The 15 Minute Campus Project

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15 Minute Paris infographic

Kicking off our Green Week News: We've been talking to Dr Paul Barratt to find out what the 15 Minute Campus project is and the impacts that will hopefully come from the findings; this is what he told us:

The restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to rethink how we live our lives. During the lockdown people had to work and study at home, with travel greatly restricted. As a result, many people spent more time enjoying nearby parks and the local countryside and often rediscovered neighbourhood shops and services. The idea of such ‘local living’ resonates with a new idea in urban planning called ‘the 15-minute city’ in which everything needed to live fulfilled lives can be sourced within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride of home – including shops, schools, parks, health services and cultural amenities. It was popularised in Paris by Professor Carlon Moreno of Sorbonne University (see figure 1). The aim is simple – to make more liveable, sustainable and thriving towns and cities. As such, the concept can be just as easily applied to the polycentric city of Stoke-on-Trent, as it can be to the metropolitan boulevards of the French Capital.

Figure 1: The 15 Minute Paris Concept

This idea captured the imagination of the geography team at Staffordshire University. Dr Paul Barratt and Professor Ruth Swetnam had the idea of applying the 15-minute city idea to Staffordshire University, re-imagining it as a ’15-minute campus’.

The rationale was simple, to evaluate the 15-minute city concept from a student’s perspective, centered on Staffordshire University’s main campus. The project aimed to highlight what is available within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride of the Leek Road campus and how good the public realm is in terms of walkability, cyclability and a whole host of other services and places.

The project was led by the team at Staffordshire University with help from Human-Nature Escapes CIC and a small steering group committee. Student researchers were recruited from Geography to lead on the fieldwork elements and to help write up the project.

The project began by defining the 15-minute city area (see figure 2). Within this area ten walking and cycling routes were identified that radiate out from the University’s Leek Road campus. Each of these routes was evaluated by the student researchers, using a scoring system based on Transport for London’s Pedestrian Network design principles. As can be seen in the map below, the boundary is far from spherical. This is because there are numerous barriers (such as the A500 dual carriageway) and gaps in walking and cycling infrastructure around the city. What is clear, is that cycling opens up a much greater area of the city for students at Staffordshire University than walking alone.

Figure 2: The 15 Minute Walking and Cycling zone of Staffordshire University Campus - centred on the LRV.

What have we found out about Staffordshire University’s 15-Minute Campus

The results of the project can be used by the University and Local Council and other stakeholders to consider how to strengthen and improve facilities and infrastructure in Stoke-on-Trent for students and locals alike.

Walkability – Walkability is generally good in the 15-minute campus area with shops for essentials, leisure facilities and greenspace all in reach. However, more could be done to enhance the civic realm and tempt people from their cars (and the students from the campus) and into the surrounding streets, shops and local green spaces.

Cyclability - There is some excellent cycling infrastructure near to the University notably the canal towpaths and their Sustrans routes. These routes link the University campus with Hanley city centre, Festival Park, and for those willing to venture further, they can cycle right out towards the Peak District and open countryside. There is more that could be done to make cycling a more viable form of transport within the city to reduce short journeys in motorised vehicles.

Street Audits - The Shelton area immediately surrounding the campus is well provisioned in terms of connectivity and facilities. However, some of the ratings for this area were low reflecting the poor quality of some of the infrastructure and associated civic realm. Many of the shops in the area surrounding the campus are not directly targeted at the student market and reflect the residential nature of the neighbourhood which is highly diverse – so there are opportunities to enhance the student offer and the economic benefit a large campus can bring to retail and recreational facilities.

Urban Wellbeing resources Human-Nature Escapes CIC helped us to evaluate this aspect of the project. This local not-for-profit organisation promotes connection to nature and access to natural landscapes and heritage assets, working to improve residents’ wellbeing and to sustain good mental health. Human-Nature has developed a simple model called ‘Nature’s Ways to Wellbeing’ (figure 3), which can be applied as a means to document the wellbeing assets within urban landscapes. Our audit showed that Staffordshire University has a wealth of these well-being resources on campus and beyond into the 15-minute campus area. The most popular of these were Hanley Park, the canal network and University nature reserve. At present it was felt that although some students used these resources, they were undersold to the campus community and therefore unused by many.

Figure 3: The Human-Nature Escapes 'Nature Ways to Wellbeing' framework

Nature ways to wellbeing framework image

 

Conclusions

Cycling – There is some good infrastructure locally, but more is needed to enhance usability especially on the busy roads immediately surrounding the campus. It would be helpful to work with the city council to improve the active travel network, some of which could be integrated into the campus layout and made accessible to everyone. A programme of work is needed to join up this network, provide better secure cycle parking and to update painted on-road infrastructure with safer, segregated cycleways.

Walking – There is much on offer around the University, but it is not always as attractive as it might be. The University could adopt some of the key routes and use the student body to help improve it through litter picking events and other activities. Feelings of safety and security could be improved though enhanced street lighting and CCTV.

Staffordshire University is well served in terms of urban well-being resources. The University needs to actively promote these resources to both students and staff.

Services - Creative methods of embedding the University’s talented young people, more fully into the Shelton area are required. Examples could include young people’s business start up programmes, public art and Pop-Ups. It is also hoped that new developments like the Goods Yard and Station Quarter will further enhance the civic realm in terms of walkability and service provision.

What’s next?

The project team are taking the findings of the project to various stakeholders in the city including Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and the local Police Commissioner. We hope that the results from the study can feed into Stoke-on-Trent’s Local Plan and enhance the livability and sustainability of the city.  

If you want to find out more about the project please email: P.Barratt@Staffs.ac.uk.

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