By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
“Misunderstanding” remains around the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods, a climate emergency meeting in Leeds has been told.
Leeds City Council is one of several local authorities across the country developing the idea, which is a planning policy geared towards putting shops and services in communities and within walking distance of people’s homes.
But while the concept has divided political opinion and attracted legitimate criticism in some quarters, it’s also been attacked by conspiracy theorists, who’ve made unfounded claims that people will be banned from leaving their local areas.
The city council says 20-minute neighbourhoods was conceived in response to residents wanting infrastructure to be more accessible.
But opponents have protested at consultation events about future developments in Leeds, a meeting of the council’s climate emergency advisory committee heard on Tuesday.
It follows similar demonstrations in Oxford earlier this year.
Conservative councillor for Adel and Wharfedale, Barry Anderson, said opposition to 20-minute neighbourhoods remained among some residents in his ward.
He told the meeting: “I’m getting a lot canvassing from people who are against this.
“I think we’ve got to do some sort of communication exercise about what the benefits are.
“Oxford’s position, rightly or wrongly, was interpreted as ‘you’re not allowed out of your own community’.”
Adam Harvatt, the council’s group manager for policy and plans, admitted the authority had received “a lot of angry comments” about 20-minute neighbourhoods.
The council is currently cultivating its Local Plan 2040, which is designed to offer a framework for development across Leeds over the next two decades.
Mr Harvatt said: “We’ve had demonstrations against us while we’ve been in consultation events (for the Local Plan 2040).
“In my opinion, it’s based on a complete misunderstanding of what 20-minute neighbourhoods is and what it’s all about.
“Trying to prevent people leaving their area is absolutely not what it’s about.
“It’s not about stopping people using their cars, or counting their journeys they’re on or setting up cameras. Planning doesn’t have those powers.
“It was responding to what a lot of local people were telling us. (They were asking us) ‘Are you thinking about local infrastructure?’
“A lack of services is one of the biggest frustrations people have about new housing sites. So it was a response to that.”
As reported by WLD in March, Armley has been earmarked as having ‘potential’ to be 20-minute neighbourhood pilot location in Leeds.