’15 minute neighbourhoods’ could help combat climate change, claims expert

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Climate change experts in Leeds have claimed individuals’ habits made in the lockdown could actually help with the long-term battle against climate change.

It comes as an environmental group has listed 10 ideas for the city to combat climate change in the future, following last year’s climate change jury initiative.

One of the suggestions involves creating “15 minute neighbourhoods”, in which most amenities and services can be accessed on foot within 15 minutes.

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Paul Chatterton is a professor of urban futures at the University of Leeds. He believes people’s lifestyle habits learned during the lockdown could help with this.

Leeds could benefit from "fifteen minute neighbourhoods", an expert has claimed.Leeds could benefit from "fifteen minute neighbourhoods", an expert has claimed.
Leeds could benefit from "fifteen minute neighbourhoods", an expert has claimed.

He said: “Building on what we saw in lockdown, there’s an opportunity to create a renaissance of local life, especially through the idea of the 15 minute neighbourhood – where most things that we need in our daily lives can be easily reached by a short journey by bike or foot.

“This locks in a whole range of potential benefits around local employment and business, physical activity, better air quality and safer roads.”

Our Future Leeds, which put together the list, included other suggestions such as networks of community hubs, more green spaces and more secure employment across the city.

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In a blog post, Prof Chatterton wrote: “We familiar with some of the shortcomings of Leeds’ economy – low paid and precarious jobs and independent businesses squeezed out by large corporations.

“What has been most staggering about the response to the (Covid-19) crisis is the rapid uptake of measures that only weeks ago would have been unthinkable: mortgage and rent holidays, statutory sick pay, shifts to nationalise services especially health and transport, wage guarantees, suspending evictions, and debt cancellations.

“We now seem to be revaluing what matters: key workers who support our wellbeing; local shops that offer commitment to their community; access to local greenspaces, goods and services.”

He added now was the time to “supercharge” plans to increase the amount of green space, adding: “Quality public and green places need to be radically expanded so people can safely gather after the trauma of this experience.

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“Diverse green spaces directly underpin our emotional and psychological wellbeing and offer a range of positive effects on storing carbon, cleaning air and preserving wildlife.”

Our Future Leeds was formed in early 2019 to lobby Leeds City Council to declare a climate emergency.

Since then, the city saw the youth climate strikes as well as the recommendations of the UK’s first citizens’ jury on climate change outside London.