Milton Keynes set to increase its population by 37% - how’s it going to do it?
On Thursday 9 February, Revo led a fantastic Study Tour to Milton Keynes that I was lucky enough to be part of.
Offering a full day of educational insight, it was fascinating to see first-hand exactly how physical and digital are both at play in today’s contemporary word. The trip started with an exclusive tour of the John Lewis Logistics Centre before continuing on to a number of key retail destinations at the heart of the town alongside finding out more on the future of food, beverage and leisure there.
Our attendee mix truly represented the ever-evolving world of retail property and placemaking, bringing together a wide-range of people and businesses including the likes of shopping centre managers, owners, representatives from Heathrow Airport and even a gentleman who focused primarily on industrial acquisitions and sheds!
So, where do I begin? As mentioned, the first stop on the trip was to John Lewis’s MP1 building located on the Magna Park campus.
What really made this visit special was the exclusive insider’s view into a world that is usually closed off to the general public. Heather Holman, Operations Support Manager told us that in recent years, the business has experienced double-digit omnichannel growth, driven by the increasing range of products available online, the popularity of their proposition and the addition of new stories in a variety of formats. For this reason, MP1 was introduced in 2009 to continue to positively support their supply chain and recently, they have invested in MP2 due to further growth.
It was then time to split into groups and grab the ever delightful hi-vis ready for the tour of the facility itself. I’m still not sure I will ever suit such a luminous colour, no matter how many times I wear it as part of these events. The warehouse was truly amazing – I can’t believe just how much of the output is by machines. So many aspects of the operation are automated including pallet storage, mini load storage, goods-to-man picking solutions, auto-pack lines and parcel distribution. The scale and complexity of this semi-automated, customer centric, distribution centre is something else but it’s also nice to know that during peak times like Christmas and Black Friday, they do hire around 800 temporary staff members to help complete orders and bring the human touch to bear.
After a quick coach journey to centre:mk, we were then ready to begin the afternoon’s session, starting with a presentation on the town’s overall development plans from Duncan Sharkey, Corporate Director – Place for Milton Keynes Council.
The town has some truly amazing plans in motion to ‘make a great city, greater’ including a real focus on growing their population from 275,000 to 400,000 by 2050 – a 37% hike. New home anyone?
Milton Keynes turned 50 this year (happy birthday!) and it’s great to see their long term vision is very much related to harnessing the energy and motivation of the city's most important asset - it's people. Much like Revo and our community!
As we’re all aware, partnerships are key for any successful business and unlike most, centre:mk and intu are not competitors but partners working together to ensure the best for their customers. They’re even interlinked! Many of their historical customers have a habit of calling one the old side and the other the new side but they both have such different offerings and there truly is something for everyone. Whilst touring the schemes, it was clear that there was no new or old for me but just what I need.
Our final speaker of the day was Ashley Blake, CEO of Otium Real Estate, who delivered a really fun and interactive session on the Theatre District and its developments.
The area was once the prime restaurant quarter in the town but it has over many years, unfortunately suffered from a lack of investment. The great news is that there are plans for a fantastic tenant mix including new restaurants, an art house cinema and probably my favourite - a dessert parlour!
By the end of the tour, it was clearly evident just how much of an important factor placemaking is for Milton Keynes. The key stakeholders involved want nothing more for the town and its people to thrive and prosper and Revo looks forward to working with those involved to ensure that as part of our community, they continue to do so.
I would like to thank everyone involved in the tour from the speakers through to the attendees themselves – all of whom really made the day successful due to your interaction and engagement.