Housing to 2040: consultation analysis

Report summarising and describing the responses to the public consultation on Housing to 2040.

This document is part of a collection

Analysis of Question 7. Do you have any proposals that would improve the space around our homes and promote connected places and vibrant communities?

Consultation respondents felt strongly that the space around our homes can play a significant role in promoting connected places and vibrant communities, in enhancing individuals’ health and wellbeing, and in responding to the climate emergency. 

"The Scottish Government must invest in housing solutions that enable people to live well and contribute to the ecological sustainability of our planet." - Private landowner

"Well-designed places play a key role in ensuring wellbeing, delivering positive health outcomes, creating social connections and providing access to services." - Health and social care body or professional/umbrella body

Access to shared green and/or open spaces 

A common theme among respondents was the importance of ensuring that people have access to green and/or shared open spaces around their homes. Many respondents commented that green and open spaces provide valuable opportunities to enhance individuals’ physical and mental wellbeing, to undertake activities that address the climate emergency, and in the provision of communal facilities.

"Open space should be capable of serving a range of functions including sport and leisure, socialising, habitat creation and food growing." - Local authority

Communal spaces versus private gardens

There was some disagreement amongst respondents over the relative merits of private gardens and communal green spaces. A few placed more emphasis on private gardens, however, the consensus was that the focus should be on communal spaces that include shared facilities and opportunities for interaction.

"Clean, green, safe places should be provided on new developments but it sometimes may be preferable to combine these over several developments to create larger, more useable spaces." - Registered social landlord

Green/open spaces and climate change

There was consensus among many respondents that green and open spaces could help to address the climate emergency, by reducing the risk of floods, providing spaces that promote biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, and enabling communities to take part in environmentally friendly activities.

Flood risk

Some respondents emphasised the importance of green and open spaces in reducing the risk of floods by ensuring that the land can soak up excess water. A few referred to the issue of ‘urban creep’ where green spaces are being reduced through people paving over their gardens, and noted that ensuring there is adequate communal green space could help to negate the negative impacts of this on flood management.

"The space around our homes could be used for better surface water management by ensuring permeable green space is retained, giving multiple benefits in terms of reduce flood risk, biodiversity, air quality and heat reduction." - Local authority

Promoting biodiversity and healthy ecosystems

Some respondents commented that spaces around our homes could be used to promote biodiversity and healthy ecosystems by providing space for trees, plants and wildlife.

"[There should be] areas that promote a healthy eco-system (e.g. wild flowers for pollinators, water for animal life, retention of dead matter for insect life). It could also combine housing needs with carbon sequestration (e.g. new woodland creation, peatland restoration)." - Local third/community sector organisation

"Garden ground, green networks, tree planting and Sustainable Drainage Systems (Suds) have key roles in climate change adaptation, in addition to enhancing biodiversity and the amenity value of an area." - Local authority

Community-based environmental activities

A recurring theme among many respondents was the importance of encouraging communities to take part in environmentally-friendly activities on the green and open spaces around their homes. Ideas included tree planting, community allotments and gardening projects, recycling and food growing initiatives.

"It’s important to lower carbon emissions by engaging the community in activities such as tree planting, intergenerational gardening and recycling. We think that encouraging these activities can educate and promote environmentally friendly behaviours." - National third sector organisation

"Allowing simply for ‘green spaces’ within future housing developments will not help significantly to address the global climate emergency... Community groups with aspirations to develop local food growing on a larger scale should be supported by public funds on a timescale of at least five years to form partnerships with the owners of suitable land, train more local people in producing and preparing food themselves, and develop outlets in the community for their produce... The increase in collaborative activity will benefit communities and ‘food miles’ will be reduced." - Individual

A few noted that green spaces could further promote other environmentally friendly behaviours in communities by, for example, providing community recycling and laundry facilities. 

Green/open spaces and wellbeing 

Many respondents referred to the positive impacts that green and open spaces can have on physical and mental health and wellbeing, with some respondents discussed the importance of green and open spaces for children in particular.

Some pointed to the potential of green and open spaces in encouraging interaction between people, thereby reducing loneliness and social isolation A few referred specifically to the potential of intergenerational projects including tree planting, gardening and recycling to "bring younger and older people together".

Another respondent suggested that community food growing initiatives could help to increase access to fresh, healthy food and thereby reduce inequalities of access. Others said that green and open spaces provide important activities for people to be active and take part in exercise (we return to this issue later in this chapter).

