Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods - planning guidance: consultation

We are seeking views on this draft guidance on local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods to support the implementation of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

Part 1 – Local Living

The benefits of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods

People, place and planet

The National Performance Framework, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and NPF4 all recognise that the places where we live and spend our time have a direct impact on health and wellbeing, quality of life and environmental balance.

NPF4 sets out a series of spatial principles for Scotland 2045; Just Transition, Local Living, Compact Urban Growth, Rebalanced Development, and Rural Revitalisation These spatial principles support the planning and delivery of 'Sustainable Places', 'Liveable Places', and 'Productive Places'. Creating places that support local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods will play an important role in contributing to national and global sustainability outcomes.

The current environmental, social and economic circumstances bring multiple, interrelated challenges and require us to rethink how we plan and deliver places.

Research[1] into 20 minute neighbourhoods in a Scottish context identified the opportunity for the concept to support:

  • Climate action
  • Decreased health inequalities
  • Improved local economy
  • Improved liveability/quality of life

Places with high quality housing, the right local infrastructure, good access to services, employment, education and sustainable travel options can help to break cycles of disadvantage and poverty, promote healthy lifestyles and support physical and mental wellbeing. They can also help to build thriving local economies and support community wealth building, strengthening local resilience as well as playing an important role in supporting environmental sustainability.

Fig 3; Outcomes of a 20 minute neighbourhood: Ramboll, Climatexchange Report
Taken from research undertaken by Ramboll and Climate Exchange into 20 minute neighbourhoods in a Scottish. The research identified the opportunity for the concept to support 4 outcomes in a Scottish context. These are, climate action, decreased health inequalities, improved local economy and improved liveability/quality of life. The image shows a circular disc central to the diagram with Scotland and the Outcomes of a 20 minute neighbourhood written in it. Arrows point outwards to the outcomes which are: Climate action, Decreased health inequalities, Improved local economy and Improved liveability/quality of life

Climate and environment

Addressing the challenges of the twin climate and nature crises requires change in the framework for decision-making, in individual and collective behaviours and in the physical environment. The Climate Change Plan update sets out the Scottish Government's pathway to new and ambitious targets set by the Climate Change Act 2019 and is a key strategic document on our green recovery from COVID-19.

Local living can play an important role in lowering emissions through promoting sustainable and active travel, as well as developing the wider resilience of our communities against the impacts of climate change. Creating walkable places with easily accessible shops, services and employment will play an important role in reducing reliance on car use. An approach that focusses on a less intensive use of the road network also provides opportunity to repurpose land for people and nature, helping to enhance our environment and providing space for greater biodiversity. The focus on local living can also provide opportunities for community food production and local enterprises, reducing embodied energy in the foods we eat and the goods we buy.

Local living can also help to focus on existing assets and what future uses they may have, supporting the reuse and regeneration of our town and local centres. Retrofitting and repurposing existing buildings reduces the carbon associated with new construction and retains the embodied carbon within existing structures.

Health and wellbeing

Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods have an important role to play in supporting wellbeing creation and reducing health inequalities. Local living provides increased opportunity for people to move around in healthy ways, encouraging physical activity and social interaction and access to good quality greenspace. Reducing the reliance on private vehicles can also help to improve air quality and the safety of neighbourhoods, creating attractive places which encourage social interaction and opportunities for play and activity.

The Place and Wellbeing Outcomes support local living and the delivery of the 20-minute neighbourhood concept and provide a consistent and comprehensive focus for how place can positively influence the wellbeing of people and planet.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw communities required to meet their daily needs more locally and helped to develop a greater understanding of the benefits of local living. It also highlighted the ability of places to be resilient or vulnerable to external pressures depending their physical characteristics and social capital. Access to good quality greenspace, high quality homes, the availability of local, good quality employment, and social capital and connectedness can make the difference between communities and individuals thriving or facing significant challenges that impact negatively on wellbeing.

Fig 4; The Place and Wellbeing Outcomes diagram, The Improvement Service

Category: Movement.

Key considerations associated with ‘Movement’ are: Moving around, Public transport, Traffic and Parking

Category: Space

Key considerations associated with ‘Space’ are: Streets and spaces, Natural space, Play and recreation

Category: Resources

Key considerations associated with ‘Resources’ are: Social Interaction, Housing and community, Work and local economy, support and services

Category: Civic

Key considerations associated with ‘Civic’ are: Feeling safe, Identity and belonging

Category: Stewardship

Key considerations associated with ‘Stewardship’ are: Influence and sense of control, Care and Maintenance

Local economy

Active and vibrant local centres are important not only in the services and facilities that they provide to the community, but also in terms of the employment opportunities that they offer. Places that are designed for local living can help to concentrate activity in local centres, providing important footfall and helping to sustain existing business as well as encouraging new enterprise and community wealth building. Many approaches to local living may seek to redevelop brownfield, vacant and derelict land, helping to bring land back into productive use, reducing blight and encouraging investment in our communities.

