September 2016 Quarterly Dinner

Date: 12 Sep 2016

Consensus is the key to unlocking Milton Keynes’ corridor of power

Towns and cities along the Oxford - Cambridge corridor, with Milton Keynes at its centre, must come together to make ‘this ambitious, crucially important and incredibly exciting project’ work, Philip Graham, Chief Executive of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has told MK Business Leaders.

The infrastructure needs of the road and rail corridor, connecting the university cities via MK, Bedford and Northampton, are being examined as a priority by the NIC, which was created to form independent infrastructure policy outside of the political arena.

Philip, speaking at the latest Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership Quarterly Dinner - sponsored by NatWest Entrepreneurial Spark, said the NIC had been tasked with looking at the long term infrastructure needs of the corridor, ensuring systems work, are co-ordinated and operate in an effective manner.

An interim report establishing the case for change and possible options will be published at the end of this year. ‘We received nearly 100 substantive responses from stakeholders including business, academics, local government and financial institutions’ Philip said.

Key challenges were being identified. The pressure on housing affordability, in Oxford, Cambridge and in Milton Keynes, could be a check on growth. ‘We will need to find ways to address these challenges. It also appears that the corridor may not perform effectively as a single economic cluster. It is too difficult for businesses in Milton Keynes, in Oxford and Cambridge to meet and work together.

‘And I think there is likely to be more to do to develop a cross-border vision that links and meets all the challenges of transport, productivity and housing - though Milton Keynes has made significant progress with its MK Futures 2050 project,’ Philip said.   

A final report will be published next year, presenting a broad strategy of how the corridor project could move forward. ‘Even if not everyone ends up liking every single bit, our aim will be to build a broad consensus of support so it can be built into local plans and inform business decisions.’ 

Philip said the region linked by the corridor is an extraordinary driver for growth. ‘There is an incredible skills base, it is performing strongly and has the potential to perform even better. It has a strong knowledge base, is attracting investment and companies, and is seen as an attractive place to live and work. I look forward to the NIC working with the business community to develop a project I feel passionately about.’

Business Leaders’ members and guests, including the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and local MP Iain Stewart, took part in a question and answer session during which Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University called Milton Keynes’ place in the corridor,  ‘the fulcrum of this economic arc’.

Dr Philip Smith MBE, chair Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership said the event, the best attended in the group’s history, ended a season of talks that had been outstanding for the quality of speakers and audiences. He thanked Philip Graham for a stimulating presentation on a subject that is vital to the development of Milton Keynes and the wider region. ‘Identifying the right level of infrastructure is the key to unlocking our potential,’ he said.