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We are seeking views on this draft guidance on local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods to support the implementation of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).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

This part of this document presents a range of case studies on how local living is being implemented in a variety of contexts across Scotland.

Aberdeenshire: building a network of urban and rural 20 Minute Neighbourhoods

Settlement range; City and urban to rural and remote rural

Key Initiatives; Facilitating Living Well Locally across diverse settlement patterns

Key challenges; rural depopulation, high levels of reliance on private car, quality of facilities.

Strategies employed; GIS data, national combined with local, Reviewing existing strategies and plans, The Place Standard Tool, Academy Towns and Smart Clachans, The Place Principle - aligning all policy, investment and service delivery

Aberdeenshire has a population of over 260,000 residents from the Cairngorms to the suburbs of Aberdeen. How do you tackle the challenge of facilitating local living across such diverse communities?

The Council's response is strategic, purposeful and data driven. It aims to create an overall Place Strategy for Aberdeenshire to provide a living local place framework for all individual communities, however large or small their place.

The starting point is data. Aberdeenshire already has a dataset developed , the Rural Facilities Monitor that has been used since 1981 to audit essential daily facilities such as shops, schools and surgeries across the local authority area. This is being expanded and updated to incorporate other daily needs and used to create GIS-based individual settlement profiles that will be publicly available. This will enable local communities throughout Aberdeenshire to access essential data for producing Local Place Plans which implement the Living Well Locally agenda and tackle other policy objectives such as stemming rural depopulation.

In considering data for 20 Minute Neighbourhoods, one of the major challenges is how to measure the quality of facilities, like shops or active travel routes, rather than simply whether they exist or not – because that can make the difference between whether people have access to healthy rather than poor quality food, or safe and attractive active travel options rather than poor quality routes.

The Place Standard was already being used in Aberdeenshire, to gather qualitative data before 20 Minute Neighbourhoods were proposed in draft NPF4. For example, Huntly Town Team used the Place Standard in 2021 to inform an update of their Room To Thrive town strategy.

In 2021, the Council began the ambitious task of applying local living principles in Aberdeenshire's largest settlement, Peterhead. Whilst the precise details should vary with each town, certain common tasks are being worked through in Peterhead:

  • Gathering and analysing the quantitative and qualitative evidence base, through desktop research and community engagement.
  • Auditing the range of strategies and plans that already exist from children's services, police, fire and rescue to planning policy and community-led action plans
  • Mapping existing projects and proposals.
  • Identifying gaps, barriers and opportunities in Living Well Locally.

The focus is of course to enable long term collaborative action and delivery of living local principles across the town, over a 15 to 20 year period, in line with the Place Principle. It will also test and establish a model for other Aberdeenshire towns to use and adapt.

Ultimately, the aim is to align all policy, investment and service delivery – not just planning and land use - around 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles, so that all action poverty, inequality, learning, health and climate change is co-ordinated through the lens of Living Well Locally.

Aberdeenshire Council's approach to local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods was also presented in 2022 to the SURF 20 Minute Neighbourhood Practice Network.

Edinburgh: embedding 20-Minute Neighbourhoods as a new approach to service delivery and regeneration

Settlement range; Large Urban

Key Initiatives; 20-minute neighbourhood strategy, developed to embed working to the Place Principle for improved outcomes.

Key challenges; improving outcomes City wide, empowering collaboration and participation in the definition, design and delivery of public services, designing green and people focused local centres, improving mobility City wide.

Strategies employed; Place Principle - stronger partnership working including to combat loneliness and isolation, GIS data, creation of Strategy, use of Place Standard Tool, community engagement activities, Local Place Plans, town centre first principle, creation of multi-purpose hubs, brownfield site regeneration, reimagining service delivery, active travel.

The City of Edinburgh Council approved its 20-Minute Neighbourhood Strategy in June 2021. The primary focus is to enable the city's residents to meet most of their essential needs within a short walk, wheel or cycle from their home. It is a new approach for the city which aims to deliver more sustainable places, improve public services, and build on the local sense of community across the city.

Delivery of the strategy is seen as a long-term endeavour. It is described as an "ongoing process of change for working with communities": a new way of working, signalling a conscious decision to plan and deliver public services more locally to create more social, inclusive, and accessible places across the whole city.

