A core purpose of any regeneration strategy is to ensure that growth within a larger geographical context is distributed equitably and that the benefits of this growth are spread within communities. Fenny Stratford has a traditional character with more traditional problems and the regeneration strategy needs to reflect this.
Fenny Stratford is at a crossroads, both in the geographical sense but also in its fortunes. It has declining physical capital and recent blows like the loss of the Post Office have accelerated the decline of the neighbourhood centre. This requires quick and achievable reversal. In many ways changes to physical capital are easiest to achieve if funding is available. A draft framework exists elsewhere in the Milton Keynes area. The successful regeneration of Newport Pagnell town centre and the works carried out in Stony Stratford, Wolverton and Bletchley all show that decline can be reversed if pride in the neighbourhood and a sense of identity introduced.
Fenny Stratford needs its boundaries defined to fit the local consensus to allow it to fit naturally as a neighbourhood within the boundaries of its neighbours. Defining the boundary will help establish a community and pride. Fenny Stratford at present is divided. We have the old centre around Aylesbury Street and Victoria Road. Eastern Fenny Stratford around Simpson Road and Staplehall Road, the Trees Estate, the area around Leon Recreation Ground and the Fenny Stratford section of Queensway. From the late 1960’s Bletchley lost some of its identity and pride as ‘new’ Milton Keynes grew from its boundaries. Fenny Stratford has suffered both from this and the earlier shadow of a greater Bletchley with the Royal Mail placing Fenny Stratford within the post town of Bletchley and the renaming of Bletchley Road as Queensway in 1966 appearing to swallow Fenny Stratford into Bletchley.
The issues surrounding the interface between commercial / residential / industrial and retail require consideration and action as varied usage’s sit side by side and on top of each other within Fenny Stratford placing differing strains on the facilities available. This interface and the traditional narrow streets of Fenny Stratford centre generate problems of parking, noise and loss of visual amenity. The majority of the commercial activity is small firms. This must be utilised and more small firms encouraged into the town to establish the mindset of Fenny Stratford having a diverse rich blend of speciality shops and businesses. Fenny Stratford needs to become a venue for visitors from outside its boundaries. Visitor noticeboards and a heritage trail that taps into the broad and interesting history of the town, from early Roman settlement through the canal and railway led expansions to the present day, will help to establish identity and pride plus encourage the outside visitors the town needs if it is to thrive.
Fenny Stratford neighbourhood centre is at risk of becoming a place that is run down and with insufficient facilities to be functioning and successful. There are many empty shops and it clearly lacks the attention that has been recently given to neighbouring areas. There is the potential for fast improvement. A 20mph town centre zone making Aylesbury Street safer and easier to cross, increased and improved parking both in Aylesbury Street and the surrounding streets will benefit commerce and residential users. The commercial retail centre of Fenny Stratford is centred on Aylesbury Street and includes Wharfside, Watling Street and Victoria Road. This whole area needs to to become a recognisable entity that would benefit from improved signagae that could include town centre entry and exit identification posts. These could coincide with and speed reduction zone.
To assist with maximising parking facilities for retail customers we note that to the south of Aylesbury Street there is unused land and under utilised council operated garage blocks that may help free up parking bays in the existing car parks if shop and office workers could park here all day.
There is new residential development under construction and the potential for further residential development that will assist in creating the population density required to sustain Fenny Stratford as a commercial as well as a residential neighbourhood. For outdoor recreation Fenny Stratford is potentially amenity rich. Manor Fields awaits redevelopment. The canal side between Watling Street and Fenny Lock, that provides the moorings for our boating community, could become an attractive location and be linked as a recreational amenity by a pedestrian bridge over the River Ousel and enhanced access to Caldecotte Lake. Leon Recreation Ground needs to be reclaimed from delinquent behaviour to be a facility available to the general populace. Fenny Stratford is however amenity deficient for indoor recreation. It has church halls and a small community centre but these are under-utilised and rarely host community events. The town has no youth groups and no learning centres.
There are opportunities to enhance the economic and social capital. Rents are amongst the lowest charged in the Milton Keynes area for small office and retail units but there needs to be support for local business and retailers. One key building block is a strong sense of community that creates events like the Fenny Poppers Festival. This same community can help empower any Regeneration Strategy to engage those most immediately concerned by the success of and prospects for Fenny Stratford.
We see every reason to believe there will be achievable success if funds are allocated to regenerate Fenny Stratford. The best elements from schemes past and present in the other older areas of Milton Keynes (to include Newport Pagnell) can be re-modelled for Fenny Stratford.
To summarise success can be achieved by:
- Defining the boundaries of Fenny Stratford for the residents of Fenny Stratford and the surrounding neighbourhoods
- Create a 20 mph zone throughout central Fenny Stratford with improved street furniture and parking
- Action to create a community identity for Fenny Stratford within Milton Keynes through noticeboards, signage and a heritage trail
- Developing a local employment strategy based on the encouragement of small enterprises to provide a diverse rich blend of speciality shops and businesses
- Action to address the lack of parking within the residential areas of central Fenny Stratford
- Action to soften the harsh interface between residential and business occupation of neighbouring premises seeking in the long term to secure an appropriate mix of land use
- Introduction of indoor community activity to include youth groups and learning centres
- Enhancement and redevelopment of existing outside recreational amenities
- Utilise the existing community groups to create a coherent partnership that seeks to maximise the social capital within Fenny Stratford and build the strategies needed to increase usage of existing facilities and to reach out to the groups presently outside of any community activity.