Martin Esom: shaping 15-minute neighborhoods

The pandemic has shown local residents that life is better when it’s local, writes the general manager of Waltham Forest LBC.

Like many of you, we have been busy at Waltham Forest reflecting on what the closures have meant for us as a local authority and the future of our borough.

Martin Esom, Managing Director of Waltham Forest LBC

On the one hand, our residents have spent more time and money locally. Without the daily commute, many sought to use their exercise time to explore their own neighborhood, and what they found they loved. Many, consciously or not, have started to follow my favorite mantra that life is better when it’s local.

Parks have become sanctuaries, but it has gone much further. Residents began to discover or rediscover previously overlooked side streets and find little hidden gems. It also got them thinking about what more they wanted in their neighborhood.

Our award-winning LGC Choose Local campaign, like many others across the country, reflected a new desire to experience and champion the things that are great in our neighborhoods. But even before that, during our tenure as mayor of London’s very first London Borough of Culture in 2019, we saw the desire and demand for a local cultural offering as diverse and forward-thinking as anything in the center. from London can deliver.

Shaping the neighborhood around people

This has led to a complete rethink of how we plan, engage and build for the future. Not in isolation, but by tapping into the wave of enthusiasm of residents eager to help shape the places where they work, rest and play.

We consult with residents and dig deeper into previous surveys to define and inform what is needed locally

Contrary to their name, 15-minute quarters aren’t as limited as they seem. If there’s one thing we’ve learned since starting this project, it’s that you can’t put a point on a map and draw a circle around it.

This is not how it works, or as people think. You have to shape the neighborhood around the people, not the people around the neighborhood. This is why we are now consulting with residents and digging deeper into previous surveys to define and inform what is needed locally.

Self-fulfilling benefits

Carlos Moreno, widely regarded as the creator of the 15-minute neighborhood concept, defined them as containing six urban social functions essential to maintaining decent city life: living, working, shopping, health, education and entertainment.

As we grapple with the challenges of the climate emergency, his ideas have taken on new momentum: more active travel, mostly on foot and by bike, and better connected public transport, because the things we need are more. loved ones mean fewer car trips.

But there are other reasons to make our lives more local. A busy main street enjoys self-fulfilling advantages: the more money you spend there, the fewer shops there are closed; the more opportunities there are locally for young people, the more money is spent there.

People who are proud of their place of life will by extension take more care of it.

A culture within everyone’s reach

It is not about locking in opportunities or creating a parish population. It is not a response to the Covid either, but to the changes brought about by the pandemic. And it is not a question of producing “clone cities”. Each 15-minute quarter should be developed in a way that best suits the people it serves.

He has lofty goals to seek out talent locally for careers behind the scenes and on the limelight.

Being so close to the bright lights of London’s West End means that money is being withdrawn from our Borough. a nighttime destination. He has ambitious goals to find talent locally for careers behind the scenes and on the limelight, not to mention the estimated £ 50million he will bring to the local economy in his first 10 years: bold ambition will bring tangible benefits.

We want to attract people to our borough. EMD Walthamstow will help support ancillary businesses, develop our nighttime economy to make it more resilient. It also reinforces the sense of Waltham Forest as a cultural district and the celebration of culture which is for everyone.

A decisive moment

We know other local authorities are exploring these ideas, but we believe we are at the forefront. Our early adoption of local traffic neighborhoods and the success of Enjoy Waltham Forest set many of the prerequisites for this work.

It is not without challenges, with residents sharing their frustrations, disjointed transportation networks and overwhelmed health services. While we are doing our part, we also need the national government to step up and ensure that our residents receive their fair share of national resources. We need to make sure that our local and national partners also understand the need for fundamental change.

So, if an area lacks a specific service or equipment, we will pass that information back to the service or find ways to improve access through transport links and make active travel easier and more attractive.

We recently launched a multi-stakeholder campaign to finally secure funds for a new hospital. If we can unlock that, we can also begin to unlock the interconnected community care that our residents tell us is unresponsive and insufficient.

We are living at a watershed moment on so many fronts, I’d like to invite you to see what we’re doing – but let me warn you, it’s going to take a lot longer than 15 minutes to see it all.

Martin Esom, Managing Director, Waltham Forest LBC