Every neighbourhood in Edinburgh has its own unique set of circumstances, which means that places need to be considered individually. Delivery of the strategy involves the Council working closely with empowered communities, partner organisations and the third sector to achieve its goals.

Funding support derives from aligning the Scottish Government Place Based Investment Programme to the priority areas identified in the strategy. To support the new way of working, the Council has established:

  • A 20-Minute Neighbourhood Board comprising key representatives from different services, which acts as a dedicated forum for discussion and collaboration.
  • A dedicated multi-discipline 20-Minute Neighbourhood Programme Team, encompassing skills and knowledge in urban design, planning, transport, property and communications. The team's role is to implement parts of the Strategy, support other Council services to embed 20-minute principles into projects, and make sure that investment and development considerations take account of the Strategy.

The strategy identifies the eight local town centres from the emerging City Plan 2030 (in support of the Town Centre First Principle) and 11 other areas which have gaps in their service provision and/or no natural town centre as priorities. These 19 areas are mapped in the City of Edinburgh Council's strategy document.

Work is initially focussing on areas where need is greatest, whether that is due to deprivation or poor connectivity, or where there are opportunities to capitalise on work that is already planned. Initial priorities include Local Place Planning in Wester Hailes (see separate case study), new school investments with wider community uses in Liberton and Currie, town centre and high street improvements in Craigmillar, Muirhouse and Gorgie Dalry, and affordable housing delivery on key regeneration sites across the city. The strategy, including updates on these and other projects can be found in the City of Edinburgh Council's 20 Minute Neighbourhood Strategy

The affordable housing element is part of the Council's ambitious programme to deliver 20,000 affordable homes in the city over a decade. 20-Minute Neighbourhood principles are being embedded in Council-led regeneration work on key brownfield sites across the city.

At Powderhall, for example, regeneration of the Council's former waste transfer station was originally proposed as an open market sale to a volume housebuilder, but evolved into the Council taking forward a major mixed-use regeneration project. The regeneration will now deliver not only 260 new homes (35% affordable, compared to the city's 25% target) but also a nursery, older people's housing, commercial units, artist's studios and community space. The development is proposed to be effectively zero parking, with close involvement of Sustrans to ensure active travel is the primary mode of transport for residents.

Meanwhile, the Granton Waterfront regeneration will deliver a new coastal town with an ambitious 20-minute neighbourhood vision over the next 10-15 years. This regeneration will deliver around 3,500 new net zero carbon homes (over 35% of them affordable); a primary school and health centre, commercial, creative, and community space, and a new coastal park. Early Action housing projects are well underway at Western Villages, Silverlea and the Demonstrator site (Granton D1) at Waterfront Avenue.

New active travel and public transport infrastructure will be created throughout the regeneration area, including new cycle paths and a mobility hub. The project will create new employment opportunities, meaning residents of this fast-growing area will be able to access work locally, while partner organisations will deliver substantial new cultural and educational assets over the regeneration timeframe.

Stewarton, East Ayrshire: using 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles to help inform a Local Development Framework

Settlement range; Accessible small town

Key Initiatives; Utilising 20 minute neighbourhood thinking; Using context and place based collaborative approaches to inform decision making

Key challenges; Growth of town v's infrastructure capacity, compact growth and town centre, housing site release, infrastructure first approach to health and education capacity.

Strategies employed; Place Principle working:- Key Agencies Groups, communities and local authority working together, Infrastructure first, Active Travel, Use of qualitative and quantitative data, GIS data, national combined with local, reviewing existing strategies and plans, community engagement, place standard with climate lens.

Stewarton lies between Kilmarnock (10km) and Glasgow (40km). Due to the rail link and its proximity to Glasgow, the town has been steadily growing in recent decades from about 6,500 residents in 2001 to an estimated 7,700 residents in 2020.

As the town grows, and more housing sites are released, there will be increasing pressures on the existing infrastructure such as roads, water, drainage, education, health and social care, and recreation and leisure. In line with the Place Principle, the local authority has been working with the Key Agencies Group, with support from Architecture and Design Scotland, to understand how to address these constraints.

The 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles were used as a guiding framework for gathering both quantitative and qualitative information. Quantitative data was mapped using GIS and analysed to explore key considerations such as facilities and services, open space, connectivity and walkability. This information began to identify more clearly the constraints and emerging opportunities.

