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15 minute cities. Exactly who is being controlled?

15 minute cities.  Within 15 minutes’ walk you will find all your amenities.

Work.  Recreation.  Shopping.  School.  Places of worship.

Must surely be government oppression to take our freedom.  #amiright?

If you know anything about me, you know I don’t do conspiracy theories.

What I do is turn things on their head.

Find a paper street map of your town or city (not village.  Villages are a different issue.)

Get a pair of compasses out.  Old school.  Set them to 1km according to the scale markings, and centre them on your house.  Draw a circle. [Why a 1km circle? – Ed] 1km as the crow flies is about 15 minutes walk from your house even if you’re zigzagging across streets.

What is in that circle?

Is there a decent supermarket of the sort either attached to a petrol station or which can’t open until 1pm on a Sunday?

Is there a primary school?  A doctor’s surgery? A church?  A park?  A leisure centre?

What about work, secondary school, shoe and clothes shops, you might ask.  Well, that’s the point.

When you take out the idealism, next to nobody will be able to live within 15 minutes of home.   A Eurospar might cover you during the week, but you’ll be off to Tesco [other supermarkets are available – Ed] yes, and that’s another point.  If you have a decent-sized Tesco locally, you might still need to travel further to Asda or Sainsbury’s to get other groceries and vice versa.  You might prefer M&S.  Your family probably lives a safe distance away.  Your kids’ secondary or grammar school will be too far away to walk.  There might be a local GP or dentist, but you might prefer one further away.  Most people don’t have a job to match their skills based within 1km of their home.  Your local church is probably the wrong denomination.

But consider this.

If you can’t walk to a local supermarket and have to travel two miles just to get bread, milk and something for dinner, who’s in control?

If the nearest GP surgery is three miles away, who’s in control?

If the nearest primary school is a mile and a half away, who’s in control?

If you live in a city and you can’t shop local, you have to travel for health care and school, and there is no park to have a stroll in within a short distance, you are not in control.

What about people who live in the country.  Someone will be thinking I’ve been living in the big smoke for too long.

But no, I haven’t forgotten.  It’s easy to point out that an extra supermarket in a village which has sprawled away from its centre over the past decades might not be viable, and a second primary school is a non-starter even before you consider that some of the outer housing developments would still be 30 minutes walk from the nearest shop.

Perhaps that turns the question on its head again.  Why is development permitted so far from existing amenities?

Real life means the idealism of getting all your daily needs locally is a non-starter.  None of us are giving up our freedom to work, see our friends and family and shop where we and when we please.  There are all sorts of reasons why you will choose to travel to get things available locally [posh restaurant vs KFC?-Ed]

But that choice is key.

If there is oppression, it’s not from people wanting to keep you within 15 minutes of your home.  It’s from a world which says you don’t deserve to have the choice of local amenities.

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