Milton Keynes (/
At designation, its 89 km2 (34 sq mi) area incorporated the existing towns of Bletchley, Wolverton, and Stony Stratford, along with another fifteen villages and farmland in between. It took its name from the existing village of Milton Keynes, a few miles east of the planned centre.
At the 2011 census, the population of the Milton Keynes urban area, including the adjacent Newport Pagnell and Woburn Sands, was 229,941. The population of the Borough in total was 248,800, compared with a population of around 53,000 for the same area in 1961.
Since the 1950s, overspill housing for several London boroughs had been constructed in Bletchley. Further studies in the 1960s identified north Buckinghamshire as a possible site for a large new town, a new city, encompassing the existing towns of Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Wolverton. The New Town (informally and in planning documents, "New City") was to be the biggest yet, with a target population of 250,000, in a "designated area" of 21,850 acres (34.1 sq mi; 88.4 km2). The name "Milton Keynes" was taken from the existing village of Milton Keynes on the site.
On 23 January 1967, when the formal new town designation order was made, the area to be developed was largely farmland and undeveloped villages. 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. Planning control was taken from elected local authorities and delegated to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC). Before construction began, every area was subject to detailed archaeological investigation: doing so has exposed a rich history of human settlement since Neolithic times and has provided a unique insight into the history of a large sample of the landscape of north Buckinghamshire.
The Corporation's strongly modernist designs were regularly featured 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 ('grid squares'), as well as the intensive planting, lakes and parkland that are so evident today. While still on the drawing board, planners noticed that the main streets near the proposed city centre would almost frame the rising sun on Midsummer's Day. Greenwich Observatory was consulted to obtain the exact angle required at the latitude of Central Milton Keynes, and they managed to persuade the engineers to shift the grid of roads a few degrees in response. CMK was not intended to be a traditional town centre but a central business and shopping district to supplement Local Centres in most of the grid squares. This non-hierarchical devolved city plan was a departure from the English New Towns tradition and envisaged a wide range of industry and diversity of housing styles and tenures across the city. The largest and almost the last of the British New Towns, Milton Keynes has 'stood the test of time far better than most, and has proved flexible and adaptable'. The radical grid plan was inspired by the work of Californian urban theorist Melvin M. Webber (1921–2006), described by the founding architect of Milton Keynes, Derek Walker (1929–2015), as the "father of the city". Webber thought that telecommunications meant that the old idea of a city as a concentric cluster was out of date and that cities which enabled people to travel around them readily would be the thing of the future achieving "community without propinquity" for residents.