end of the South East England region,[206] about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of London.[3][4][5]

The nearest larger[p] towns are Northampton, Bedford, Luton and Aylesbury.[207] The nearest larger[q] cities are Coventry, Leicester, Cambridge, London and Oxford.[208]


Its surface geology is primarily gently rolling Oxford clay or, more formally:

... a portion of more or less dissected boulder clay plateau, with streams falling fairly steeply to the [Great] Ouse and Ouzel flood plains, across slopes cut chiefly in Oxford clay. Middle Jurassic rocks, in particular the Blisworth limestone and cornbrash, form strong features in the lands bordering the Ouse valley in the north.[209]

Its highest points are in the centre (110 m (360 ft)) and at Woodhill on the western boundary (120 m (390 ft)).[210][211] The lowest point of the urban area is in Newport Pagnell, where the Ouzel joins the Great Ouse.(50 m (160 ft)).[212]

Parks and environmental infrastructure[]

Because of the (poorly drained) clay soils and the urban hard surfaces, the Development Corporation identified water runoff into the Ouzel and its tributaries as a significant risk to be managed and so put in place two large balancing lakes (Caldecotte and Willen) and a number of smaller detention ponds.[213] These provide an important leisure amenity for most of the year.[214] Building in the floodplains of the Ouse and Ouzel was precluded too, thus providing long-distance linear parks that are within easy reach of most residents.

The north basin of Willen Lake is a bird sanctuary.[160]

The two Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Howe Park Wood and Oxley Mead, are the most significant of a number of important wildlife sites in and around MK.[215]

Just outside the Milton Keynes urban area lies Little Linford Wood, a conservation site and nature reserve managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. It is considered to be one of the best habitats for dormice.[216]


Milton Keynes experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) as is typical of almost all of the United Kingdom.

The nearest Met Office weather station is in Woburn,[217] located in a rural area just outside the south eastern fringe of Milton Keynes. Recorded temperature extremes range from 34.6 °C (94.3 °F) during July 2006,[218] to as low as −20.6 °C (−5.1 °F) on 25 February 1947; this is the lowest temperature ever reported in England in February.[219] In 2010, the temperature fell to −16.3 °C (2.7 °F)[220]

Climate data for Woburn 1981–2010 (Weather station 3 mi (5 km) to the SE of Central Milton Keynes)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.0
Average low °C (°F) 1.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 54.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 52.0 69.4 105.5 147.4 183.4 179.9 197.1 189.0 137.0 105.6 61.7 43.5 1,471.6
Source: Met Office[221]

Notable people[]



  • Jim Marshall (1923–2012), founder and CEO of Marshall Amplification was living in and ran his business from Milton Keynes when he died[243]
  • Pete Winkelman, Chairman of Milton Keynes Dons Football Club, owner of Linford Manor recording studios, long-term resident[244]


  • Christopher B-Lynch, (visiting) Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cranfield University, responsible for inventing the eponymously named B-Lynch suture[245][246]
  • Alan P. F. Sell (1935–2016), academic and theologian lived in the town in his later years and died there[247][248]
  • Alan Turing (1912–1954), played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer. He lodged at the Crown Inn, Shenley Brook End, while working at Bletchley Park[249]

Stage, screen and media[]

  • Errol Barnett, an anchor and correspondent for CNN[250]
  • Emily Bergl, an actress known for her roles in Desperate Housewives and Shameless[251]
  • Richard Macer, documentary maker[252]
  • Clare Nasir, the meteorologist, TV and radio personality, was born in Milton Keynes in 1970[253]
  • Kevin Whately, professional actor[254]


  • Sarah Pinborough, English horror writer[255]
  • Jack Trevor Story, novelist, was a long-term resident of Milton Keynes[256]




  • Adam Ficek, drummer of London band Babyshambles[258]
  • Gordon Moakes, the bassist for the London-based rock band Bloc Party[259]
  • Geordie Walker, guitarist with the band 'Killing Joke'[260]


  • Capdown, a ska punk band, came from and formed in Milton Keynes in 1997[261]
  • Fellsilent, a metal band, come from and formed in Milton Keynes in 2003[262][263]
  • Tesseract, a djent band, formed as a full live act in Milton Keynes in 2007.[264] Tesseract's guitarist, songwriter and producer Acle Kahney is also a former member of Fellsilent.[263]
  • Hacktivist, a Grime and djent band[265]
  • RavenEye, the rock band, formed in Milton Keynes in 2014[266]

Freedom of the Borough[]


  1. ^ From Milton Keynes Bowl to Marble Arch via Watling Street is 45 miles (72 km).[3] By rail from Milton Keynes Central to Euston is 49 miles 65 chains (49.81 mi; 80.17 km).[4] From Central Milton Keynes to Charing Cross via the M1 motorway is 55 miles (89 km).[5]
  2. ^ Although Milton Keynes was specified to be a city in scale and the term "city" is used locally (inter alia to avoid confusion with its constituent towns), formally this title cannot be used. This is because conferment of city status in the United Kingdom is a royal prerogative. It is considerably larger than the nearby cities of Oxford, Cambridge and St Albans.
  3. ^ The adjacent towns of Newport Pagnell and Woburn Sands were not included in the original 1967 designated area of the New Town but have become part of the Milton Keynes urban area since then.
  4. ^ The Plan for Milton Keynes begins (in the Foreword by Lord ("Jock") Campbell of Eskan): "This plan for building the new city of Milton Keynes ... "
  5. ^ in scale
  6. ^ and erstwhile lecturer in urban planning at University College London
  7. ^ Bendixson & Platt report the Corporation as concerned at this outcome, which was an unanticipated emergent behaviour. In later developments, it aimed for increased permeability through the grid.[69]
  8. ^ An additional ten-metre wide strip was originally specified to satisfy Buckinghamshire County Council's belief in a future fixed-track public transport system. In 1977 MKDC decided to cease to specify it.[72]
  9. ^ The 'western expansion area' is what became Fairfields and Whitehouse. The 'eastern expansion area' is Broughton including Brooklands. 'The Hub' is a development of residential tower, hotels and restaurants in CMK.
  10. ^ Large-scale buildings include Jurys Inn (10 storeys)[80] The Pinnacle:MK on Midsummer Boulevard (9 storeys)[81] and the Vizion development on Avebury Boulevard (12 storeys).[82]
  11. ^ The more recent Network Rail National Centre has been built at the western limit of Silbury Boulevard near the Central station; this building complex occupies a large land area but only rises to the equivalent of six storeys.[84]
  12. ^ /ˈbrɔːtən/, BRAW-tən; /ˈltən/, rhymes with now; and /ˈwʊftən/ WUUF-tən respectively
  13. ^ A competing paper, MK News, closed in October 2016.[156]
  14. ^ An updated report for 2016 is available but does not give this data.[198]
  15. ^ A 'lower super output area' is a small geographic area defined by the Office of National Statistics to contain 1,000 to 1,500 residents and thus to permit consistent national comparisons.[200]
  16. ^ population over 50,000.
  17. ^ population over 100,000. St Albans, a cathedral city of 57,000, is closer.


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