Remember during lockdown when people happily cycled around the town’s streets? Kids played in safety. Imagine Filey town centre with wider pavements, more seating and less traffic? A national initiative, the ’20 minute neighbourhood’, might well allow us to realise that dream.
When one of Britain’s first “20-minute neighbourhoods” began operating five years ago, protesters carried a coffin marked “RIP Walthamstow Village” at the opening ceremony for the £30m scheme in northeast London. A local newspaper reported “intermittent scuffles” as residents railed against restrictions on motorists.
Motorists were furious when the borough prioritised pedestrians and cyclists, but five years on the scheme has been hailed in the Sunday Times as a huge success and Walthamstow has seen business boom. The Daily Telegraph even claimed that Walthamstow was now the ‘coolest postcode’ in London.
The checklist for a ’20 minute neighbourhood’ has four triggers, so how does Filey measure up?
The first is a five minute walk, in that time frame people’s homes should be five minutes from: children’s play areas, green spaces and bus stops.
The second is that within a ten minute walk should be: shops (bakery, butchers, nursery, pub/restaurant, hairdresser), primary school, allotments, medical centre and village green.
The third criteria is within a fifteen minute walk should be: employment, secondary school, gym/swimming pool, sports pitches/facilities and large open green spaces.
The fourth is that within a twenty minute walk should be: post office, bank, place of worship, community centre and a garden centre.
Clearly, Filey lacks a bank and a swimming pool, but we do have the beach and the North Sea. The town without doubt meets the majority of the criteria of a ’20 minute town’.
The Town and Country Planning Association and working with Sport England in investigating how the 20-minute neighbourhood concept could be delivered in England as ‘an effective way of creating healthier, active communities’. The 20-minute neighbourhood concept is all about local living, helping people meet most of their daily needs within a 20-minute walk from home, with safe cycling and local transport options. The TCPA website says: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has put a spotlight on the importance of the livability of our local neighbourhoods, with people spending more time locally, working at home if possible, using public green space, cycling and walking instead of using cars and connecting with neighbours’.
The aim is to give local authorities an easily understandable concept that can then be embedded into the planing system. Unfortunately, many new housing developments encourage car dependency, leaving residents with little choice but to drive to do something as simple as buy a pint of milk.
The cordoning off of parts of Belle Vue Street, John Street and Murray Street to enable social distancing has created a quite ugly, but necessary, streetscape. As we hopefully move towards a post-covid world, perhaps thought might be given to wider pavements, seating and cycle parking? Streets that prioritise people.
Our visitors drive a long way to come to Filey, parking and walking for five or ten minutes would hardly be a chore, or even a danger to the town’s businesses. Quite the opposite, a tranquil town centre, where people can stroll happily, would be a a huge draw. Look at the experience of Walthamstow. The naysayers were up in arms, but their fears were mislaid. The town has experienced a huge surge in trade, people like their new streets and bring their money to it on a more frequent basis.
Let’s try to reimagine Filey. Be bold and think anew about how our little town centre could look and feel in the not too distant future.