How lockdown could turn the 20-minute neighbourhood from vision to reality

How lockdown could turn the 20-minute neighbourhood from vision to reality

It all sounded good in theory

You may have heard reference to the “20-minute neighbourhood” over the years.

It’s a fairly simple concept: that everything a community could ever need can be accessed within a short journey.

From vital transport links to the public services we all call upon, it was about improving equalities and investing in spaces which had previously been neglected, sometimes for decades on end.

In simple terms, things we all find handy were just about to get closer.

But like everything, it seemed it was taking a while to turn these impressive visions into a reality.

Help arrived in an unexpected form

So what better to hurry things along than a pandemic which has forced tens of millions to stay as close to home as possible, by order of the government?

In previous lives, office workers would know the environs of their workplace pretty well; the best coffee shop, cheapest pint and the nicest route for a head-clearing lunchtime walk.

Often, workers spent so much time in the office they’d know far more about that part of town than the one they lived in.

Now we have an opportunity to change all that.

Even when normality returns, it won’t be the same

People may well go back to the office eventually, but not to the same extent. Home working is here to stay, and that should accelerate investment in 20-minute community schemes.

The demand will drive that. More people will be spending almost all their time within a short walk of their home and, as such, will want more within their area.

Better shops, slicker and cleaner transport alternatives, nicer green spaces and improved hospitality will all be on the agenda.

That could lead to environmental and economic boosts too, so there should be no shortage of motivation when it comes to the decision-makers getting involved.

Seize the opportunity

The time to do that is now.

Home workers are constantly improving their own immediate spaces to make their desks more comfortable and spent time and money adapting rooms which used to cater for guests and clutter.

You’ve done your bit.

Now we need to see councils and the government match that commitment to immediate spaces around which we are all increasingly living.

The 20-second neighbourhood has been taken care of as far as the home office is concerned.

It’s time for the 20-minute equivalent to take flight.

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