15-minute cities: Where they can be found in the UK

Headlines are filling up with 15-minute cities, an oddly contentious issue, but what are they and are there any in the UK?

By Silvia Pellegrino

Imagine having to walk or cycle only a quarter of an hour to go to the doctor, school or work, or to buy groceries and meet a friend for coffee. This is what the concept of 15-minute cities promotes – being able to have all the main amenities at a sustainable and attainable distance without the need for a private motorised vehicle. 

In the past decade, the speculation around this new city revolution has started to rise, with cities like Oxford and Sheffield proposing their own interpretations of it. According to YouGov, the majority of Britons would support their local government in the adoption of a 15-minute city structure, with 62% being in favour of the idea. However, this does not mean that it is a straightforward process.

Areas like the aforementioned Oxford, as well as Canterbury, have seen a flood of protests on the matter and, in other cities, the plans are not yet completely drafted. But which cities in the UK are looking into introducing 15-minute neighbourhoods?


Oxford has been at the centre of controversy since it announced its Local Plan 2040, shared in 2022. One of the main objectives of the plan is to make Oxford a 15-minute city, “planned in such a way as to optimise the opportunity for people to reach a wide range of facilities that they need to live well and healthily within a 15-minute walk of their home”.

Oxford - 15 minute cities
Oxford residents protest against the 15-minute city proposals. (Photo by Sarah2/Shutterstock)

The city’s aim is to reach net zero and ready itself for the impacts of climate change. The Local Plan 2040 does not only mention the concept of 15-minute cities, but it also discusses the building of new developments in order to ensure that Oxford continues to be inclusive and convenient.

There are three main elements outlined in the Local Plan 2040: society, environment and economy. They are all interlinked too, entailing that the city will focus on being healthy and inclusive with opportunities for all, it will have access to housing and jobs as well as nature and green spaces. In particular, the objectives include creating a healthy city to live in, maintaining Oxford’s globally important role in learning and innovation, and creating a city that safeguards water, soil and aims for net-zero emissions

In order to become a 15-minute city, Oxford needs to direct new development to the right locations. This is also the main reason for concern and controversy, since some Oxford residents, as there would be more restrictions in place for vehicles, have the notion that 15-minute cities mean constriction and confinement of people within a certain distance from their homes. 

In addition, alongside the 2040 Plan, Oxford also announced the plan to change traffic systems by implementing low-emission zones. In particular, from 2024, all drivers in the city will have to travel via the ring road surrounding Oxford or take public transport, similar to low-traffic neighbourhoods. Some residents claimed that these two initiatives – 15-minute cities and low-traffic neighbourhoods – will be used to track and fine residents if they exit their residential area, impacting their personal freedom. However, the local council’s decisions do not impact free will but rather are aimed to improve people’s quality of life and the planet’s resilience. 

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Ipswich in Suffolk turned to the idea of being a 15-minute city as well. Ipswich Central, the Business Improvement District for the town centre, announced the plan in 2021, with the objective of growing the number of residents and encouraging new housing developments, as well as creating a “Connected Town Centre”.

In particular, Ipswich’s centre is filled with unused and empty buildings that are perfect for new housing and shops. Within the concept of a 15-minute city, the centre will not only see new residential areas but also basic services like schools, venues and gyms alongside green spaces to encourage more urban living. This city’s specific project also entails making Ipswich more liveable for London commuters, since hybrid work is augmenting the reliance on local amenities.

“This is a bold plan which recognises that in the new, post-Covid world, our town centre will need to rely less upon retail and develop a new purpose as a place to live and visit,” Terry Baxter, the chair of Ipswich Central, said. “This new strategy for Ipswich commits to many more people living centrally and having around them all that they will need to live their lives locally.

“It is exceptionally ambitious and demonstrates that, once again, we are ahead of the game. Not only have all partners signed up to the strategy, but we also have £25m from the government’s Town Fund to help kick-start the revival.”

This plan is in collaboration with Vision for Ipswich, created in 2015, an initiative that promotes the organic growth of the city and its future as a more sustainable and innovative area. By 2025, Ipswich aims to become the first 15-minute city in the UK.  


At the beginning of 2023, Transport for West Midlands (tfWM) announced the city’s 15-minute transport plans, called the Reimagining Transport in the West Midlands. Following a £1.3bn investment programme, tfWM will focus on a five-year schedule to achieve various objectives.

One of the main ones is to rearrange all the amenities in the city within 15 minutes’ distance of residents, by foot, vehicle, bicycle or motorbike. In addition, Birmingham is also looking to move all regional facilities and workplaces to a 45-minute journey by public transport. 

