Doncaster MP’s criticism of ’15-minute cities’ sparks trending debate online

A Doncaster MP’s comments on what he calls “the international socialist concept” of 15-minute cities have been shared in publications across the country this week.
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On February 9, Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher shared his speech in Parliament criticising the policy being adopted by local councils across the country.

The term ’15-minute cities’ refer to cities that are adapted to be able to get around on foot, while policies are used to discourage people from driving.

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Most recently, the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) in Sheffield followed other areas of the country in its creation of a CAZ (Clean Air Zone).

MP Nick FletcherMP Nick Fletcher
MP Nick Fletcher

Citizens in vehicles above a certain value must now pay to drive through certain areas of high congestion in an attempt to lower carbon emissions.

In Parliament, Conservative MP Fletcher criticised the policy:

“Will the leader set aside some time for a debate on the international socialist concept of so-called 15-minute cities and 20-minute neighbourhoods? Clean Air Zones in their present form do untold economic damage to any city.

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“However, the second step after these zones will take away personal freedoms as well. Sheffield is already on its journey and I do not want Doncaster, which is also a Labour-run socialist council, to do the same.

“Low emission zones cost the taxpayer money, simple as. However, 15-minute cities will cost us our personal freedom, and that cannot be right.”

The Daily Mail covered his speech that afternoon, referring to him “hitting out” at the concept.

The phrase soon began to trend online and on social media, with some claiming that the concept will take away people’s personal freedom.

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Others claimed that the concept was simply “mundane” and said that those sparking fear were conspiracy theorists.

Michele Theil wrote in The Big Issue:

“It’s even reached the point where Nick Fletcher, the Conservative MP for Don Valley who has previously made headlines for sending transphobic letters to schools and blaming crime rates on more women appearing in films, called 15-minute cities an “international socialist concept” designed to “take away personal freedoms”.”

The MP received backlash last year for sending a letter to each school in his constituency expressing his view that transgender pupils are going through “nothing but a phase”.

Oliver Wainwright, for The Guardian, said:

“Westminster can often seem like a badly scripted spoof of itself, but rarely has parliament descended into parody as far as it did last week, when the Conservative MP for the South Yorkshire constituency of Don Valley, Nick Fletcher, launched a plucky tirade against the concept of convenient, walkable neighbourhoods.”

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GB News also picked up the story, agreeing with his sentiment and calling the concept “deeply illiberal”.

Following Fletcher’s speech, Leader of the Commons Penny Mourdant MP also agreed with his sentiments.

She said: “Whatever the motivations for this new policy which some councils are adopting, I think that the hardworking people of this country, their lives are complicated enough, especially at the moment when we’re trying to boost the local economy.

“I think it’s right that people raise concerns about this particular kind of policy.”