"Planning for new development and regeneration projects should require placing more emphasis on creating sustainable outdoor spaces and encourage the community to stay active." - Registered social landlord

Community centres

As well as communal green and open spaces, some respondents commented that community buildings are also important. These can provide a space for community groups and clubs to meet and for social events to be held.

"Community facilities, halls and centres where groups can meet and have access to resources for various groups to flourish." - Local third/community sector organisation

Empowering communities to manage shared green and open spaces

Some respondents identified a role for community members and organisations in planning, developing and maintaining shared spaces (including green and open spaces and community centres), particularly in the context of local authority budget shortages which can detract from the maintenance of these spaces.

"To have connected and vibrant communities it is essential that communities are empowered to shape and influence proposals." - National third sector organisation 

"There needs to be proper management and/or factoring of open spaces, with local organisations being encouraged/commissioned to manage these." - Registered social landlord

A few suggested that communities should take the lead in planning events and activities that would make use of communal green and open spaces.

"Communities should be encouraged and supported to provide opportunities for regular and periodical social interactive events for everyone to engage in and which promote a strong community values which underpin these events." - Local third/community sector organisation

There was a view expressed by some respondents that involving the community in the day-to-day maintenance and management of shared spaces could help to foster a sense of community pride and belonging.

"Help communities to be proud of their area by actively working together, aiding local groups to be set up to make areas litter free, safe play areas for children, green areas and policed." - Individual

A few respondents acknowledged that communities might require funding, training and support to empower them to take on this role.

"Communities require capacity building to have the skills, confidence and knowledge to be equal partners in this process. This requires adequate funding, training, information and support to be in place." - National third sector organisation

A few respondents suggested that registered social landlords could act as community anchors, working with and supporting local communities and residents to deliver community projects.

Active and sustainable travel

A common theme discussed by many respondents was the importance of ensuring that spaces around homes provide the infrastructure for active and sustainable modes of transport, including:

  • well-lit and safe walking and cycling routes;
  • charging points for electric vehicles;
  • community car and bicycle sharing schemes;
  • areas for secure bicycle storage; and
  • easy access to reliable and affordable public transport.

Other suggestions from respondents included prioritising opportunities for active and sustainable travel, including improve cycle networks; active travel connectivity, public transport connectivity close to where people live; electric vehicle infrastructure; and opportunities for car-share, bicycle-share and electric bike schemes.

Benefits of active and sustainable travel in addressing the climate emergency 

Many respondents described the importance of active and sustainable travel in helping to address the climate emergency. A recurring theme was that these modes of travel enable and encourage households to reduce their carbon footprint, most notably by reducing their reliance on cars powered by conventional combustion engines.

"Take climate action – walking is a carbon neutral mode of travel. Walking is also the best link to mass transit modes and the more people who choose to walk, the less people are travelling by more polluting forms of transport particularly for the first and last mile of a journey. Equally, the infrastructure requirements for walking require less embedded carbon." - National third sector organisation

"The importance of combating car dominance in residential developments is paramount to address the climate emergency and create more sustainable, connected and welcoming places to live." - Local authority

Benefits of active and sustainable travel for public health and wellbeing

Many respondents also described the benefits of active and sustainable travel for public health and wellbeing. Active modes of transport provide an opportunity for people to take exercise, which has benefits for their physical and mental health. 

Another important benefit, noted by many respondents, was the positive impact that active and sustainable travel can have on community connectedness and social isolation. Respondents stressed that reducing reliance on cars, and making it easier and safer for people to move around on foot, bicycle or public transport, results in increased opportunities for social interaction which can help to reduce feelings of isolation.

"Connected places and communities are extremely important for the wellbeing of those who live in that area. If there is poor public transport provision, people are much more likely to be housebound. If the pavements are in a poor state of repair or there aren’t enough street lights, or there are hills and steps, then older people are much more likely to be isolated." - National third sector organisation

"Places that are poorly connected to active travel networks, public transport links and community facilities can add to feelings of isolation and exclusion. New developments should be barrier free, encourage active travel for people of all abilities and include links to the green network." - Local authority

Access to services and amenities

A recurring theme among many respondents was the importance of ensuring that spaces around homes should facilitate easy access to services and amenities including shops, exercise and leisure facilities, employment opportunities, post offices, restaurants, pubs, education, healthcare and cultural activities. Many respondents felt that people should be able to access these services using active and sustainable modes of travel.

