20 minute city & urban agriculture

Urban Agriclture Consortium sort of invited ourselves, towards the end of 2020 to participate in the TCPA’s 20 minute neighbourhood working group – we provided info on the inclusion and integration of urban food growing into the framework.

Why? Having attended a webinar about the 15 minute city in Melbourne Australia, we noticed that food growing was missing from their thinking about what a ‘built back better’ urban landscape might be.

We contacted the Town and Country Planning Association in the UK who were beginning the writing of a briefing for council planners on the 20 minute neighbourhood (essentially the same thing as the 15 minute city, important to not get too hung up on the different terms and use them according to the place / scale you’re talking about….).

I submitted a detailed response to their first sketch of the briefing. This was followed by an online meeting of the working group and then by a follow up meeting between myself and the TCPA in early Feb 2021 to drill down deeper into some of the contributions I made in my (geekily thorough) initial feedback. I was so pleased how much they welcomed my input and said they found it helped their thinking.

My advice centred around them having confidence to be more radical, to talk more openly about climate adaptation, equalities and local economies. After all, localising our food system is perhaps the singularly most multi-beneficial transition we can make to equip ourselves for the system disruptions to come. Even though we don’t know how they will hit us and in what order, if we can feed ourselves with good food and that is accessible by all, we will have the energy and the wherewithal to work together to create solutions to the challenges as they arise. We can’t do this if we’re hungry, or malnourished.

An urban area riddled with beautiful, productive spaces alive with people and biodiversity is a powerful medicine for our bodies and minds. It grounds us and reminds us of what is essential. It brings us back into relationship with natural food and that part of us which is at home in nature.

The 20 minute neighbourhood framework is potentially a very good one. By using it creatively, in tandem with Climate and Food Action Plans we can dramatically reimagine our neighbourhoods as designed for healthy communities, rather than prioritising businesses as usual with its accompanying traffic, monocultures, waste and pollution. Proximity to food can dramatically increase its accessibility. If the framework can work for the most deprived neighbourhoods, then it can work. It can honour the needs of every citizen to meet their basic needs easily, removing barriers to self-and-community-organised health and wellbeing.

The TCPA grew from the Garden City Movement where food growing was fully integrated into urban design. This framework could provide something of a return to that vision.


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