Frequently asked questions
This section answers some of the questions we are asked about the land we own and our business in general. If you're looking for the answer to a question about landscaping, vegetation or how we manage our land click here.
1. What areas of the city is the Trust responsible for?
The Trust has 999 year leases on the major parks and strategic open space in MK while the freehold belongs to Milton Keynes Council. These areas include: Campbell Park, Ouzel Valley Linear Park, Great Linford Manor Park, Ouse Valley Linear Park, Linford Wood, Howe Park Wood, Shenley Wood, Loughton Brook Linear Park, Broughton and Caldecotte Brooks, Elfield Park and the canalside broadwalk. The freehold/leasehold arrangement means that significant changes to these areas can only be made with the full agreement of both Milton Keynes Council and the Trust.
The Trust has 999 year leases on most of the Grid Road corridors; the freehold belongs to Milton Keynes Council. The terms of these leases are different from those covering the parks in that the land can be required by the highway authority for transportation purposes. The Trust has no say in this but does try to ensure the highways authority implements a good quality landscape scheme where it removes parts of a road corridor for a new road scheme.
The Trust has 125 year leases on Caldecotte Lake, Willen Lake north and south, Wolverton Mill Lakes, Blue Bridge (dry balancing lake) and Furzton Lake. The freehold is owned by Anglian Water who are responsible for the flood control structures.
The Trust owns commercial property including local centres, shops, pubs, industrial developments, office developments, petrol stations, a health and leisure club and various miscellaneous properties.
2. What areas of the city is the Trust not responsible for?
Generally the Trust is not responsible for:
- Landscaping in and around housing areas and commercial property – these areas are usually the responsibility of Milton Keynes Council or the Parish Council or adjacent owners
- ‘highway land’ which includes the roads, roundabouts, land reserved for second carriageways, the central reservations, and the first 4.5m of grass adjacent to the highway where most of the services run
- Street trees in Central Milton Keynes and within housing areas
- Tongwell Lake, Mount Farm Lake, Blue Lagoon or Emberton Park
- Sports pitches (except Campbell Park cricket pitch, Wolverton bowling green, and Kiln Farm football pitch)
- Golf courses
- The Grand Union Canal and towpath
- Some of the land and hedges along the V4 Watling Street, the land along the A5D, railway and the motorway
- Play areas (except at South Willen)
Most of the land owned by the Trust is identified on the city atlas but if you need to check whether the Trust owns a particular piece of land please write or email firstname.lastname@example.org , with the location marked on a plan.
3. Can the Trust’s land be built on?
The Trust has a general presumption against development of its green estate, which comprises parkland and highway corridor land, but it will keep this under review and may consider development on some areas in certain circumstances – this is explained in more detail in the Trust’s policy concerning the acquisition, disposal or development of land.
Most of the Trust's land is held on a 999 year lease from Milton Keynes Council and the Trust could not develop any of this land without the Council's consent. This is additional to any planning consent that would be necessary for any development. Also, it should be remembered that the primary charitable objective of The Parks Trust is to provide, maintain and equip green spaces in and around Milton Keynes and everything we do and every penny we make and every penny we spend must be to further our charitable objects.
The Trust believes in working responsibly with partners and local people to respond to the changing circumstances of different generations in a fast growing and dynamic city. From time to time the Trust is approached about giving up an interest in a piece of land and we also make it clear in our policy concerning the acquisition, disposal or development of land that we may in certain circumstances identify areas that could be disposed of or developed. The Trust makes any such decision to release land for development based on clear criteria which have been carefully drawn up and are listed in the policy. Of course any such development could only occur with the Council's consent and with planning permission.
Notwithstanding our policy of keeping our green estate under review the Trust remains committed to:
- increasing the overall amount of parkland in Milton Keynes and
- ensuring that the quality of the city's green spaces and environment is enhanced over time.
The Trust continues to acquire new parkland and landscapes from developers and the HCA. We have also recently purchased a further 218 acres of the Great Ouse Valley at Passenham. We continue to invest heavily in our parks and landscapes - around £5m per annum - not only to keep them looking good and healthy today but also for future generations. We have recently agreed an order of a further 35,000 trees and shrubs and also planted around 5,000 daffodils. Our new strategic plan sets out further our plans and aspirations for our green estate.