"The provision of housing should also be directly linked to that of services. Whether this is local, accessible shops or larger scale interlinked transport options, successful planning on both a local and national infrastructure level would be key to achieving this. Low cost, accessible public transport options would also be key to achieving this." - Local authority

A few respondents referred to the principle of a ‘5-10 minute walking neighbourhood’ or the ’20-minute neighbourhood’. This idea is based on the concept that residents should be able to access all essential amenities within a reasonable time by foot, bicycle or public transport.

"The 20-minute neighbourhood concept is that all people in cities and towns should live in homes within a 20-minute walk (or bike ride) from their everyday amenities like schools, shops, green space, and health services… It is in successful operation in neighbourhoods in urban centres such Melbourne, Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany), and Portland, Oregon... There are different concepts of a 20-minute neighbourhood – depending on the amenities, it can be a 20-minute walk, cycle or bus ride. Key to success is housing densities. These should be a minimum of 22-25 dwellings per hectare." - National third sector organisation

Community safety

There was consensus among respondents that promoting the use of green and open spaces as well as active and sustainable travel opportunities is important for the health and wellbeing of residents as well as the environment. However, some noted that people need to feel safe in order to use green and open spaces and active and sustainable modes of travel.

A few respondents referred specifically to the importance of ensuring that green and open spaces are safe to enable children to use them. Other comments around community safety related to local policing. One respondent, for example, called for a higher police presence for a feeling of community safety and another said it was important to have local police who know the people in their patch.

Other comments focused on practical elements of the design of green and open spaces that could enhance people’s feelings of safety, including adequate lighting, paving, and locating green and open spaces in visible and busy locations. 

Specific groups 

We discuss the housing needs of specific groups, including older and disabled people in our analysis of Question 6, but it is worth noting here that a few respondents made comments specifically about how spaces around homes can be adapted to suit the needs of these groups.

A few respondents identified the needs of people with dementia, with particular reference to the principles of Dementia Friendly Communities and how these might influence the design of outdoor spaces to enhance their accessibility and functionality for people with dementia. 

Some others spoke about older people more generally and the importance of communal facilities, especially in housing designed specifically for older people.

"There is a range of work ongoing to make the most of communal facilities in older people’s housing to reduce isolation and reduce loneliness which can impact on physical and mental health. Such facilities could be used for social activities or for health services. This would bring services closer to people and generate an income for residents’ and tenants’ groups." - Local authority

A few described alternative housing models that use the space around homes to promote access to services and social interaction. For example, describing park home communities which often, through residents’ associations, provide for their own needs in terms of welfare, education, fitness, transport, entertainment and leisure. Co-operative and shared housing models were also cited positively. 

Another respondent referred to the benefits of a ‘core and cluster’ model, where self-contained mixed accommodation has a central community ‘core’ that can incorporate shops and other community based services such as health and wellbeing services other community groups and businesses, for example, libraries, hairdressers, gymnasiums. 

One respondent commented that consideration needs to be given to the materials used in the spaces around homes to ensure they are suitable and accessible for all groups including older people, disabled people and people with health conditions.

Town planning

A common theme among some respondents was the role that local authority planning services could play in ensuring that spaces around homes meet the needs of communities and promote use of green/open space, active and sustainable modes of travel, and easy access to services.

"Planners need the knowledge, skill and experience to define and control strategic infrastructure, recognise what makes an effective street composition, [and] encourage the right mix of uses, house types and tenures." - Architects and design/development organisation and professional/umbrella organisation

Meaningful community consultation

Some respondents emphasised the need for meaningful community consultation in planning processes to ensure that new developments meet the needs of local communities. A minority referred to the Place Standard specifically as an important tool in facilitating community involvement and in ensuring that spaces meet the needs of communities.

"Scottish Government needs to take opportunities to co-ordinate communities’ engagement in processes which shape their places and to get more people involved, for example through the Place Standard, which is proven as an effective tool for the engagement of a broad cross section of society including of seldom heard groups and young people in both community and development planning." - Architects and design/development organisation and professional/umbrella organisation

Planning and developers

A few respondents observed that planners could place requirements on developers that would enhance the design of open and shared spaces in new developments, including issues around access to green spaces, active travel, public transport and local services.

