Could Southend become a 15-minute city?

Could Southend become a 15-minute city?

Today, I came across an article that particularly stuck out from our local newspaper titled “Southend could become eight 15-minute neighbourhoods” (see here). The article begins:

SOUTHEND could be divided into eight neighbourhoods where residents will be able to “live, work and play” inside a 15-minute radius of their home. This week it was announced 100 councils across the country had signed up to become “15-minute cities”, where residents have every facility within a 15-minute walk, cycle or public transport ride. The scheme, aimed at cutting unnecessary car journeys, will see each neighbourhood have education facilities, primary health care centres, as well as shopping and leisure activities. Oxford is one of the councils signed up to the pilot scheme in which residents have to apply for a permit to drive through a different neighbourhood, with fines for exceeding a yearly quota. Southend is not signed up to scheme …”

It goes on to quote Carole Mulroney, the councillor responsible for the environment, culture and tourism, and with reference to the Oxford scheme where this is about to be rolled out: “It makes sense. It’s a way to cut down on travel and carbon footprint. I think it’s something that should be explored but it’s not always possible. We are quite a compact city so I don’t think people have to go very far to get whatever facility they are looking for … it’s an interesting experiment. The principle of putting things within local communities so that people have got access to the facilities that they need and don’t have to drive across town is a good one in terms of carbon footprint, congested roads”. The article refers to the in the offing Local Plan concerning future plans for the City and where the implications of 15-minute cities are being explored.

All this came to light AFTER talking with a friend discussing the implications of and the agenda behind 15-minute cities idea, like that being rolled out in Oxford. According to Wikipedia: “The 15-minute city is a residential urban concept in which most daily necessities and services, such as work, shopping, education, health, and leisure, should be located within an easily reachable 15-minute walk or bike ride from any point in the city. This approach aims to reduce car dependency, promote healthy and sustainable living, and overall improve the quality of life for city dwellers. Implementing the 15-Minute City concept requires a multi-disciplinary approach, involving transportation planning, urban design, and policymaking, to create well-designed public spaces, pedestrian-friendly streets, and mixed-use developments. Moreover, this lifestyle shift may be fostered by the implementation of information and communications technology (ICT), mainly that of remote work, which can reduce unnecessary daily commuting. The concept has been described as a “return to a local way of life”.”

All of which sounds reasonable. In a recent article titled “How ’15-minute cities’ will change the way we socialise”, the BBC explores the phenomenon, and in the article it is evident it extends far beyond the UK, and here it considers the case of Paris, France, starting and ending on a positive note: “A new urban planning model will change the French capital – and could provide a template for how to create stronger local communities and make residents happier … “The 15-minute city is not a silver bullet,” he says. “Today our neighbourhoods are segregated by money – rich, poor, middle class, workers, bars, offices. There’s great segregation. But what we must do is use 15-minute cities to focus on the common good. With enough funding and support, deployed in the right way, we can guarantee they are for the people.”

Unsurprisingly, alternative media, such as Bitchute and Rumble, present a more negative perspective, including angry rants, which you can check out by typing in something like “15 minute cities” in the search bar. In one of the Telegram groups I currently follow, one of the members shared a video (sorry, no link available) explaining some of what he saw as the horrors of 15-minute cities, inviting members to join the protests: “15 minute cities in the UK, digital ID and digital currency are coming. Possible martial law and more lockdowns. If they bring in the 15 minute cities you won’t be able to go any more than 15 minutes from your home. You are also going to lose all of your savings and everything if they bring in the digital currency. Which will be based on the social credit system as in China. That’s why we must all stand together on February 14th. By downing tools and a national strike”.

I confess, I need to check out the fine details of what is planned locally, as well as the bigger picture of something that is being promoted a lot more widely, ostensibly for the common good and future of humanity. Back to our local councillor quoted earlier, I agree we have an issue around too many cars on the road but I am sceptical, to say the least, in the necessity of reducing the carbon footprint of every individual in order to stave off a so-called climate emergency. Along with this are moves to curtail civil liberties for the so-called common good, while penalising those who don’t tow the official line. I believe Covid lockdown to have been a dry run of what might be expected, along with the roll out of digital ids and a paperless currency. It is a taste of what is to come (and it has already come, reference China). More sinister, is the State, or rather the evil cabal that control the likes of Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, would love to control we the people by restricting what we can do or where we can go etc., implementing what is on the face of it is a reasonable plan because it ticks all the right environmental boxes, starting with Oxford and possibly Southend-on-Sea becoming 15-minute cities.

I mentioned these points to my friend who raised the matter, adding we may be witnessing the thin end of the wedge. We both associate with good Christian folk where the idea of joining the sort of protest advocated by my Telegram friend would be an anathema. But I would argue that the longer-term consequences of doing nothing may be the equivalent of what happened when the German church in the 1930’s rolled over and allowed in Nazi tyranny. We can all do something and we can no longer claim it does not affect us because we don’t live in Southend, not Oxford. In May we vote in a new council. The administration (comprising Labour, LibDem and Independent), to which Councillor Mulroney belongs, currently holds a slight majority. I am not saying vote them out if they make the wrong decision (who knows whether the Conservatives or whoever opposes them will do differently) but we can ask questions and make those who want our votes know they are accountable to those who they are meant to represent and are not to be beholden to some hidden agenda or government overreach.

Edit: While concerns remain and one person pointed out the matter of cameras being installed around the town, begging the question why, it was pointed out to me that Councillor Mulroney did offer an account of her position, different to what was reported in the newspapers: Statement regarding recent 15-minute cities and ‘Oxford trial’ local media article – Council issues statement to clarify recent ’15 minute city’ article. If I were to enter into discussion with the lady, I would be tempted to point out with regard to her “I merely referred to the trial being undertaken by Oxford as interesting” statement, I can think of a stronger adjective than interesting! What did surprise me though was the amount of local passion that this issue has raised!


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