Imagine a future where you can’t travel more than 15 minutes from your house. Where socialists running your local council restricts how often you can nip to the shops. Actually, don’t, because it’s complete nonsense.
Looking for a straw to grasp as an election grows closer, the Conservative Party has seized upon the language of 15-minute city conspiracy theories, claiming nefarious urban planners are out to seize your personal freedom. It’s motorists vs everyone else.
Some UK councils, including Oxford, Sheffield and Bristol, have introduced plans for 15-minute cities. Rather than restricting freedom, the plans aim to ensure residents of a city live within a quarter of an hour of the amenities they need, with less need for car journeys.
Controversy over 15-minute cities sits alongside far-right theories such as the “Great Reset”, and overarching ideas about a controlling global elite set on destroying personal freedoms, which gained popularity in the wake of Covid-19 lockdowns . One Tory MP, Nick Fletcher, said the idea was part of an “international socialist concept”.
This baseless rhetoric has now found its way to the heart of government.
As Rishi Sunak announced his “plan for drivers”, the Department for Transport confirmed it aims to “stop councils implementing so called ‘15-minute cities’”.