The GuardianThe Guardian

In praise of the ‘15-minute city’ – the mundane planning theory terrifying conspiracists

By Oliver Wainwright

16 Feb 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Should you have your daily needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from where you live? Libertarian fanatics in Britain say, "No!" Oliver Wainwright, writing for The Guardian, derides the outrage.

There’s an international socialist conspiracy afoot, and it wants to make it easier to walk to the shops. Fringe forces of the far left are plotting to take away our freedom to be stuck in traffic jams, to crawl along clogged ring roads and trawl the streets in search of a parking spot. The liberty of the rush-hour commute, the sanctity of the out-of-town shopping centre and the righteousness of the suburban food desert is under threat as never before. The name of this chilling global movement? The “15-minute city”.

Westminster can often seem like a badly scripted spoof of itself, but rarely has parliament descended into parody as far as it did last week, when the Conservative MP for the South Yorkshire constituency of Don Valley, Nick Fletcher, launched a plucky tirade against the concept of convenient, walkable neighbourhoods. “Will the leader of the house please set aside time for a debate on the international socialist concept of so-called 15-minute cities and 20-minute neighbourhoods?” he asked, in an ominous tone. “Sheffield is already on this journey, and I do not want Doncaster, which also has a Labour-run socialist council, to do the same.”

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content