Council exploring the possibility of Chester becoming a ’15-minute city’ with redesigned urban areas
The Cheshire West and Chester council says it is still exploring the possibility of turning Chester into a ’15-minute city’, a concept that recently led to protests in Oxford.
The idea of a so-called 15-minute city involves redesigning urban areas so that residents have access to everything they need – work, shops, medical services, parks, leisure facilities – all within a 15-minute walk or short cycling distance from where they live.
Backers say that rethinking the design of urban areas would reduce traffic and improve sustainability, but opponents claim it could be used to impose restrictions on motorists due to the introduction of concepts such as ultra low emission zones and low traffic neighbourhoods.
Some conspiracy theorists and commentators have gone further, claiming the plan is more sinister and aimed at keeping people penned in to their own neighbourhoods with Covid-style restrictions and surveillance technology.
Some of the theories have led to infrastructure such as bollards being vandalised in some parts of the country.
Thousands turned out to protest in Oxford recently over plans to introduce a low traffic neighbourhood.
Conservative MP for Don Valley Nick Fletcher recently claimed they could also have a negative impact on business.
In a Twitter thread, he said: “Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in their present format do untold economic damage to any city.”
The Chester One City Plan – Cheshire West and Chester’s 15 year strategy to guide the future economic regeneration of Chester – identifies a vision for it to become a “15-minute city”, and a ‘liveable cluster of quality connected places, by 2045’.
A council spokesman, said: “We are working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders across the city to explore how this might be delivered and what it might look like on the ground.
“No detailed proposals or time-scales for implementation have been determined at this time. The council is continuing to work to make our towns and city places where everyone can easily get to the services they need in the most inclusive, healthy, accessible and sustainable way possible.”
The concept was developed by scientist Carlos Moreno in 2016, but gained wider exposure in 2020 when Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo made it part of her re-election campaign.
Several councils including Canterbury, Ipswich, Bristol, Birmingham, and Sheffield have all said they aim to become 15-minute cities. Oxford Council has said it plans to become one by 2040.
By Mark Smith – Local Democracy Reporter
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