4. Has any land been sold for development and where does the money go?
The Trust has sold two pieces of parkland: one for a residential development that enabled the development of an ExtraCare Village and the other the development of Loughton Badminton centre. We have sold three pieces of transport corridor to facilitate the development of adjacent development sites and a further piece of land beside the railway to allow the station to be expanded. Any financial gain for the Trust from development or disposal of land can, under charity law, only be used to further the Trust's charitable objects.
5. What is the Trust’s position on grid roads?
The Trust leases most of the grid road corridors but is not responsible for the roads or their maintenance or the maintenance of the land immediately next to the highway, the central reservations or roundabouts. Nor is the Trust responsible for litter collection in the corridor.
The Trust believes that the grid road corridors are an important part of Milton Keynes, giving the city a feeling of space, providing important habitat and wildlife corridors and contributing greatly to the quality environment that makes this such an attractive city to live and work in. As the grid road landscape matures the Trust will continue to modify and improve it. For example:
- A major thinning programme is in hand to give the trees space in which to continue to grow and to remove poor specimens
- The maintenance operations include regular, sometimes annual sometimes less frequent, coppicing works in order to maintain the vigour, colour and shape of shrubs
- In some areas replanting is taking place to replace dead diseased and dying plants and to introduce more colour and variety
- The Trust also aims to open up some plantations and to give more depth and views, particularly into parks and other green spaces and of distinctive buildings
- Provide more formal and high quality landscape within the city centre and other appropriate locations
- To make underpasses, over bridges and bus stops more user-friendly.
It is important to note that the lease on the grid road corridors allows land to be taken by the highways authority for public transport purposes e.g. new access roads into development sites, road widening or new footpaths and redways or for services such as gas and electricity. In these circumstances, the Trust seeks to ensure a good quality landscape is reinstated.
In certain circumstances relatively small sections of grid road corridor may be given up for development but again this is only where it is in line with the Trust’s policy and is supported by the local authority. The Trust has in recent years looked at the city wide issue of the pedestrian crossing points of grid roads as these frequently feel unsafe and unfriendly routes. In some circumstances the Trust believes these could be improved by the introduction of some buildings and windows that overlook the route. Provided these buildings are well designed they could also enhance the grid road corridors providing points of interest within the landscape and helping create a sense of place and aiding navigation for those on the grid roads.
6. What about the grid road corridors (the green frame) in CMK?
In Central Milton Keynes the problem with pedestrian linkages to the surrounding grid squares is particularly acute and cited by many who live in the ‘doughnut ring’ around CMK as a significant issue for them. Here we feel the solution of development flanking the pedestrian routes is likely to offer a good solution because land values should be higher than elsewhere so it should be possible to build high quality buildings. We do not feel this principle in the adopted CMK development framework should be disbanded and that is why we have been keen to see the principle restated in the Lloyds court development brief and parameters plan .
We also consider it might be appropriate to remodel the landscape along the grid roads in CMK to provide something of higher quality, more eye catching and altogether more appropriate for a modern city centre. We would like to see the city centre set in a high quality, striking, coherent, integrated landscape.
We have argued that what is needed is a strategy for the green frame of CMK. We went along with the CMK development framework back in 2001 when it was adopted, after public consultation, and sold off a section of the H6 grid road corridor in the SW corner of CMK on the understanding that a high quality landscape would be installed and handed back to us. This has still not happened and we have since then resisted further proposals to locate new development within the grid road corridors around CMK until a full strategy and implementation plan for the treatment of the whole 'Green Frame' has been worked up in consultation with us and the local community. We have made it clear in writing on many occasions to MKC and EP (now HCA) that the Trust will not support piecemeal development within the green frame. This point is reinforced in the CMK lessons learned document recently published by MKC.
We will continue to encourage MKC to recognise the value and key role of the 'green frame' in defining the unique character of CMK. We believe that any development within the grid road corridors around CMK should be of architectural merit and should merely punctuate the green frame rather than do away with whole sections of it.
We acknowledge that if done badly development in the CMK green frame could be detrimental to the look of CMK; it could provide poor quality places to live; and it could damage the Trust’s reputation but as landowners we can ensure it is not done badly. We are well aware that ‘natural surveillance’ from buildings overlooking the pedestrian routes is not the answer to eradicating crime on redways and paths crossing the grid roads and we agree that the extent to which surveillance can achieve this is debatable but we strongly believe it would help make the paths feel more safe and encourage their usage and that in turn will make them feel safer.