Qualitative data was gathered, piloting use of the Place Standard through community workshops which prompted conversations around mitigation and adaptation actions that could happen in Stewarton to help address the Climate and Biodiversity crises. A 'living local' survey was then carried out to gain further insights into walking distance thresholds, frequency of using services and the quality of routes to move around. The evidence from the survey and workshop, community aspirations expressed in the Community Action Plan and speaking to relevant council services fed into the Local Development Framework teams understanding of the quality of people's experiences in Stewarton.

Combining the use of data, mapping, community engagement and cross departmental involvement has helped to foster a whole place collaborative approach for Stewarton to be adopted. These methods when combined have led to further conversations around future investment and are currently providing place-based evidence to important decision making at a whole town scale across services.

Fundamentally, this is allowing the local authority to take a collaborative 'infrastructure-first' approach to investment in schools and healthcare capacity, through the lens of 20 Minute Neighbourhoods and Living Well Locally. The progress is ongoing however it is clear that this has allowed greater emphasis to be placed on the importance of active travel accessibility when considering locations of future investment such as new health and education facilities.

The scope was not, however, limited to the location of health and education facilities.A framework of actions has been drawn up which encompass improvements to the walking and cycling network, investment in the town centre, affordable housing and homes for older people, and much more besides.

During the process additional support was provided by consultants who were commissioned by the Council to aid the preparation of the new Local Development Framework for Stewarton building on the support work from KAG and Architecture and Design Scotland. Part of this involved the creation of a Place making map which sets out the proposed interventions. Further information can be found in the Stewarton Placemaking Pack.

Lessons learned from the process include:

  • The value of pairing digital mapping analysis with the lived experience of life on the ground, for example to produce combined data not only walking and cycling journey times but also accounting for the quality of place/the journey.
  • The challenge of implementing and retrofitting the 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles into existing settlements and infrastructure should not be underestimated.
  • The 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles are a new concept to many. This presents challenges towards institutional decision making and will require collaborative working to realise delivery and implementation.
  • When multiple organisations are asked to commit and co-ordinate their activities, in line with the Place Principle, issues will arise around timing of budgets and delivery therefore a whole placed collaborative approach is needed.

Wester Hailes, Edinburgh: community and local authority collaboration

Client: Wester Hailes Community Trust

Designers: UrbanPioneers (Landscape Architects) with Dress for the Weather (Architects)

Settlement range; Accessible small town

Key Initiatives; Collaborative working to tackle strategic and local thinking around 20 minute neighbourhoods.

Key challenges; Capacity and resources for Local Place Planning, combining the long term regeneration programme with Local Place Planning aspirations, timing and complex funding streams. Confidence building through early action projects.

Strategies employed; Place Principle working:- communities and local authority working together, Local Place Plan, Place Standard, Early action project identification, community led regeneration, community ownership, community hubs.

Wester Hailes, on the western edge of Edinburgh, was initially constructed in the early 1970s with extensive redevelopment in the 1990s and 2000s. In around 2019, two new initiatives began: the local community began to prepare a Local Place Plan and the Council embarked on a 10–15-year regeneration programme. Both initiatives shared a common goal: to create a model 20 Minute Neighbourhood.

The two pieces of work support each other, each tackling different aspects of the 20 Minute Neighbourhood concept.

The community-led Wester Hailes Local Place Plan focusses on community aspirations: using the Place Standard as a tool for discussion helped the Local Place Plan to identify what the community can do for itself, and what they would like others to do.

There are dozens of actionable projects in the Local Place Plan which will help bring about a 20 Minute Neighbourhood a reality for Wester Hailes residents, from projects for community hubs, play spaces and paths to strategies for work, learning, food, and health and wellbeing.

Those initiatives complement the Council-led regeneration programme, which includes investment in housing, transport, greenspaces, schools and health centres. 'Early action' projects include a new high school, housing and cycle links.

To make sure the two processes mutually supported each other, the community and the Council needed to work together in tandem. That isn't always easy when funding comes from different sources. So, during 2020-21, when the community was struggling with capacity and resources to complete the Local Place Plan, the Council helped secure Place Based Investment Programme funding to pay for professional facilitation and support to complete the Local Place Plan. That made sure that the Council's investments – with an established spend programme and funding deadlines – did not run ahead of the Local Place Plan process, which would have meant that the Council-led programme might have focussed on the wrong things or lacked community support.

