Early days at MKDC - Chris King

My Early Days at Milton Keynes Development Corporation

I was a chartered Quantity Surveyor with the Ministry of Public Building and Works working in London. I didn’t like commuting and there appeared to be little chances of further overseas postings or a posting to one of the regional offices or works areas. I decided I needed a change.

I applied for and got a job with the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC).  In December 197I arrived at the headquarters which was based at Wavendon Tower, just outside the designated area.

Wavendon Tower HQ of MKDC

The white tower near the centre of the photo is  part of the original building.  The red buildings are the offices to house the MKDC.  The square white building was the first Advanced Factory Unit (AFU) and later also used as offices where I worked for a year or so.  All the furnishings were yellow as was the carpet.  It was generally known as the Yellow Box.

My first office was in a Terrapin Huts on what became a car park.  I joined a team which was preparing Bills of Quantities for one of the first housing estates Galley Hill near Stony Stratford.

I was soon introduced to Yardstick.  This was a system of controlling the cost of new build housing by local authorities and development corporations.  It main idea at that time was to encourage the building of high density, highrise schemes.  This was completely contrary to the ideals of the Milton Keynes master plan which was broadly based on the Garden City New Towns with plenty of green space and  ‘No building higher the tallest tree’.  Needless to say when the tenders came in they were well above the calculated Yardstick.  After some modifications the scheme was accepted by the Department of the Environment but with the proviso future schemes must be kept within it.

About this time the decision was made to reorganize the Quantity Surveyors with two main streams Cost Planners and Contract work.

Cost Planners work with the Design Teams which comprises architects (Building and landscape) , engineers (Civil, structural and services) and in the MKDC Estate Surveyors.  The design team was given a site and a brief which was a detailed brief of what was required to be built within a set budget which in the case of rental housing was calculated from the Yardstick.  The Cost Planning QS prepared a Cost Plan and estimates as the design work progressed in an attempt to keep within the budget.

The Contract work started after the drawings were prepared and involved taking off the detailed quantities of materials and workmanship for the preparation of Bills of Quantities (BQ) which were sent out to Contractors for the preparation of tenders.  When the tenders were opened the BQ were checked for arithmetical accuracy and if within the budget and approved by EMC and the Board, the contact let. During the building the QS agreed payments on account as the work progressed, measured and valued changes to the design or details and eventually agreed the Final Account.

Typical Court in Galley Hill Housing

I only joined the Galley Hill team near the end of the Design Period but it is interesting to note that the Mono-pitch roofs were probably introduced to save on rainwater drainage costs with eaves, gutters, trenches, drains and manholes only necessary on one side of the housing.

The Contractor who was awarded the contract was Mowlems.  The houses were built using their system of a cast insitu concrete using specially constructed formwork boxes.  One for each of the main rooms and a one which formed the external wall.   Window and door openings were blocked out and concrete pumped in.  When the concrete set the formwork was removed and reassembled for the next similar house.  The floor joists positioned and another set of formwork boxes hoisted into position for the first floor and the process repeated.

The contractor built a traditional brick external wall with a cavity on the outside of the cast concrete wall, erected the roof structure and made the buildings weathertight.  Windows and doors were fitted heating, water, plumbing, heating systems installed as well as kitchens.  Small blemishes on the fair faced concrete wall were filled and wallpapered.

Chris King




Comments about this page

  • Paul Griffith. It has been a long time but I still remember playing squash. In US, I switched to racket ball. However, now my sons can beat me.
    I went to Milton Keynes a few years back but could not recognize it. However, I found my home at 10 Cottesloe Court. My email address is
    [email protected]. I am also on FB.

    By abdul sheikh (13/10/2018)
  • When did the stony loop road start getting built how long did it take thanks Simon

    By Simon McClure (29/10/2017)
  • I live near Galley Hill. I worked for MKDC Engineers Department with Abdul and also enjoyed playing squash with him. The first project I was involved in was ‘The Stony Loop’ around Galley Hill, now Queen Eleanor Street, in the early seventies. Prior to the Stony Loop, all traffic passed along Stony Stratford High Street. Please try to get in touch Abdul. Maybe a game of squash?

    By Paul Griffiths (02/10/2017)
  • I joined Milton Keynes Development Corporation in 1972 as bridge design engineer. I designed many bridges and worked as resident engineer on construction of A-1 interchange road and bridge.
    Being a Pakistani immigrant, I could not find rental housing in Milton Keynes and Bletchly area. I lived in Bedford. The corporation was building those mono pitch houses that people did not like. I needed accommodation, i bought one house without looking at it.

    I married in 1973 and my wife came from Pakistan. Due to immigration restrictions, my friend reporter in Bletchley Times covered on a front page story with half page picture. So every one in the area knew she was. In those days there were not many immigrants in MK, and my wife was lonely, therefore, I got a better job in London to design Thames Barrier Project.

    Being Paki bashed in England finally took its toll, and a company in Montreal, Canada offered me a job, immigration, and moving expenses. I left England in 1974. Now I live in Washington DC area and an outstanding career. My wife who did not speak English then is a certified public accountant and owns her own company. My two sons, one is a lawyer and other a marine. I have fond memories of England where I went to graduate school and people in work place treated me with respect but the white trash skin heads were a problem in the street and shopping areas.

    By Abdul Sheikh (24/08/2017)
  • Chris King remarks that the internal concrete walls of the Galley Hill houses were wallpapered.

    Because the wallpaper was pasted straight onto the concrete without any plaster skim in between it was really difficult to remove when one came to redecorate, especially if one had followed the 70s craze for plain walls and had emulusioned over the wallpaper!

    By Dianne Sutton (21/09/2016)
  • when was the photo taken of Gally hill taken

    By simon mcclure (12/11/2015)
  • when was gally hill bulit

    By simon mcclure (28/09/2015)

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