Otley has become ‘dormitory town’ which could be reversed by 20-minute neighbourhoods
Leeds is one of many towns and cities across the UK who’ve adopted the 20-minute neighbourhood concept, which is geared towards ensuring everyone can walk to all the amenities they need, rather than drive.
While some critics of the idea have legitimately queried how it may work in practice, conspiracy theorists elsewhere have falsely claimed the government is trying to permanently confine people to the areas in which they live.
In a blistering attack on those claims, Liberal Democrat Councillor Lay passionately defended the concept, and said most communities had effectively been 20-minute neighbourhoods before Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979.
He recalled her Employment Secretary, Norman Tebbitt, suggesting unemployed people copy the example of his father, who’d “got on his bike and looked for work until he found it”.
Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Thursday, Councillor Lay said: “20-minute neighbourhoods are exactly what we used to have until a certain lady came into power and a certain man said ‘Get on your bike’ and made us move.
“I live in a community that’s become a dormitory town because you can’t work, live and play in your community anymore. You have to get in your car or onto public transport.”
Referencing protests in Oxford last month against 20-minute neighbourhoods that were fuelled by conspiracy theories, Councillor Lay said: “There are those on the right who are going to chuck Oxford at this council at every opportunity and say we’re somehow engineering people’s right to move around this city and that’s not what 20-minute neighbourhoods are about.
“Those of us on the progressive side of the council need to say that loudly and not let those on the other side get away with saying such things.”
Speaking earlier in the meeting, the council’s executive member responsible for 20-minute neighbourhoods, said the scheme would reflect how many communities operated in the 1960s and 1970s.
Helen Hayden, from the authority’s ruling Labour group, said: “I grew up in the 70s and I live in the ultimate 20-minute neighbourhood of Halton and Cross Gates.
“I know I’m very lucky and estates built in the 80s, 90s and 00s don’t have those kind of facilities we have in LS15.”