With an increased focus on climate change and sustainability, the idea of having everything you could possibly need, all just a short walk away, is being floated around.
It’s an idea that’s become known as a ‘15-minute city’ – thanks to a 2020 TED Talk by Carlos Moreno.
As the name suggests, the idea is to have all the essentials for daily life – entertainment, shopping, green space, work and school – close to home.
As a result, there’s no need to jump in a car or use public transport – so it’s better for the environment, too.
Jorge Beroiz, a principal at architecture company CRTKL, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The 15-minute city concept attempts to create more sustainable, connected communities – by bringing all core amenities within easy walking reach of residents.
‘This reduces our reliance on cars and road networks, which in turn reduces our carbon emissions while also creating a healthier city where walking or cycling becomes the default mode of transport – as is the case in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.’
The idea is nothing new, but it’s sparked debate recently and has received criticism from various angles – with Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher calling it an ‘international socialist concept’ that ‘will cost us our personal freedom’.
The main criticism around these 15-minute cities is that they will encourage isolation.
However, Jorge counters this, adding: ‘The aim is not to seal off communities and limit them to a 15-minute boundary, rather it is about creating choice, prioritising the pedestrian experience and having all your basic needs within easy reach.’
So, what will it actually look like?
Anna Minton, from University of East London and author of Big Capital: Who is London For, explains that lockdown has had a permanent effect on the way we live in cities like London – and, in some cases, the 15-minute city is already a reality.
She says: ‘With more people working from home, we’re more likely to interact and stay within our local areas for food, exercise, socialising and leisure. There is also a sense of loyalty and community, with people wanting to shop at their local high streets, interact with neighbours and support small businesses.
‘We’re currently in a cost of living crisis and travel can be expensive, so staying local has financial benefits too.
‘We’re also seeing people rely more on e-street delivery services, which allows them to shop locally without leaving their homes.’
But Anna adds that implementing this idea in more rural areas will be the real challenge.
She continues: ‘London has always been a city of villages and post-pandemic behaviours reinforce this. The 15-minute city will be more difficult to implement in depressed, low-economic towns where high streets have declined.
‘There are environmental benefits and we have already seen creations of low emission neighbourhoods in big cities.
‘However, there won’t be a blanket approach and this will be difficult to implement in wider parts of the UK, where it is not possible to walk or cycle to amenities in residential areas.’
The phrase may be trending, but Kevin Horton, the architect director of K2 Architects, points out that this idea isn’t a new one.
He says: ‘There are a lot of cities and towns in the north of England that have that infrastructure already, particularly Victorian mill towns. These working class communities used to be built around the mills, so parks, shops, sports clubs etc were all within working distance of the workplace.
‘It is only really in the last thirty years or so, with the rise in popular use of the car, that we have seen the emergence of out of town shopping centres and the commute to work.’