Milton Keynes is a large town (locally known as a city) in northern Buckinghamshire, in South East England, about 45 miles/75 km north-west of London, and roughly halfway between London and Birmingham. Milton Keynes was formally designated as a new town in January 1967. It incorporated the existing towns of Bletchley, Wolverton and Stony Stratford along with the villages and farmland in between, and was designed to act as a major regional centre. It took its name from the existing village of Milton Keynes, a few miles east of the planned city centre. Uniquely for the UK, the urban form uses a 1km grid for the top level of street hierarchy: the local form of most districts is more conventional.
At the 2001 census the population of the Milton Keynes urban area, also including the town of Newport Pagnell, was 184,506, and that of the wider borough of Milton Keynes, which has been a unitary authority independent of Buckinghamshire since 1997, was 207,063 (compared to a population of around 53,000 for the same area in 1961)
In the 1960s, the Government decided that a further generation of new towns in South East England was needed to take the projected population increase of London, after the initial 1940s/1950s wave. Bletchley had been considered as a new town in this first wave, and had subsequently in the 1950s constructed overspill housing for several London boroughs North Buckinghamshire was identified as a suitable area in February 1965.
A Ministry of Housing and Local Government study in 1964 had recommended "a new city" near Bletchley in north Buckinghamshire. A further MoH&LG study in 1965 proposed that the city would encompass the existing towns of Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Wolverton were put forward. The new city (formally, New Town) was to be the biggest yet, with a with a target population of 250,000. A Draft Order was made in April 1966. The final announcement of the final area was made by the Housing Minister, Anthony Greenwood, in January 1967. The designated area was 25,200 acres, smaller than the 27,000 acres in the Draft Order; with the exclusion of Calverton. The name "Milton Keynes" was also unveiled at this time, taken from the existing village of Milton Keynes on the site.
The site was deliberately located equidistant from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge with the intention that it would be self-sustaining and eventually become a major regional centre in its own right. With its large population, Milton Keynes was eventually intended to become a city.
When the boundary of Milton Keynes was defined, some 40,000 people lived in the "designated area" of 8,851ha/21,833a. The area was split between five existing local authorities: Bletchley, Newport Pagnell and Wolverton urban districts and also the Newport Pagnell Rural District and the Winslow Rural District. Planning control was taken from elected local authorities and delegated to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC).
The Corporation's strongly modernist designs featured regularly in the magazines Architectural Design and the Architects' Journal. MKDC was determined to learn from the mistakes made in the earlier New Towns and revisit the Garden City ideals. They set in place the characteristic grid roads that run between districts and the intensive planting and parkland that are so appreciated today.
The Government wound up MKDC in 1992, transferring control to the Commission for New Towns (CNT) and then finally to English Partnerships, with the planning function returning to local authority control (since 1974 and the Local Government Act 1972, the Milton Keynes Borough Council, which was subsequently made a unitary authority in the 1990s). Design guidance was weakened and subsequent built environment developments are considered barely distinguishable from the anonymous suburbs of other towns and cities around the UK. Conversely, the "river valleys, water courses and extensive landscape buffers within Milton Keynes provide a good example of how environmental assets can be integrated into new development." The environment is under control of the Parks Trust and continues to be one of the major attractions to living in the city.
The New City encompassed a landscape that has a rich historic legacy. The CLUTCH Club Milton Keynes site holds a collection of archival photos and recorded interviews compiled by residents of the older towns and villages incorporated within Milton Keynes. Larger MK-related historical collections have been created at The Living Archive, and a broader family of sites and links to archeological studies of Milton Keynes is maintained by the Milton Keynes Heritage Association, which "exists to encourage and develop cooperation and coordination between all members having an interest in heritage within the Milton Keynes district."
The borough applied for formal city status in the 2000 and 2002 competitions, but was not successful.