Oxford City Council is implementing a new Local Plan that “will set out where new homes, businesses and community facilities will be built to make Oxford a better place to live, work and visit.” All new developments must consider environmental sustainability and the health and welfare of the residents. Meanwhile, Oxfordshire County Council is proposing a circulation plan, known as the low-traffic neighbourhood plan (LTN), designed to reduce car traffic while favouring alternatives such as walking, biking and public transportation. According to estimates, traffic will be reduced by 35%, road fatalities by 9% and pollution by 91%.
Oxford’s new plans are in line with the ‘15-minute city’ model. This is an urban planning concept that aims to make cities more liveable by ensuring that every resident can access all basic services, such as schools, workplaces and shops with a 15-minute walk or a short bike ride.
Some residents are concerned that the new plans will disrupt their current routines. However, legitimate criticism was displaced by fringe ideas when almost 2,000 people marched through the streets of Oxford calling the new plan “dystopian.” Protesters believe the City Council is attempting to create a “closed city” in which residents will be trapped and unable to leave their neighbourhood without permission. They are convinced that their personal freedoms will be revoked and their movements monitored by the police. “Don’t confuse a totalitarian control grid with traditional town planning,” said the protest organisers.
None of these accusations have any basis in reality. Not to mention that the City Council’s Local Plan was developed consulting local communities, businesses and organisations. Furthermore, the LTN is a plan that has already been tested in other British cities. Far from being dystopian, the goal is to make the city more focused on the needs and well-being of its residents, with less traffic and pollution, and a greater emphasis on neighbourhood life.
1a) In your opinion, what are the major issues in your city or town? Describe and explain.
1b) Now imagine you’re in charge of your city’s or town’s planning. How would you solve the problems you described?
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)