Do you live in a twenty minute neighbourhood?
In the last year, we’ve all had time to think about the way we live and work. Many of us have made big changes to our lifestyles – and for some those changes will stick. More working from home and less commuting have been major pluses for many. To prove the point, there has been a rapid upswing in house sales and rentals that can support these adjustments, as well as a move out of urban areas into the suburbs and more rural parts of the country and coastline.
But there is a downside to those moves. There is far less access to amenities out of town. So an idea that is gaining traction around the world could come into play in the UK too. It’s called the ‘twenty minute neighbourhood’ and it’s really simple. The aim is to ensure that residents can access all the goods and services they require within a twenty minute walk or bike ride.
So easy access to cycle paths and safe walks is key. And residents also have easy access to the places and services they use on a regular basis: grocery stores, schools and healthcare plus leisure amenities such as parks, pools and restaurants. The theory is that a vibrant mix of commercial and residential uses should all be within an easy walk and be accompanied by a wide range of transport options that mean people are not wholly reliant on their car.
Anyone who was brought up on a housing estate in the sixties or seventies will remember that way back then, housing was generally built in tandem with a school, a parade of essential shops, and a medical centre or doctor’s surgery maybe coupled with a community centre. But as women joined the workforce in droves and car ownership boomed, out-of-town developments became the norm – to the point that for many on new build developments, driving everywhere is now the only option.
Planners are now trying to reverse this trend. It’s bad for the environment and it’s bad for our wellbeing. So the twenty minute neighbourhood was devised and first piloted in Portland, Oregon. It has been enthusiastically adopted in Melbourne Australia and Scottish planners are looking at it too so we can expect it to be considered in other parts of the UK.
In tandem with placemaking, which encourages planners and developers to view areas in their entirety to avoid negatives like traffic-dominated streets, little-used parks, and isolated developments, the concept could really breathe new life into housing schemes and town centre planning. Many of our suburbs and semi-rural developments leave people isolated and car-reliant. So who wouldn’t want to live in a neighbourhood where all the amenities you need are less than twenty minutes away?
Post-pandemic, and with climate change now driving Government policy more than ever before, an injection of twenty minute thinking into the way we plan our housing could make the future that little bit brighter for all of us – and protect the environment at the same time.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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