7. Will The Parks Trust be responsible for more land in the future?
Each year the Trust takes ownership of new green space as the city develops and grows. Historically this has mostly been handed over to the Trust by the government agency operating in Milton Keynes (this was the Commission for New Towns, English Partnerships and is currently the Homes and Communities Agency).
In March 2012 the Trust took ownership of:
Broughton and Atterbury – Linear park extensions along the Broughton Brook and area of ponds and woodland to the east of Child’s Way, H6
Broughton Gate – formal ‘circuses’, play areas, and linear park extension
Middleton – green space containing meadows, paddocks and wildlife ponds between Oakgrove School and Milton Keynes village.
Shenley Wood – network of ponds forming a sustainable drainage system and surrounding landscape adjoining the Trust’s existing woodland and around the future development plots.
North Bucks Way – land along the footpath on the west side of Hazeley and Oakhill
Kingsmead South - green corridors of parkland with watercourses and ponds (sustainable drainage system) linking to the Trust’s existing woodland in the middle of the grid square
Tattenhoe Park – extensions to the existing Tattenhoe Valley Linear Park and new green spaces that will provide the parkland for the future housing developments in this area
Oxley Park – green corridors in the development containing ponds (sustainable drainage system) and children’s play areas
Monkston Park - additional green spaces adjoining the existing Ouzel Valley Linear Park
Ashlands – new formal ponds and incidental landscaping within the grid square.
As the city continues to expand, the Trust expects to take more land but much of this will come from private developers rather than a government agency. Each time the Trust takes on additional land it does so with an endowment which is calculated as being the sum of money that when invested will generate sufficient income each year to pay for the management of the land in perpetuity.
The Trust is also in discussion with Milton Keynes Council about the possible transfer of some of their landscape and play areas and the first transfers are likely to begin in 2013.
8. Will the Trust sell small parcels of land for house or garden extensions?
Our general presumption is against disposal and the fragmentation of our green estate. The Parks Trust is entrusted with its land to safeguard it for today’s and future generations and has a carefully worked out policy to ensure any requests for us to dispose of land are dealt with consistently (see the Trust’s policy on land disposal).
Despite many requests the Trust has only disposed of its interest in five pieces of land since 1992. In each case the disposal has been proposed by Milton Keynes Council and English Partnerships (now the Homes and Communities Agency), was not to benefit a private individual and was considered by the Trust’s Board to be in the best interests of the city.
It is highly unlikely the Trust would dispose of a piece of land to benefit an individual, for example for a garden extension. The Trust has to think of the precedent this would set as we have some 10,000 properties adjoining our land. There would, therefore, have to be compelling reasons or exceptional circumstances for the Trust to do so.
Even if the Trust’s Board were to agree to a disposal it would not be straightforward as Milton Keynes Council is in most cases the owner of the freehold of the Trust’s land and the Homes and Communities Agency have a say too as they usually have restrictive covenants in their favour. Both the Trust and the Council would require independent professional advice and valuations and would be required to recover all their legal and professional fees from the purchaser. Finally any purchaser would be required to get planning permission of a change of use of the land from public open space.
9. Does the Trust allow memorials in the parks?
The Parks Trust is happy to have benches with plaques on, individual trees and even a specially commissioned piece of artwork in memory of people but we do have a few rules in order to avoid problems in the future and to ensure that our parks are kept looking good and uncluttered:
- In all cases we will want to discuss the requirements with the people wanting to place the memorial.
- We have to agree what type of memorial is to be installed/planted and its precise location.
- We do the installation/planting and recharge the cost.
- We cannot allow people to then decorate or add to the memorial. We appreciate some people want to place favourite cuddly toys, football shirts or even add flowers or plants to their memorial particularly on special days but I am afraid we cannot allow this. Any items placed at the memorial will be removed by our contractors.
10. Who should I report unauthorised encampments to?
If you see any evidence of unauthorised encampments on our land please use this link to report them to the Safer Communities Unit at Milton Keynes Council. You can also contact them by email email@example.com or call 01908 252400.