When it comes to public transport, in particular, the West Midlands plan put a lot of emphasis on designing a transport system that will end up eventually replacing completely private vehicles, with routes and stops that would allow everyone to live a sociable and efficient life even without owning a car. This also contributes to the objective of reaching net zero by 2041. For example, the blueprint proposes an on-demand bus service in Coventry, which is being trialled, entailing that buses do not have set routes but rather can be booked via phone by residents.

“This plan sets out how we’re designing neighbourhoods and communities fit for the future – reducing car reliance and making it easier than ever to make more sustainable local journeys,” Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street explained.

There are six main areas of interest in this plan, called the Big Moves: behaviour change, accessible and inclusive places, safe, efficient and reliable network, walk, wheel, cycle and scoot, public transport and shared mobility and a green transport revolution. 

To help the concept of the 15-minute city, Birmingham plans to expand and modify the already-existing transport links. Over five years, the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) has in mind to extend the West Midlands Metro Networks and augment the amount of town centre cycle and walking routes. 

WMCA portfolio lead for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council Ian Ward said: “We are facing a climate emergency […] This plan demonstrates that we cannot go as we have – doing nothing risks increasing traffic congestion, more pollution and higher costs. It undermines our productivity and ability to attract investment.

“It sets our that while we can design safe, convenient and affordable transport services, we also need people to play their part by changing their behaviour and considering whether they do need to make those car journeys.”


Rather than a 15-minute city, Bristol is looking to develop a 15-minute neighbourhood. In particular, this plan involves Chelsea Road in Easton, which is a two-way street that sees a high level of traffic every day making it hard for pedestrians and cyclists to pass through. 

The whole area, East Bristol, has also been undergoing trials of a new transport system, called the Liveable Neighbourhood trial. This initiative sees particular neighbourhoods in the East part of the city becoming more people-centred, investing in ways to improve their quality of life such as planting more trees and building more cycle lanes.

One of the minds behind this idea is Rob Bryher, a local transport campaigner. During his public consultations, he proposed an interpretation of a 15-minute area. “We have two small high streets, so pretty much everything I need is on those two roads,” he told Bristol 24/7, “So pretty much everything is within 15 minutes, which is a real privilege to be in that situation. It’s much harder for people who live in central Bristol. But the benefits are really great. We forget that we have all this stuff on our doorsteps.”

Bristol’s 2050 One City Plan mentions the prospect of being a more sustainable and liveable city, and one of the objectives to reach by 2028 is to make all amenities, especially sports ones, within 15 minutes from people’s homes. Even if there is not an official 15-minute plan for the city of Bristol, there is a general consensus on experimenting with independent areas.


During a meeting in February 2022, Sheffield’s council raised the proposal to introduce 15-minute neighbourhoods into the city. By doing this, residents would be able to reach all the necessary amenities in 15 minutes, and it would aid the regeneration of local and independent businesses due to the higher affluence of people. The idea behind this can also benefit the rural communities and areas since they would have easier access to basic services too. 

Sheffield recognised that there is a fundamental lack of pedestrian and cycle lanes in the city, making it difficult for those without a vehicle to move around. With this meeting, the council confirmed its official interest and commitment to the cause, even if there is not yet a proper plan for it.

In order to reassure citizens that being a 15-minute city does not mean being confined in one area, Hillsborough Ward Councillor Henry Nottage said: “We are not going to go around putting people in zones and say you can’t leave this area. That is absolutely not going to happen.

“We are trying to create a city where people can live their best lives without having to travel so much.”

Just like the other cities, Sheffield’s commitment is also towards the environment. Nottage explained: “At the moment, about a third of our carbon emissions come from car journeys. A lot of it is short single occupancy journeys that could be avoided. We have to do absolutely everything we can.”


Like Oxford, Canterbury too has seen protests and negative reactions to the possibility of introducing the structure of a 15-minute city. In 2021, Canterbury City Council published its Corporate Plan, outlining the future initiatives that will take place in the region. The Canterbury Business Improvement District replied to the proposal with a five-year plan (2021–24).

In particular, under the section ‘New opportunities’, the Business Improvement District wants “to see a holistic and comprehensive vision that incorporates business and innovation needs, housing, employment opportunities, green space and other uses, using concepts like garden communities and 15-minute cities”. 

Canterbury’s 2045 Local Plan specifically focuses on the further development of the city’s infrastructure, adding new homes, jobs, schools, community spaces, green areas and hospitals. 

Even if in a slightly different way, Canterbury is promoting the idea of 15-minute cities by releasing a Circulation Plan. The cathedral city in Kent would be, according to this plan, split into five areas with different transport requirements.

In order to drive to a different section, one must pass through an outer ring road instead of going through the main inner roads. This proposal was not the most welcome since, in March 2023, a group of protestors expressed their opposing thoughts with signs and chants.

Their main critique was the dystopian image that the city would have since people would be effectively restricted from moving between neighbourhoods. However, no set roadmap has been set yet.

[Read more: How Google Maps is ruining your neighbourhood]

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