Could “20-minute neighbourhoods” be the answer? Of course, there’s no simple answer to that. You’d have to understand the problem first. And have a strong understanding of how our lives are affected by the infrastructure and investment that exists within a 20-minute return walk of home with good access to active travel and public transport routes.
Labour have asked that question by winning support for Councillor Amanda Evans’s motion to trial 20-minute neighbourhood pilot schemes – and securing funding for them at Brighton and Hove City Council’s annual “budget council” meeting.
Certainly, for many of us this would mean a significant change from how our lives have existed for much of the past hundred years.
When I look at my own life, although some days I don’t need to leave the house to work any more, on other days I end up driving for up to an hour to attend meetings – and rarely are the facilities within my local neighbourhood the key ones I need.
For our communities to really benefit though, this isn’t just a “carbon net zero” problem that the 20-minute neighbourhood addresses.
It can also give communities back the services and facilities they have lost, the local jobs and bring investment closer to those communities that have become little more than dormitory estates over recent years.
Imagine a stronger set of local shopping choices with less need to travel further for basic needs.
And access to better transport infrastructure, with facilities like offices, libraries and leisure centres all more easily accessible.
We already have great local community schools across the city but if adult learning opportunities and jobs existed in greater scale outside the city centre then we could see all communities thriving rather than surviving as well as helping to ensure our city’s delivery of carbon net zero.
So our city economy, our sustainability and our community could all be helped by trialling 20-minute neighbourhoods.
But we aren’t claiming they will be a panacea for all these issues – just a useful tool to help some people change their lives and impact less on the problems we all need to address collectively.
It’s by no means the only answer, it doesn’t solve everything and certainly doesn’t suit every resident’s life. But lets give 20 minute neighbourhoods a chance – we can’t go on like this.
Councillor Daniel Yates is Labour’s lead on the Asset Management Board and Procurement Advisory Board on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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