Ireland continues to face a number of long-standing challenges in housing, climate change and quality of life – but one emerging urban planning concept is said to address all – the ’15 Minute City’.
The concept of the 15 Minute City and its application to Irish Cities has built momentum within the last twelve months – but does it solve our problems, or create new ones in its place? Here, we examine the concept in greater detail.
What is a 15 Minute City?
The clue for the 15 Minute City is firmly rooted in its name – a city that is planned in such a way that everyone in the city is able to easily access essential urban services within a 15-minute walk or bicycle journey.
Penned by Carlos Moreno, the driving force behind Paris’ new ’15-minute city’ plan, the concept aims to reduce long-accepted aspects of urban cities like long commutes, noise pollution and spaces that are under-utilised.
The core idea of the 15 Minute City is that cities should adapt to the needs of humans, and not the other way around. The below TED Talk features Carlos Moreno who explains the concept in further detail.
Carlos’ Moreno’s framework for the 15 Minute City is underpinned by four subsections or pillars of urban planning:
A fundamental aspect of any urban planning and its built environment. Within the concept of the 15 Minute City, an emphasis is placed on people per kilometre square. In other words, considering the optimal number of people that can be comfortably sustained and still be able to avail of urban service delivery and consume resources.
The framework prioritises social sustainability so that all essentials are accessible to city residents without the need for automobiles which consume time for residents and energy resources.
Optimal density facilitates locally-based solutions for energy generation, food supply and multi-use spaces.
This pillar dictates that residents within a neighbourhood of a city can readily access essential services, both saving residents time overall and reducing environmental impacts of commuting.
With Proximity in mind, residents can transition from residential areas, commercial areas and other such ‘standard’ spaces within a reduced timespan. The 15 Minute City sets out to make better use of space at all times.
It has become common in Paris, for example, for school playgrounds to open up for public use outside of school hours – offering space for city residents to socialise or exercise.
This is a multi-faceted pillar and refers both to the need for more mixed-use neighbourhoods which provide a healthy balance of residential, commercial and leisure areas, as well as diversity in the sense of culture and people.
The framework aims to create economically and culturally vibrant cities where all residents can avail of sufficient housing in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
By promoting social cohesion, Moreno opines that social capital will increase, as well as tourism, naturally creating economic benefits for the city itself as a result.
Considered to be pivotal in ensuring the success of the previous three dimensions, the effectiveness of them is largely dictated by the deployment of technologies.
One ever-topical example of digitalisation is the adoption of remote working due to COVID-19, which has inadvertently realised some objectives of the 15 Minute City.
Other such functions of digitalisation for the 15 Minute City includes online shopping, cashless transactions, bike sharing, security protocols and more.
The 15 Minute City: A Framework for Ireland?
According to a recent report by the Irish Institutional Property (IIP) group, there is an argument for the practicality of the 15 Minute City in Ireland, unlocking its potential and building a sustainable, prosperous future.
When respondents (of varied ages) were asked to prioritise their top five destinations (of ten) to have access to within a 15 Minute City, the following outcome was observed as an average:
- Places to Access Fresh Food (58%)
- Public Transport Links (52%)
- Retail & Hospitality Destinations (50%)
- Green & Blue Spaces (47%)
- Health & Social Care Facilities (47%)
- Recreational Facilities (40%)
- Educational Facilities (29%)
- Places to Work (24%)
- Cultural Destinations (21%)
- Community Facilities (19%)
Notably, Educational Facilities and Workplaces did not rank within the Top 5 – a possible indicator of Ireland’s cultural shift towards remote work and distance learning throughout the pandemic.
It is generally considered that the following six resources are required for a city to be a 15 Minute City: Education, Work, Transport, Nutrition, Health & Care, and Recreation & Culture.
Currently, 10% of Ireland’s population has all six of these resources within a 15 minute catchment of one’s home. Given the choice, 33% of Irish people would like to have this. This is just one third of people, but it is three times the current reality.
The 15 Minute City (& the Bottom Line)
It is unsurprising that the concept of the 15 Minute City has gained momentum in recent months, as Ireland’s population continues to grow significantly. The 15-Minute City concept aligns strongly with the State’s National Planning Framework.
There’s nothing simple about any urban planning framework, and the 15 Minute City is no different.
No doubt, the 15 Minute City creates a wealth of personal and sustainability benefits, including shared resources, time savings, greater autonomy & accessibility, a self-sustaining local economy, greater transport links and places that remain fit for purpose far ahead into the future. But for many Irish people, this ‘utopia’ comes at a cost.
As stated, there are a number of commonalities between the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the 15 Minute City – particularly regarding compactness and higher density housing (something that meets public resistance).
For all the wealth of benefits that come from a 15 Minute City, it also entails some drastic changes that are a clear contrast from what is traditional in Ireland in terms of density, and Irish attitudes to it would have to change just as drastically.
While higher density housing may be key to addressing climate change and urban sprawl, the answer to the 15 Minute City may require some hybridisation to adapt to the expectations of the average Irish citizen.
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