Local Living and 20 Minute Neighbourhood - draft planning guidance: consultation analysis

We consulted on the Local Living and 20 Minute Neighbourhood: draft planning guidance between 27 April and 20 July 2023. The 10 consultation questions aimed to gather a broad range of public and stakeholder views on each element of the guidance.

3. Part 1 – Local living

This chapter presents an analysis of responses to Q1, which asked respondents for their views on part 1 of the guidance.

Q1: How helpful is part 1 of the guidance in furthering the understanding of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods in a Scottish context?
n= % Helpful (Total) % Very helpful % Somewhat helpful % Not at all helpful
All answering (%) 596 38 10 28 62
Individuals 501 27 7 20 73
Organisations 95 99 27 72 1

All but one organisation that answered Q1 found part 1 of the guidance helpful to some degree; 27% found it very helpful and 72% somewhat helpful. The proportion who found it very helpful varied by type of organisation, from 14% among transport organisations and 16% among local authorities, to 43% of housing/property organisations, 44% of third sector organisations, and to 100% of retail (2 organisations).

Conversely, in a pattern seen in all quantitative questions, the majority of individuals (73%) felt part 1 was not at all helpful. One fifth (20%) felt it was somewhat helpful and 7% very helpful. This reflects individuals’ overall negative views on the concepts of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods outlined in Chapter 9. A full breakdown of results of all quantitative questions is in Appendix B.

Almost three quarters of respondents left an open-text comment in Q1. Many used Q1 to express their views not only on part 1 of the guidance, but on 20 minute neighbourhoods and local living more generally. The most prevalent themes in responses to Q1 were overarching themes which have been covered in Chapter 2 i.e. positive comments on the guidance, the need for greater flexibility when applying the concept in both rural and urban areas, and greater consideration of the infrastructure and services needed to successfully implement 20 local living. The analysis below therefore presents other themes which emerged in Q1, from most to least prevalent.

Define 20 minute neighbourhood and local living

Many organisations called for a clearer definition of 20 minute neighbourhoods. There was a feeling that the ’20 minute’ idea was too prescriptive, did not aid flexibility or reflect lived experiences such as journey times changing with different transport modes. For instance, a 5 minute cycle journey may take 20 minutes to walk. One felt it was a borrowed concept that did not transfer well to the Scottish context, while a few others noted that other countries refer to 15 minute neighbourhoods. These concerns led some to call for its removal or to argue that the concept of local living should be emphasised over a 20 minute neighbourhood. Should both concepts continue to be used, respondents felt there should be more clarity about the differences between the two and how they linked together.

“It is considered that the term 20 minute neighbourhood is rather misleading and can lead to misunderstanding of the concept. Consideration should be given to only using Local Living, as this appears to be a better description.” - Tactran (Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership)

“It would be helpful for additional detail to be provided within the 20 minute neighbourhood definition that explains that 20 minutes is the time for a return and not one-way journey. Acknowledgement should also be given to the differences in distance covered dependent upon whether individuals are walking, wheeling, cycling or cycling an electric bike and the implications of this for planning local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods.” – The Highland Council

Dundee City Council also recommended a clearer definition of ‘Liveable’, noting the NPF4 definition was vague. They preferred the term ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’, also wishing to move away from the 20 minute concept.

Impact of local living approaches on equalities

Several respondents felt it was important to consider the impact of the proposals and ensure they did not worsen outcomes for certain populations, such as older or disabled people or those living in poverty. This is covered more in Chapter 7, alongside an analysis of comments in relation to the Equalities Impact Assessment.

Consider the role of other partners

A recommendation to consider the roles of agencies and groups beyond those mentioned was made by several organisations. Some felt that the intended audience for the guidance was unclear. Some also highlighted that the concept required effective and improved multi-agency working and felt the guidance was too focused on local authority planning considerations. The Place Standard Tool Design Version was cited as an example of this focus, given that the Design Version is perceived as a tool for planning professionals.

“It would be very useful if the guidance specified at the outset its target audiences. It is clear that it is aimed at planners in a range of sectors, but what about communities who are preparing Local Place Plans or Community Action Plans; NHS/health authorities; infrastructure providers; and funders? The guidance could also be very useful to those who are making bids for participatory budgeting funding… All of the aforementioned will have key roles in helping to deliver Local Living/20 Minute Neighbourhoods.” – Planning Aid Scotland (PAS)

In particular, strengthening involvement by the business sector was recommended. For instance, LDPs could be required to consider how to support local business growth to help generate local employment, develop local rural hubs with mobile services visiting, or extend community ownership models such as buy-outs or social enterprises.

A few called for more specificity regarding which agencies should be included in an LDP. One felt the guidance should be more cognizant of the role and purpose of community and locality planning. Other specific suggestions included ensuring community learning and development teams and community groups, funding bodies, builders and developers and local businesses were involved in place decision-making, linking with Regional Transport Partnerships and the third sector. Some highlighted opportunities, such as community wealth building and participatory budgeting.

“Addressing the roles of local authorities, communities, and private sector in operationalising 20 minute neighbourhoods/local living is crucial in understanding how each party involved can work together and respond accordingly.” – Angus Council

This theme is also explored in the analysis of Q6 and Q7 in Chapter 5, where respondents commented on the collaboration required as part of the collaborate, plan and design, and implement and review, phases of the structured approach.

Provide more evidence on outcomes and benefits

Several respondents felt the guidance should contain more evidence regarding benefits and outcomes associated with the local living approach, demonstrating how benefits and positive outcomes can be achieved in communities.


