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West Midlands business leaders fear MK’s growth

Business leaders fear the Milton Keynes South Midlands economic growth area is a threat to parts of the West Midlands.

The Birmingham Post has reported that lobbying group Business Voice WM has written to the Housing and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps, asking for a meeting to discuss the situation.

“We constantly made representations to the last Government with our concerns,” said Richard Ward, chairman of Business Voice WM’s MKSM working group.

“Its intentions to move ahead with MKSM gave no recognition to the potential impact of the development upon the transport network in Coventry and Warwickshire. We pointed out how potential transport bottlenecks between London and Birmingham could be aggravated by a development between the two cities which would be twice the population size of the latter.

“We also expressed concerns that businesses, local authorities and other relevant public agencies in the West Midlands were not properly consulted on the implications,” said Mr Ward, an Institute of Directors representative council member of Business Voice WM.

Any migration of skilled workers “could upset the existing regeneration plans of Coventry and other parts of the southern West Midlands area and could have a knock-on effect upon the economic development of the whole of the region.”

Though a limited dialogue had ultimately been struck, plans for MKSM still did not take sufficient cognisance of the West Midlands. Instead there needed to be synergy between the neighbours.

Mr Ward told Mr Shapps: “We appreciate that the Department is currently reviewing the future of MKSM and we would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and your officials to brief you on our concerns in order for future governance arrangements for the growth area to be far more robust than was the case under the last Government.

“We believe if this was achieved then the people and businesses in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Coventry can all benefit from sensible and rational planning decisions.”

Mr Ward went on: “The Milton Keynes development can be a success for the West Midlands region – if the West Midlands are treated as an equal partner in this development.

“For example, plans could be put in place for Birmingham International Airport to be the aviation hub for Milton Keynes. Business parks could be developed to develop supply chain businesses with manufacturers in the West Midlands. The potential of a larger number of people living in Milton Keynes could be utilised for a potential new market for the tourism sector in the West Midlands region.

“None of this, though, can be achieved if Milton Keynes is geared solely to developing housing for South-east commuters. If this happens, Milton Keynes could scupper regeneration plans for the West Midlands region – leading to potentially higher levels of unemployment.”

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