Are 15 minute Cities an Orwellian plot?

Communities, Food, Politics, Transport

Are 15 minute Cities an Orwellian plot? An independent media platform and news website based in the UK, reports that the government has endorsed a conspiracy theory about “15-minute cities” as part of its major policy announcement prioritising car owners – despite having already dismissed it.

Speaking to the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Monday 2 October, transport secretary Mark Harper described the concept of 15-minute cities – where local amenities are located within a 15-minute walk or ‘cycle – as “sinister”.

“What is sinister, and what we shouldn’t tolerate,” said Harper, “is the idea that local councils can decide how often you go to the shops, and that they can ration who uses the roads and when and that they police it all with CCTV.”

There has been opposition to 15-minute cities from those who say they are a front for “everlasting surveillance” and designed to restrict people’s freedom. But these entirely none evidence claims have been widely dismissed, including by the government itself.

Are 15 minute Cities an Orwellian plot? Some people seem to think so as a petition to Parliament in March attracted 18,792 signatures, called on the Government ‘to pass legislation requiring local, legally binding, referendums to approve 15-minute cities before such a policy can be implemented. Public referendums must be held on these policies’.

In response the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said that “15-minute cities aim to provide people with more choice about how and where they travel, not to restrict movement”.

It added that “the 15-minute cities concept is not a national planning policy” but is part of a framework that aims to promote “walking, cycling and public transport use, so that patterns of movement, streets and parking contribute to making high-quality places”. The response also said the framework aims to promote the delivery of sustainable infrastructure, “ensuring key services are located close to development and offering a genuine choice of transport modes”.

It concluded that “it is for a local authority to determine whether or not this is a concept they wish to propose for their local area and/or include in their Local Plan or hold a referendum on such issues. The government believe there are sufficient mechanisms already in place for local authorities to do this and has no plans to make this mandatory….”

The minister’s announcement was the curtain raiser to the publication of the government’s “plan for drivers”, which sets out to “stop local authorities using so-called ‘15-minute cities’ to police people’s lives”. The policy also sets out how the government will restrict powers for councils to introduce 20mph roads and seek to reduce the hours that cars are banned from bus lanes.
You can read the full article on OpenDemocracy’s website.

ACE’s Transport Group supports ’15 minute cities/neighbourhoods’ and is actively involved in promoting and developing better local transport.