Does MK1 take away Milton Keynes’ identity or make it closer to becoming a city?

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Posted on January 10, 2015 by Matthew Ray in Lifestyle, News

The new Milton Keynes PizzaExpress team which opened in the MK1 Leisure Park

The new MK1 complex is proof that Milton Keynes is knocking on city statuses door.
No longer do you have to make the journey to the busy centre to buy the weekend’s new outfit or to grab a bite to eat.
Out of town shopping centres are said to be the demise of many towns across the country, offering bigger shops with ample free parking which are easily accessible by car.
The new MK1 complex ticks all those boxes; however, Milton Keynes proudly bucks the trend as the centre is thriving, successfully luring distant shoppers in search of something different.
The modern black exterior merges well with the surrounding buildings, offering six restaurants which lie in front of what will be a new 15-screen IMAX cinema.
Despite creating jobs and adding to the local economy, The MK1 complex is a massive missed opportunity for the town to form a unique identity.
There seems to be an online consensus from people feeling the same way, do we really need another Pizza Express to go with the other three that are already in the town?
They say that variety is the spice of life; if that’s true then it would be fair to suggest that Milton Keynes has been seemingly left un-seasoned.
Unapologetically the complex offers a Nando’s restaurant which is almost identical to every other Nando’s in the country and the four that are already trading within the town.
The McDonald’s becomes the towns sixth with Bella Italia, Chimichanga and TGI Friday’s all trading within a five-minute drive of the new complex.
There’s nothing wrong with eating out at many of these restaurants and the great thing about chain restaurants is the familiarity that comes with the quality and the menu.
Many of the people that consistently eat at chains because they are a ?safe’ option find themselves eating at Burger King when on holiday abroad, which seems like a missed opportunity to sample some of the local cuisine of the country.
To try something unique in Milton Keynes most diners have to travel away from the franchised and chain establishments of the town towards areas like Buckingham and Woburn, which offer a much greater independent selection.
There is of course an argument to be made that if there wasn’t a demand for these chains then quite frankly they wouldn’t exist.
That’s true to a point, however any restaurant perched next to the largest Primark in the region would have to be quite appalling to not survive.
One of the criticisms of Milton Keynes, from those who look in from the outside, is that the town has absolutely no identity.
The lack of independent shops, bars and restaurants is of concern with too many hoops put in front of perspective independent owners who lack the financial capacity and deep pocket of the national chains.
When travelling to a major historical town or city there’s normally the chance to try something different, but for those who step foot in Milton Keynes there is almost nothing that cannot be found elsewhere. There are of course many positives things about living here.
The local economy is robust and outperforming much of the country, the transport links make it easily accessible and the significant private investment make it an increasingly desirable area.
The problem is not easily solved; one way around it may be to build commercial properties which are affordable offering lease agreements tailored to smaller businesses.
The roundabout town is perhaps a victim of its own success, out-pricing the independents in favour of the established national businesses.
Despite all the benefits that building these restaurants bring to the local area, as a result it leaves the town scrambling around in search of the missing identity it so desperately needs to become a city.

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