Having good facilities within easy walking distance is especially important for those without cars, for some that are living with disabilities, for the elderly who find themselves beyond driving, and for those who cannot afford to run a car.
For the last 50 years, our towns have increasingly been developed around the motor vehicle. Edge of town shopping, big supermarkets with discounts for bulk buying and free car-parking. Those without access to vehicles are doubly disadvantaged when shops like Marks and Spencer leave their town centre sites.
Some folk very vocally claim that 15 minute neighbourhoods are constraining, that its a government conspiracy to prevent people from travelling further. Yet the huge traffic problems around BCP are caused because too many short journeys are being undertaken by car, because facilities haven’t been retained closeby, and therefore travelling further, in heavy traffic, ceases to be a choice.
If people have key facilities on their doorstep, then it reduces their need to travel further. It doesn’t stop them from choosing to do so, but will make those longer journeys better, with lighter traffic.
Businesses and other organisations looking at their own bottom line have tended to consolidate. The pharmacy in Oakdale is under threat, because head office wants to combine it with the town centre branch, (Poole People have objected to this), yet that would mean 3 pharmacies very close together, and would leave the elderly folk in Oakdale without one at all. The specialisation of the Acute Hospitals, with Poole covering Elective Care, and RBH as the Emergency and Maternity centre provides economies for the Hospital, especially on staffing, but means patients, visitors and staff having to make longer trips over time. (We opposed this and especially queried the transport assumptions, which focussed on Ambulance trips).
Whilst the main Council offices have been consolidated, there is a face-face contact centre now open in Poole Library, which is easier to get to than the old facilities at Poole Civic Centre. We also need to extend the role of local libraries across the area.
The curtailment of freedoms is from years of not bringing good localised design to bear on ensuring facilities are close at hand across the area. Nurturing 15 minute neighbourhoods is a force for good.