Several respondents raised governance issues in response to Q1 and called for more detail to enable effective operationalisation of the guidance. The need to address the reuse of vacant and derelict sites was raised by a few, and a few felt that responsibility for long-term infrastructure maintenance costs should be clarified. Stronger guidance on embedding the Place Principle into local policy, planning and place-based decision-making was recommended by RTPI Scotland.

The importance of effective community empowerment

Many welcomed the focus on community engagement, though there were calls to embed this within the framework further and emphasise its importance. The success of the framework was felt to be dependent on effective community participation and that citizens should lead, or at least influence, decisions made about how to improve their local area.

“It must be recognised that collaboration and community engagement is vitally important. Therefore, Planners must plan with, rather than for, those who are to be party to any changes in local living.” - Dundee Civic Trust

“It needs to go much further in offering detailed guidance to the importance of valuing community voice throughout all processes.” – CLD Standards Council

More effort to understand the diverse needs and lived experiences of local populations was felt to be required. South of Scotland Enterprise suggested Pathfinders around housing developments[2] as a useful method for better understanding the impacts on people living in rural communities. Anderson Bell Christie felt their clients would benefit from descriptions of local living from the perspective of different user groups, for instance, how neighbourhoods would be used by older people, wheelchair users, families and so on.

Possible power imbalances in decision-making were raised, whereby community members' needs were often subordinate to market forces and professionals, as was the ability of marginalised groups to contribute effectively. Examples of the negative impact of poor consultation were provided, highlighting how disillusionment could occur.

“Many of these initiatives are just paying lip service to Community Empowerment. Citizens are consulted on a chosen approach when the experts have sliced, diced, and analysed all the complex factors and come up with proposals that are judged to be affordable or practicable by professionals. What is needed is for community-led local organisations to have a seat at the table when resource allocation decisions are taken.” - Transition Edinburgh

Specific suggestions for enabling community involvement included using delegated budgets at the ward level and cultural asset mapping. Community skills sharing was also felt to be absent in the guidance. The need to engage with children and young people, was also highlighted, with Public Health Scotland suggesting the Place Standard Tool Inclusive Communication Toolkit and Children and Young People’s versions be referenced.

“Empowering people might be better achieved with simpler guidance outlining basic process mapping, and then advocating for a team of dedicated interdisciplinary support professionals, properly resourced within local authorities to carry out the related work.” – Angus Council

Concerns were expressed about the capacity of community members to undertake the envisaged role in the guidance, with calls for greater resourcing and support. Volunteer Scotland felt increasing responsibilities were being given to community groups who were constrained in their ability to deliver, highlighting examples of trustees who were often also in full-time employment and around a third of voluntary sector organisations reporting volunteer shortages as one of their top three challenges.

CLD Standards Council highlighted the central role that Community Learning and Development professionals could take in supporting community involvement.

“The professional practice of CLD supports volunteers and community groups with not just personal organisational skills and underpinning knowledge, but also with engagement, support for funding applications and the range of approaches available to support the long-term sustainability of community groups and asset transfers.” – CLD Standards Council

Welcomed focus on sustainability

Several organisations appreciated the focus on sustainability, with the benefits of environmental sustainability being welcomed in particular. There was support for encouraging greater access to green spaces, including urban tree coverage, and a few noted how the guidance aligned with their sustainability objectives. Environmental Protection Scotland argued that the guidance should emphasise the benefits of reduced car dependence on air quality and health and that land quality should also be acknowledged as a key consideration. The Shetland Islands Council suggested mentioning the ‘whole lifecycle’ approach to both new and re-used structures and considering the adaptations required to meet future changes in need.

Land quality, safety and sustainability of town centres were features mentioned to strengthen in the guidance. CIEEM (Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) suggested the sustainability could be incorporated within urban environments by: use of rain gardens to support urban flood prevention measures, green communal spaces and ecological networks being required for new builds, incorporation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs) in housing developments and a focus on nature-based solutions to manage air quality and flooding.

“Mapping multifunctional green infrastructure with the objective of well-connected nature networks integrates biodiversity conservation with planning and land-use objectives to secure ecosystem service delivery, thus providing multiple benefits to nature and people. Nature networks and green infrastructure facilitate adaptation to climate change and are fundamental components of urban planning in a changing climate.” – CIEEM

Welcomed focus on addressing health inequalities

Several welcomed the inclusion of health and wellbeing as a key consideration and focus. It was felt that a clear definition could be given of health and have this positioned at the start of the section, highlighting direct and indirect links between place and health. Specific suggestions included strengthening the guidance in relation to healthy eating and land for growing food, e.g. allotments, the impact of working from home and a greater focus on the benefits of retrofitting new technology and broadband within deprived areas.

Address misconceptions about the 20 minute neighbourhood

Several felt the guidance did not help address misconceptions about the local living concept and that efforts should be made to do so. This could include emphasising that the concept is not about restricting people in their communities, and ensuring professionals avoid taking inward-looking decisions without considering wider infrastructure and relationships between different areas. Specific suggestions were to place households at the centre of decision-making rather than a bounded geographical area, include more positive examples of benefits from using the approach, use effective national and local publicity campaigns and produce guidance to support public engagement.

Other themes

Some felt that, apart from acknowledging the rural dimension, not enough had been done to place the guidance in a Scottish context in Part 1. For instance, one highlighted that Scotland’s relatively unique situation as a devolved nation was not mentioned.


Email: Chief.Planner@gov.scot

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