CONCERNS have been raised by a councillor on what a ’15-minute neighbourhood’ could mean for Brynmawr and its residents.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Place scrutiny committee on Tuesday, March 14 the issue of 15-minute neighbourhoods and cities was brought up for discussion as councillors discussed the Brynmawr Placemaking Plan.
The report on the plan had mentioned that the “overarching vision” is for Brynmawr to be a 15-minute neighbourhood.
This means that everything needed in life – such as shops, schools, healthcare and other facilities – should be found within a 15 minute walk of your home.
County borough councillor for Brynmawr, Jules Gardner, said that the concept had been mentioned in a South Wales Argus article that led to him receiving: “a lot of phone calls and emails.”
Cllr Gardner said: “What I’d like to know is if that is the same framework as the 15-minute cities they are trying to adopt in Oxford and they tried in Bath.
“Because if it is, it disturbs me somewhat.
“Although it sounds benign and utopian to access everything in a neighbourhood, it’s always got penalties and restrictions associated with it.”
He gave an example that a resident could: “Drive outside an area 70 times a year and then have fines initiated.”
Cllr Gardner further said: “Where has this 15-minute neighbourhood come from?
“Who consulted with anyone with regards to that?
“Is it equal to the systems being forced in Oxford or is it completely separate?”
Director of regeneration and community, Ellie Fry argued, “The 15-minute city concept is based on the poly-centric city that’s been around for decades – this isn’t a new thing.
“It’s looking to help people access work, shopping, education, healthcare, leisure all within a 15-minute walk, it is utopian.”
She explained that in the context of Brynmawr the concept was more about bringing, “transport planning, urban design and land use policy making” all intertwining in a “multi-disciplinary approach.”
Ms Fry said: “The 15 minute policy basis does improve people’s wellbeing, it does encourage them to walk and cycle.
“It’s that element the consultants wanted to bring out in Brynmawr because it does lend itself to being this place you can go anywhere in 15 minutes, which is a positive.
“It does stop people using cars, and if they can park once and get somewhere else in 15 minutes it means we can draw people into the town centre.
“They probably have had bad experiences in cities but in smaller towns I think the poly-centric planning model does work quite well.”
The purpose of the plan is to identify a number of areas and schemes with a: “view to inspiring renewed economic growth and vitality in and around the town centre.”
Councillors agreed to support the Brynmawr Placemaking Plan which will go on to be discussed and ratified by the Cabinet in April.