Quality of life

Having convenient access to the things we need to access most regularly supports people to live well within their local areas. A positive sense of place can encourage people to interact more with their surroundings and with each other, helping to combat social isolation and loneliness and building social capital and resilience. Access to good quality greenspace and vibrant, attractive public spaces that support and encourage community life are important elements in supporting community wellbeing and quality of life.

The Policy Context

The role of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods as part of a reformed planning system has been set out in Scottish Government strategic documents, including the Programme for Government.

National Planning Framework 4

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) sets a clear policy agenda throughout the document that encourages local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods. Although delivering local living requires wide consideration of NPF4 principles and policies, specific Policy Intent and Policy Outcomes are set out in NPF Policy 15, as follows:

Policy Intent:

  • To encourage, promote and facilitate the application of the Place Principle and create connected and compact neighbourhoods where people can meet the majority of their daily needs within a reasonable distance of their home, preferably by walking, wheeling or cycling or using sustainable transport options.

Policy Outcomes:

  • Places are planned to improve local living in a way that reflects local circumstances.
  • A network of high-quality, accessible, mixed-use neighbourhoods which support health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities and are resilient to the effects of climate change.
  • New and existing communities are planned together with homes and the key local infrastructure including schools, community centres, local shops, greenspaces, health and social care, digital and sustainable transport links.

The delivery of NPF4 is supported by a wider programme of planning reform that will contribute towards local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods. Supporting the delivery further, we have embedded the principles of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods in a range of wider policy initiatives including Housing to 2040, the Town Centre Action Plan, the Getting the Right Change - A Retail Strategy for Scotland and NTS2 National Transport Strategy.

Public Service Reform

Public services touch on many aspects of everyday life – including health, social care, education, early years, community justice, enterprise and skills – and play a crucial role in ensuring people's wellbeing. Integration, collaboration and a shift towards prevention are key elements of the public service reform agenda. The long-term and holistic approach of good placemaking and local living provides planning with an opportunity to play an important role in supporting public service reform and improved outcomes for communities. To achieve this, collaborative working across and between all sectors is required, including empowering communities and focussing multiple policy areas and services on an outcomes-based approach.

The Place Context

Understanding the place context is central to for designing and delivering interventions with the aim of supporting local living. By 'place context' we mean the physical, social, and economic context. We know that places are influenced by physical issues such as location, built form and connections, but places are also defined and influenced by social and economic contexts. Understanding the interrelationships between these elements is central to delivering good places and successful local living.

How local living operates will rely heavily on the place context. An urban area may have greater density to support walkable access to a wider range of facilities than a remote rural or island location. However, even in the context of wider geographies involved in rural locations, the fundamental principles of planning and designing places to support good quality, sustainable access to facilities and promote meaningful social interaction remain.

The Place Principle

The Place Principle provides the overarching policy context for place-based working, by encouraging a participative approach to planning places, services, infrastructure, land uses and buildings. It encourages collaborative, partnership working with a range of stakeholders, including local communities and community groups, businesses, transport providers, health, and education providers, and across local authority structures.

The application of the Place Principle is key to the delivery of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods. Taking a place-based approach involves dealing with complexity and the Place Based Framework provides a mechanism to support collaborative and contextual working. It recognises that to achieve real change demands tackling multiple issues and provides a consistent approach to help support increased impact and multiple benefits.

The Six Qualities of Successful Places

The six qualities of successful places are the guiding principles underpinning the Scottish Government's approach to delivering good places.

The six qualities of successful places are set out as:

  • Healthy;
  • Pleasant;
  • Connected;
  • Distinctive;
  • Sustainable; and
  • Adaptable.

Further details on delivering the six qualities of successful places are set out in Annex D of NPF4.

Rural and Island Context

Scotland's diverse urban and rural geographies require flexibility of approach in relation to 20 minute neighbourhoods and this is reflected in NPF4 through a wider emphasis on local liveability.

Accessing the majority of daily needs within a 20 minute walk, wheel or cycle in remote rural or island areas may not always be achievable. However, it is still possible to support local living through planning for connected, attractive, sustainable places that respect the character and context of rural places.

Where populations and services are distributed more widely, it is important to consider the relationships between settlements and the opportunities to support a network of local places where daily needs can be met. Creating local hubs with good transport links and improved digital connectivity can help to reduce the need for rural communities to travel longer distances and provide local employment opportunities. Capitalising on digital infrastructure to support remote and home working reduces the need to travel and the associated costs, time and environmental impact.

Joined-up planning and design approaches based on providing good quality, sustainable access to the majority of daily needs can help to support the quality of life in rural communities, increasing opportunities for business, providing well connected housing, enhancing local character and reducing transport costs. Local input and participation will be important in shaping what local living looks like in rural areas and to support finding the right solutions that offer a net zero and sustainable approach to rural living.

Across our rural and island landscape, there are many examples of projects supporting local living principles. This study Living Well Locally, 20 Minute Communities in the Highlands and Islands commissioned by Hitrans looks at what a 20 Minute Neighbourhood could look like in a rural and island context and what would need to happen for a rural settlement to become a 20 minute community.


Email: localliving&20mn@gov.scot

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