One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
MK 50 - Confident Into 2017 Say Leaders
The Deputy Mayor of Milton Keynes says the new city may be mocked for its concrete cows and roundabouts but MK - which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017 - has "nothing to be ashamed of".
Half a century after the Act of Parliament was passed which kickstarted its creation, the 'new town' is gearing up to mark the milestone with a year of festivities.
On January 23 1967, then housing minister Anthony Greenwood granted permission to transform 8,850 hectares of farmland and undeveloped villages into a town of 250,000 people - part of the third and final phase of the government's plans to relocate populations following the Second World War.
Five decades later, MK has become home to more than 10,000 businesses and is used as a model for cities around the world.
Councillor David Hopkins, the town's deputy mayor, said Milton Keynes was proud of its much-mocked symbols but had far more to it saying:
"We've nothing to be ashamed of in Milton Keynes - yes we do have roundabouts because it helps make the traffic move faster, we do have concrete cows because that's the symbol of Milton Keynes.
We're the place to be: we're the place where people want to come and live and we're the place with an identity all of its own - it's much more than concrete cows and roundabouts, it's actually a place for prosperity, it's a place where people have got full employment and it's a place where the school quality is fantastic and it's a place where people want to come and live."
Cllr Hopkins, who has lived in the town all his life, was one of the 40,000 original residents. He said growing up in a new town was like going on a cruise.
"You take your cabin with you but you go to a different destination every day, every week. Milton Keynes has been a bit like that because we're moving to different destinations through every decade in the last 50 years."
His enthusiasm for the city was echoed by council leader Pete Marland who said that while Milton Keynes could not get away from "the fact we're a city of roundabouts... and concrete cows" - it had a "Wild West" spirit that set the town apart from other places.
Councillor Marland said the town's inhabitants were similar to those who went over the Appalachian Mountains with entrepreneurial ambition: "(Residents thought) 'I'll go to Milton Keynes and I'll have a better life for myself' and I think that's really transferred to the new generation of people."
He said that he did not believe another new town on the scale of Milton Keynes would ever be constructed in the country again, but hoped that the next 50 years would see MK transform from a "plan into a place".
"One of the greatest potentials that we have in Milton Keynes is that we have no undergraduate university - I think we're one of the biggest cities in the world without an undergraduate university - and that's a huge opportunity to develop a university in the centre of Milton Keynes."
Cllr Marland said he was "absolutely confident" there would be university in the town, and believed there would be "real movement" on the idea within the next year.
The town is also hoping to become the European City of Culture in 2023, something the deputy mayor was confident would be achieved.
"Bilbao has immense cultural background, Hull is fantastic - a real heart of community, a sea port, rich in history of its own - (but) we're making history all the time and it's an awful lot about the future in Milton Keynes.
Those cities are celebrating the past, we're celebrating today and the future that Milton Keynes represents and that's why we should be and will be the European City of Culture as we go into the next decade."
Celebrations to mark the 50th birthday and demonstrate the town's plans for the future will kick off on January 10 with an exhibition that tells the story of Milton Keynes' development.
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