Southend considers 15-minute city scheme

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, but it is being pencilled into the city’s local plan, with each town such as Leigh or Westcliff becoming one of eight 15-minute neighbourhoods.

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for the environment, culture and tourism, believes the £575 million Queensway scheme with its 1,700 homes, shops and amenities would be a prime example of a neighbourhood.

She said: “That’s what Queensway would provide because it will be a major housing complex right on top of the city so people will have things within easy reach whether its doctor’s surgeries, the shops or the cinema.

“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 t’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.”

Referring to the Oxford scheme, Ms Mulroney added: “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.

“I can see the benefit of it but if you take it to a logical end it seems a bit draconian The general principle of having stuff within easy reach of people is obviously good.”

A council spokesman said: “The council recently undertook the Local Plan Refining the Options, which included a profile of each of the eight neighbourhoods in the city, the key planning issues facing them, and priorities for the future planning.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter