Should the capital become a “15-minute city”? That was the challenge from Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell, quizzing Sadiq Khan at City Hall’s monthly Mayor’s Question Time session today.
The increasingly popular concept – “everything you need for daily life within a 15 minute walk from your home”, according to Russell – was the centrepiece of Socialist Party candidate Anne Hidalgo’s campaigning in the recent mayoral election in Paris. Hidalgo convincingly won a second term after the final round of voting, delayed because of the pandemic, took place last month.
It is time for London to take the same approach, Russell told Mayor Khan. “Recovering with a greener economy depends on making London work in a different, more local way. Londoners are not going to be rushing back to those tall lift-dependent glass towers in Central London any time soon. Fifteen minute neighbourhoods will make Londoners’ lives better,”Russell said.
Khan replied that “good growth” is already at the heart of City Hall policies, “for all parts of our city, not just Central London”. The Covid-19 pandemic meant the capital’s residents were spending more time closer to home, he said. “They want their neighbourhoods to be welcoming and sustainable, not clogged with traffic. The recovery must be an inclusive, green recovery.”
Transport for London’s Streetspace plan to reallocate space away from vehicle traffic, launched in May with government funding, had already seen almost 900 schemes approved, including 200 town centre improvement projects, 65 cycling schemes, 450 “school street” initiatives reducing traffic around schools, and 175 neighbourhood plans reducing through traffic, the Mayor said.
He also backed Russell’s calls for more bookable workspaces in neighbourhoods, more local “parklets” and more space for outdoor eating and drinking. “It’s really important we use the summer to help these businesses flourish, he said, praising communities secretary Robert Jenrick for rapid action to update licensing regulations.
The Mayor’s commitment came as the C40 grouping of major cities around the world supporting action on climate change, including London, launched its own Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery post-Covid-19.
In line with Khan’s approach, the grouping’s priorities include “giving streets back to people, by permanently reallocating more road space to walking and cycling, investing in city-wide walking and cycling networks and green infrastructure”, and “creating ’15-minute cities’.”
Watch today’s Mayor’s Question Time in full via the GLA website.
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