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Urban Eden is a pressure group based in Milton Keynes, England, formed in 2006. The group's stated aim is to "promote a sustainable expansion to the original masterplan for Milton Keynes". In recent years the expansion of Milton Keynes has moved away from the original design principles of the city; Urban Eden campaigns against this trend, pressuring for new developments to remain true to the original vision for the new city. As of 2009 the group has over one hundred members, including a number of professional engineers and town planners, as well as some former employees of the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
According to their main website, Urban Eden's main campaign focuses can be broadly summarised to the following:
- Grid roads
- Building density
- Tree protection
- The redway network
- Pedestrian underpasses and footbridges
- The Boulevards of Central Milton Keynes
- The linear park system
- Layout of expansion areas
The first two of these points are expanded below.
The Grid System
One of Urban Eden's primary goals is the continued expansion of the Milton Keynes grid road system. The system, unique in the UK, is based around a grid layout of national speed limit, landscaped roads, many of them dual carriageways, situated on average 1 km apart. The current plans for the expansion of Milton Keynes do not extend this system, instead constructing 30 mph roads described by Milton Keynes Partnership as 'city streets', which form the spine roads of the new estates. The group argues that the city streets do not provide sufficient room for future expansion, restrict pedestrian, cycle and car movement and are dangerous. They argue that the grid system, with its lack of frontage development and its regular pedestrian/cycle underpasses, provides a much safer pedestrian/cycle environment and allows all modes of transport to move more freely. On the other hand, Milton Keynes Partnership argue that the grid system may not be the most sustainable transport system for the expansion areas, and creates a barrier effect between residential areas.
Milton Keynes has, from its conception in 1967, always been a low-density city. Notwithstanding the various areas of parkland dotted around the city, the residential districts themselves are laid out with generous amounts of open space for a British settlement. However, as is the current policy across the UK, developments have tended towards higher densities over the last decade. Recently Central Milton Keynes has seen the construction of tower blocks, something which was excluded in the original city masterplan. New districts such as Broughton have been built to much higher densities than ever before seen in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes Partnership, the organisation in control of the expansion of Milton Keynes and a subsidiary of Homes and communities agency, argues that higher densities are necessary to deliver high-quality transport systems and meet housing targets. Urban Eden argues that the high-density districts have the potential to become "instant slums" and are out of place in a city which has always been built at a low density. High-density districts are now being built in many towns and cities across the country, and this debate is not limited to Milton Keynes.
Urban Eden in local media
The group's activities have attracted much attention from the local media, as well as a small amount of national media attention. The group's chairman, Theo Chalmers, writes a monthly column for a local business magazine on the matters campaigned on by the group. The group ran a two-page article in the MK Citizen named "plane crash", describing the cutting of the plane trees in Central Milton Keynes. More recently the group has released a short video describing its activities. All in all the group's efforts have resulted in much debate within the Milton Keynes, and their campaigns have drawn the attention of local and regional planning bodies. At least one development within Milton Keynes, the former Millennium Community at Oakgrove, has been changed to protect a stretch of grid road that was formerly to be downgraded, although it is unclear as to whether or not this was a result of Urban Eden's campaigning. However with many new developments going ahead and the threat of downgrading hanging over the Milton Keynes stretch of the A5130 road, the group's work is far from complete.
- http://www.urbaneden.org Urban Eden's main website.
- http://www.urbaneden.org/cityoffreedom.html Page on the Urban Eden website about the grid system and movement.
- http://www.miltonkeynespartnership.info/DocLibrary/MK2031_A_Strategy_for_Growth_to_2031.pdf Milton Keynes Partnership's Growth Strategy for 2031.
- http://www.urbaneden.org/ourpresscoverage.html A list of newspaper and magazine articles published by or referring to the group.
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3641801/Why-Milton-Keynes-is-a-family-favourite.html 2007 article from the Daily Telegraph describing the group.
- City revamp is 'madness': 'One of the original designers of Central Milton Keynes has branded latest plans for a revamp "madness" and urged the "vandals" behind them to quit the city'.] Milton Keynes Citizen, 30 May 2006
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_4OWtK_ZRk A short video released by the group.
- http://www.mk-news.co.uk/mknews-news/displayarticle.asp?id=339132 Article from the MK NEWS local newspaper referring to the CAGOT (Citizens Advisory Group on Transport) survey undertaken in 2008 which supported the GRID roads in Milton Keynes.
-  – the website of Milton Keynes Partnership, the organisation responsible for the expansion of Milton Keynes.
-  – Urban Eden's presentation video.
-  – Recent article in the MK NEWS local newspaper referring to the destruction of trees in Milton Keynes.
-  – Article from the MK Citizen local newspaper in 2007 referring to Urban Eden and the destruction of trees in MK.
-  – Article on MKWeb polling for opinion on independent shops v chain stores