Insights into the ‘15-minute neighbourhood’ concept

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been seeing the rediscovery of people’s local centres. This abstract combines two related resources revolving around the concept of the ‘15-minute (or 20-minute) neighbourhood’ – the idea that people should be able to access their daily needs within a short distance from their homes. The first is a Bloomberg Businessweek article discussing whether the 15-minute city is an inclusive concept for all. And the second, is an online webinar video from the Town and Country Planning Association, discussing learnings about 20-minute neighbourhoods from Australia and New Zealand.

Date added 19 November 2020
Last updated 19 November 2020

"The 15-Minute City - No Cars Required - Is Urban Planning’s New Utopia”, Bloomberg Businessweek: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-11-12/paris-s-15-minute-city-could-be-coming-to-an-urban-area-near-you [external link]

“The 20-minute neighbourhood: learning from down under”, TCPA: https://www.tcpa.org.uk/the-20-minute-neighbourhood [external link]

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been seeing the rediscovery of people’s local centres, as people have been staying closer to home. This abstract combines two related resources revolving around the concept of the ‘15-minute (or 20-minute) neighbourhood’ – the idea that people should be able to access their daily needs within a short distance from their homes. Summary insights from each resource are provided below.

Bloomberg Businessweek article

This article, published in November 2020, opens with the case of Minimes Barracks in Paris, which is an example of an area being transformed through the idea of the ‘15-minute city’ - seeing parking lots converted into gardens, with public housing apartments, offices, artisan workshops, a day-care facility, clinic, and café all in one place. This fits with wider plans to turn Paris into a ‘city of proximities’, which is also being seen in other cities across the world from Madrid to Melbourne, further fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic, whereby we are:

“...Reimagining our towns not as divided into discrete zones for living, working, and entertainment, but as mosaics of neighborhoods in which almost all residents’ needs can be met within 15 minutes of their homes on foot, by bike, or on public transit... Street space previously dedicated to cars is freed up, eliminating pollution and making way for gardens, bike lanes, and sports and leisure facilities”.

The article draws particular attention, however, to how this concept also has the potential to foster inequalities in places. As the author states, the 15-minute city is “...a utopian vision in an era of deep social distress- but one that might, if carried out piecemeal, without an eye to equality, exacerbate existing inequities”. This is since not everybody lives in multi-functional places like the one described above; not everybody has the option to work within 15-minutes of their home; and not all housing in these compact places is affordable, which we should also not lose sight of.

Town and Country Planning Association webinar

This online webinar recording from TCPA was a session on the ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ held in October 2020. It forms part of a series of upcoming resources designed to help local authorities and communities to introduce 20-minute neighbourhoods into their areas. The 1-hour seminar session focuses on learnings from Australia and New Zealand, followed by a Q+A with presenters, and covers the following topics:

  • Delivering 20-minute neighbourhoods in Melbourne (James Mant, Planning Projects Manager, Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, Victoria).
  • Establishing policy frameworks for 20-minute neighbourhoods (Prof. Trevor Shilton, Director of Active Living, Heart Foundation Australia, and Naomi Gilbert, Senior Coordinator, Healthy Built Environments, Heart Foundation Australia).
  • Delivering 20-minute neighbourhoods in Hamilton, New Zealand (Prof. Iain White, Professor of Environmental Planning at University of Waikato, New Zealand).