Special Report on Company Relocation: Happiness is shaking off congestion: Changing workplace affects people as well as business. Martin Whitfield examines how one family coped with their move

'I THOUGHT it was horrific. I believed we had come to the sticks when we came here,' says Maggie Whiteley about her adopted home of Milton Keynes.

In 1986, Mrs Whiteley did not share her husband Don's enthusiasm for the new city when he was moved by British Telecom. She had to leave a job she enjoyed and a suburban home in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, where the family had lived happily for 18 years.

But now Mrs Whiteley, 58, has also become a Milton Keynes enthusiast using its cycle paths to do her shopping and relishing the space of her four-bedroom house and garden.

'Wild horses would not get us back to London. We like to go to the theatre and for a meal afterwards, but that's it,' said Mr Whiteley.

Relocation for a family is about the most difficult process it can go through, apart from death and divorce. It affects all the members in differing ways.

Mr Whiteley, 57, like most employees moved by their firms, admits to having the easiest time. He moved with his colleagues and so kept up one of his closest social groupings. His 50-minute commuting journey became a leisurely drive of about 15 minutes.

An initial visit to Milton Keynes with the company sold him on the city: he liked the open space, no congestion and the modern feeling. He lived in a flat in the city for more than a year before the final break so had got to know the place before the family arrived.

Squash and badminton partners were easy to find and the lifestyle lived up to the expectations of the first coach tour.

For the rest of the family, the picture was fairly hostile. Mrs Whiteley had to give up a job as a researcher with British Gas in Potters Bar. An attempt to transfer to Luton lasted six months after endless traffic jams on the M1.

She also found it difficult to make new friends or social contacts. The couple's eldest daughter, Sally, 25, had left college and Penny, 22, had just finished school. It meant that Mrs Whiteley did not have the easy social entry mechanism for new arrivals: young children.

'I can understand people having mental problems if they are not prepared to go out and meet others. You do not see a lot of people walking about here,' she said.

Coming from London, where Mr Whiteley's colleagues lived far apart, there was not a social grouping among partners of the staff as there would have been likely if the the move had been from a small town.

A keen tennis player, Mrs Whiteley eventually found a way of making independent contacts by joining the Stony Stratford tennis club but it was not without its own problems: 'A lot of people did not realise how tough it was for the newcomers.

'I went up there one evening and though 'right, this is it', but a haughty woman told me: 'You have to make up your own fours'. How can you make up your own fours if you don't know anyone.'

The Whiteley girls also found life difficult and had no desire whatsoever to move out of London which, for them, was just beginning to show its appeal.

Sally initially solved the problem by going back to stay with her boyfriend's family at Finchley every weekend. It was not until the relationship broke up and she started work in Milton Keynes that the link with London was severed. With her own flat in Stony Stratford, Sally is also now settled in Milton Keynes.

The family delayed its move out of London so that Penny could complete her GCSE examinations in Potters Bar. After a year at the local college, Penny is still living at home and working at Cranfield.

Mr Whiteley has since left BT but is still in Milton Keynes working for the Telecommunications Vocational Standards Council, an off-shoot from BT. He does not want to move again: 'The quality of life is better here. I went to Bolton the other day, driving around little streets, full of double yellow lines. In Milton Keynes there is a feeling of space.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness