Just under two weeks ago, Leicester was put under a local confinement. It made the national headline news, along with comment from Socialist Appeal and Socialist Alternative. While the rest of the country has cautiously begun to open up, Leicester continues under the same lockdown conditions as before.
Seeing the mobile testing centre in Victoria Park made an impression. There was that feeling again from the beginning of the lockdown. Empty streets, people keeping their distance, and an underlying sense of fear. I miss those clear days of crisis when you woke up every morning just glad to be alive.
I decided to return to Oxford, which was… probably not the correct thing to do, but it was technically allowed by the rules, and I don’t think I’ve ended up spreading the virus.
EDIT: It turns out that under Section 5 of the Leicester coronavirus regulations, it is actually an offence for residents of Leicester to stay overnight outside the confinement boundary. I left before those rules came into force on July 4th, so I assume I’m legally in the clear.
Aside from all the discussion about what caused the Leicester outbreak, I wanted to know how the lockdown area was defined.
Alasdair Rae put together an online map of the lockdown area.
The lockdown boundary is in blue, the city boundary in red, and the most interesting thing is that the confinement surrounds areas beyond the city. The government advice refers to ‘Leicester and its suburbs’ in what I would read as a tacit admission that the ‘extra’ areas are not really outside the city, despite their administrative autonomy.
I noticed these odd disparities in the city boundaries earlier this year, and ended up spending an evening enjoyably distracted checking out areas which fall outside of the official city boundaries. See how Nottingham extends a long arm southwards to include Clifton, while excluding West Bridgford. What happened there?
I only have my laptop with me so can’t make any more maps of the Leicester boundary myself. Here’s a map of Braunstone I made earlier.
At the connection with Oadby, the Leicester city boundary cuts straight across Knighton Grange Road and Freemantle road. If you cycle down these roads, is there anything there to indicate that you’ve left the city? It might be a fun weekend project to go and check out all these areas.
Typically, an urban area is made up of ‘contiguous built-up space’. For an extreme example, here’s the town of Llucmajor in Mallorca.
The town is entirely made up of narrow streets and buildings pressed close together. Once you hit the boundary, you’re out in open fields. So the ‘urban-rural interface’ is very clear, there’s no peri-urban or suburban development outside the town. By contrast, Leicester is dotted with peripheral developments which stretch out into the countryside. These developments are part of the contiguous urban environment, and yet they’re somehow detatched from the city.
I assume there are some long-standing historical reasons for the separation of Oadby and Wigston from Leicester. Maybe there’s a political dimension, a
Tory Liberal periphery wanting to protect itself from the Labour-dominated city? I don’t know the background, and to some extent the administrative division is over-ridden by the purpose of the boundary.
It’s clear the actual enforcement of a local quarantine remains pretty loose.
- People living well outside the city are still commuting in and out for work.
- I was allowed to leave without any problems.
- There were apparently concerns over people leaving the city to go out to pubs on the weekend.
There are no closed cities in Britain, and there is no official system of internal movement restrictions. Nobody is actually going to start controlling traffic on the roads in and out of Leicester. Still, the existence of the local lockdown suggests that someone in a government office has had to consider how to place a city under special rules. I’ve also got the feeling that the resulting lockdown boundary inadvertently reveals the ‘real’ city boundary.