The concept of 15-minute neighbourhoods represents a major new perspective for planning within Oxfordshire. CoHSAT will write a policy paper, together with other community groups, to clarify the issues and increase the likelihood that 15MN can become an integral part of Oxfordshire’s future. The objective is to ensure that more amenities are close to where people live, particularly in rural areas of Oxfordshire, so that they no longer have to travel some distance by car or public transport to access them. These journeys are both polluting and, for poorer households, a considerable expense.
The 15MN has, as its primary principle, the need to ensure that people have easy access – a 15-minute walk – to their main amenities. We start with five main amenities (a shop, GP, school, green space and pub) in the Walkability Index that CoHSAT is developing, but the selection will be reassessed as the results of the 15MN survey come in. The Walkability Index identifies for planners where these essential amenities are beyond a 15-minute walk for householders and, therefore, where additional facilities are needed.
We hope that the policy paper will enhance understanding of the 15MN concept and ensure that it is integrated into consultation responses throughout 2021, such as on Oxfordshire 2050, the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, the Zero Emission Green Zone and the Street Guide for new and existing developments. There is continuing evidence that the county still has a car-based approach in many of these documents and the 15MN briefing document will challenge and, hopefully, begin to reverse that thinking. We are already beginning to promote the concept, using the Walkability Index, with councillors in the city council and county council.
We believe that the final report, together with the findings from the 15MN survey will provide a powerful stimulus representing both bottom-up aspirations and top-down opportunities. We will link the timing of these two activities as much as we can, to enable them to interact.