Mon 03 Jul 2023

Planning for 20-minute neighbourhoods

The Scottish Government is currently seeking views about a draft guidance called 'local living and 20-minute neighbourhoods' to support the implementation of the National Planning Framework 4 adopted in February 2023. The guidance sets out the benefits and context for building these neighbourhoods, key considerations for local living and ways of supporting the delivery of 20-minute neighbourhoods.

What is a 20-minute neighbourhood?

It is a concept which aims to create places where people can meet the majority of their daily needs within 20 minutes of their home by walking, wheeling or cycling. It is considered one method of supporting local living, and helping deliver healthy, sustainable and resilient places required to support good quality of life and balance the environmental impact, among many other benefits. Scotland is a global leader in designing and implementing a national planning framework which incorporates 20-minute neighbourhoods.

What will the transition look like?

Many of us live in existing areas which are not 20-minute neighbourhoods, and Scotland's unique, rural and island geography also poses many challenges. One way to consider the challenge is thorough a planning lens. Land use planning is an essential tool for facilitating local living and making 20-minute neighbourhoods a reality. How local living will operate and be sustained with rely heavily on the place context and require community participation in the planning system.

The current draft guidance aims to embed principles of local living and 20-minute neighbourhoods through community led initiatives, including Local Place Plans, which will in turn support Local Development Plans.

What are Local Place Plans?

Local Place Plans came into force in 2022 and contained a new right for communities to produce their own plans under the planning system. Local Place Plans are community led and include proposals about how land in a local area is developed and used. They are an expression of a community's spatial vision and solutions which can influence local planning policy.

Local Place Plans set out priorities for future development in an area, as well as help communities to develop and deliver their own projects. They provide a new opportunity for communities to feed into the planning system with ideas and proposals.

Why use the Local Place Plan Process?

The benefit of preparing a Local Place Plan is that this can be submitted to the relevant local authority, registered and incorporated into the Local Development Plan, provided it meets all the legal requirements. This also offers a good opportunity to get buy-in from the local authority and to help deliver the contents of the Local Place Plan.

Community led planning initiatives are not by any means new. Many communities across Scotland have been preparing community led action plans with planning authorities, and Local Place Plans can further assist in their efforts. For example, 'What’s Next for Stromness?' is a joint project between Orkney Islands Council, Stromness Community Council and the Stromness Community Development Trust which helps communities to have their say in planning matters.

In 2019 the group developed a plan for the provision of public services, which was implemented with the help of local authority collaboration. With the introduction of the Local Place Plan Process, the group has been able to support the provision of playparks in the area, and help the Council ensure future investment in playparks is responsive to community aspirations.

Where do 20-minute neighbourhoods come in?

The policy intent behind the 20-minute neighbourhood planning policy is simply a way to promote and envision local living in a way that reflects local context and local circumstances. It may be that a community decides a 20-minute neighbourhood, through a Local Place Plan is the best way to maximise local living in a sustainable way. But this may also not be the case, and in these cases the concept of the 20-minute neighbourhood can still be a powerful, accessible tool to develop a communal vision of sustainable local living and implement this vision.

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