New Directions
Derek Walker


Derek Walker

©Monica Pidgeon

In 1970 the Milton Keynes Strategic Plan was approved for a new city 50 miles north of London for 250,000 people. It was prepared at a time of high optimism in Britain when Utopian ideals were still a conditional reflex. And at that time I was appointed Chief Architect and Planner to the new city, where I had full responsibility for recruiting one of the finest and certainly the most youthful technical teams to carry out the urban planning, architecture and landscape of the city. The effectiveness of a design team set within a monolithic structure needs to be dictated by supportive impact of the Corporate will. The Milton Keynes design team had a great deal of good fortune; not only did they inherit an urbane, liberal and thoroughly undoctrinaire Master Plan from Llewelyn-Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker and Bor, but in Lord Campbell they had a Chairman whose inspirational personality, created a real climate for excellence. His boards have invariably been civilised and demanding. My task as a 'Maverick' in public service was sustained and encouraged by this Group.


Top: Lake Palace, Udaipur, India. Bottom: Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

©Derek Walker

Planning and building new cities, like any other technical matter, is at present in the stage of rapid evolution with which we, as planners, are barely able to keep pace. In the mid 1960's there came a deepening under- standing that urban conurbations were living organisms which grew, changed, transformed themselves and sometimes regressed. The Milton Keynes plan is an attempt to determine the forces which create cities and the control mechanisms necessary to ensure healthy development. Six goals were initially defined folloWing a series of seminars: . Opportunity and freedom of choice, . Balance and variety, Easy movement and access, Creation of an attractive city, Public awareness and participation, Efficient and imaginative use of resources. The principal physical structuring element of the plan is the transportation network. It was agreed from the start that people come first - their needs, aspirations and their capabilities. This assumption was instrumental in shaping the transportation network by enabling the car to be freely used, but ensuring that the young, old, infirm or poor who had no cars had a public transport system which matched the car's service. The road pattern is an irregular grid of two-lane dual carriageway roads intersecting at approximately 1 km. spacing. The roads run in vertical and horizontal curves responding closely to the land form within a reservation of about 100 metres which is densely planted. There are two other main structuring elements of the new city: the Linear Park lying between the River Ouzel and the Grand Union Canal, which extends through the east side of the city and wraps around the entire northern boundary; and the three existing towns - Bletchley in the south, Stony Stratford and Wolverton in the north. The city depends on dispersal - dispersal of industry, dispersal of housing, dispersal of district centres.

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