"Ensure developers are required to plant trees/shrubbery (native) and wild flowers as a minimum whenever a new build scheme is erected. Ensure that active travel and public transport is adhered to as part of these new builds." - Individual 

"Planners should ensure that adequate retail and community space is provided in larger developments and also that this and other infrastructure provision (e.g. transport links, schools and health centres) does not lag behind housing development… There needs to be transparency by developers about the use and spending of money in the ‘amenity’ fund (from Section 75 payments) for new developments." - Registered social landlord

Planning and health and wellbeing

Another theme identified by some respondents was the influence that planning decisions can have on residents’ health and wellbeing, in terms of enabling access to green and open spaces, active and sustainable travel and services and amenities. For example, one respondent suggested that health professionals could be more involved in planning decisions. 

"Planners should work with Occupational Therapists and public health colleagues to design environments that support good physical and mental health for all, and enable access to work and leisure destinations." - Health and social care body or professional/umbrella body

A few respondents referred to fast food outlets in particular, and suggested that planning decisions could play a role in reducing accessibility to these, thereby helping to address issues around obesity.

"We know that areas of high deprivation have greater concentrations of fast food restaurants and advertising compared to more affluent areas. Therefore, children who live in these areas are more likely to be exposed fast food on a regular basis which can have a significant impact on their diet, affecting health outcomes later in life. The Scottish Government should consider ways to limit the presence of fast food restaurants and advertising in these areas while promoting access to affordable, healthy food options for all children, young people and their families." - National third sector organisation

Example of an idea: living towns

One respondent gave a very detailed account of their proposals to develop ‘living towns’ with easy access to amenities and services as well as opportunities for active and sustainable travel. Their response is below.


Reshaping and regenerating our town centres is one of four key pillars in our plan for delivering economic regeneration in [our local authority area]. This aligns with the national priority of putting town centres first. We aim to create ‘living towns’, driving investment into both new housing in and around town centres and into the conversion and refurbishment of existing town centre buildings. Reshaping our towns in this way has a wide range of social and economic benefits and will provide for truly sustainable homes and communities – making best use of existing resources (buildings and infrastructure, including public transport and active travel routes) and allowing homes to be built at greater density and in closer proximity to amenities and services. 

However, we are constrained in doing so by a number of factors. These include difficulties in connecting to utilities (current Scottish Water policy prevents developers discharging surface water into combined sewers, which are often the only viable way of doing so in town centres) but also by the high costs of conversion/refurbishment, which are typically greater than for new build. Our proposal is for town centres to be put first by a series of measures which make developing town centre housing viable. 

Three specific measures are proposed:

- Increased subsidy for town centre sites, to reflect the additional costs and risks, and the priority which should be given to town centre development

- Relaxation of Scottish Water Surface Water Policy for town centre sites

- VAT reclaim for town centre sites – investment in existing buildings attracts VAT at 20%; the Scottish Government should lobby for a reduction to 0% for town centre works but in the meantime could rebate 10% of the VAT paid, representing the half of VAT receipts raised in Scotland which is assigned to the Scottish Government budget

Who needs to make it happen and what type of action is required? 

The Scottish Government should action the measures proposed above. 

Scottish Water should consider its Surface Water Policy, which is prohibiting development sites generally, but particularly in town centres where watercourses are often significant distances from sites. 

How much will it cost and who will pay? 

A full cost analysis would have to be carried out by the Scottish Government. This could be done by collating priority sites/developments proposed by local authorities and trialled on a pilot basis. While on the face of it, the proposal to rebate VAT could be seen as reducing Scottish Government revenues, it is likely that the impact would be muted - as many schemes may not be viable without it, and additional revenues (business rates, income tax from job creation etc.) would be raised. 

Who is needed to do the work?

Scottish Government officials in partnership with other agencies and local authorities. 

How long would the proposal take to implement and is it a temporary or a permanent measure?

These proposals could be consider and developed within 12 months. In some instances (e.g. VAT proposal) enabling legislation may take longer to be developed and implemented. 

When in the period 2021 to 2040 should it begin and does anything need to be done first? 

Work should begin immediately. 

Who will benefit? Who might lose out and how could this be mitigated? 

Town centre regeneration benefits all in our communities, but particularly lower-income groups and our ageing population, which will benefit from improved local services and increased economic opportunity. Our early consultation suggests that town centre housing will be particularly attractive to younger and older households, providing housing options for the start and end of residents’ housing careers. These groups currently have a lack of market opportunities and this approach would provide greater fairness and equity in the housing market. 

How does it help deliver the draft vision? Does it align with draft principles? 

It aligns particularly with principles 10 and 12." - Local authority


Email: Housing2040@gov.scot

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