20 Minute Neighbourhood principles are being embedded into both the regeneration masterplan and the Local Place Plan. Although Wester Hailes already has many of the features that you would expect in a 20 Minute Neighbourhood, there was specific deficiency that was laid bare during the COVID pandemic: the lack of indoor community spaces where local people and groups can meet and socialise. So, as part of the collaboration, three community hubs are now proposed. The delivery of each is being led by a community organisation.

Drymen, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park: piloting Living Well Locally in a rural community

Settlement range; Accessible rural

Key Initiatives; Planning and delivering local living/20 minute neighbourhood through Local Place Plans for improved outcomes.

Key challenges; Movement, reimaging mobility for rural areas through active travel, exploring priorities within village and working with neighbouring villages and towns as network, Improving access to essential services beyond walking distance.

Strategies employed; Place Standard Tool and community engagement to form qualitative data, physical onsite assessment of place, Mobility through active travel, Local Place Plan.

Place Principle working; Communities and local authority working together and identifying collaborative partnerships.

Creating 20 Minute Neighbourhoods in a rural area creates distinct challenges. Where community facilities are inevitably more dispersed and population density lower, how is it practically possible to enable everyone to be within 20 minutes walk or cycle of all their daily needs?

This was the starting point for a pilot project in the village of Drymen and the neighbouring villages along the east of Loch Lomond, where the National Park wanted to run a pilot to look at how 20 Minute Neighbourhoods might work for rural communities and appointed Forth Environment Link to deliver the pilot.

The pilot scheme was an opportunity to test the Place Standard as a tool for community engagement on 20 Minute Neighbourhoods.

This enabled the community to consider and record not only whether its daily needs were satisfied, but also qualitative data about how well those daily needs were met. The work also wanted to examine how rural villages share services and are connected so the engagement and baseline information looked beyond just the village boundary and undertook joint working with other neighbouring communities.

The work also explored how the concept could be collaboratively planned and delivered through the medium of a Local Place Plan. It produced valuable insights into how rural Local Place Plans can use the principles of local living and 20 Minute Neighbourhood to provide dual focus; exploring the priorities within a village and also with neighbouring villages and towns; how to improve access to essential services that feel beyond a reasonable walking distance and, the reimagining of mobility for a wider rural area where there are shared users of services and a shared need for access

The pilot produced a community vision for how people can meet their daily needs locally in Drymen and the surrounding villages. More information can be seen in this report published in 2022 by the National Park Authority: Living Well Locally: Vision and Route Map.

Living Well Locally - 20 Minute Communities in the Highlands and Islands commissioned by HITRANS at the same time investigated how 20 Minute Neighbourhoods might be made workable across a variety of challenging rural and island contexts.

Potential solutions included broadening the focus from walking and cycling to other sustainable travel modes such as community transport, treating 20 minutes as a guide time rather than an absolute, and embracing established technological solutions to delivering services and goods such as online services and drone deliveries of prescriptions and post.

Shetland: 20 Minute Neighbourhoods as the basis for joined-up planning and transport policy

Settlement range; Rural and Island settlements

Demonstrates local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods are about good planning and collaboration

Key Initiatives; new approach proposed within Main Issues Report

Key challenges; application of the '20 minute metric', reliance on private car use, decentralising services,

Strategies employed; town and village centre enhancement, approach, rural locality hubs, local living, local living/20 minute neighbourhood thinking.

Shetland Local Development Plan Main Issues Report, published in 2022, proposes a new approach to enhancing town centre and village retail areas across Shetland. The preferred option put forward in the Main Issues Report is for 20 Minute Neighbourhoods to form the basis of a new concept of rural Locality Hubs or service hubs, such as Brae, Scalloway and Baltasound for example.

These Locality Hubs, and preferred areas for future growth, were identified through the lens of 20 Minute Neighbourhoods.

The Main Issues Report highlights that, in the Shetland context, being able to meet daily needs within 20 minutes walk of your home should not be applied too rigidly.

Many of Shetland's more rural and remote rural communities have established retail centres and services that could not be reached by walking within 20 minutes from homes on the edge of, or outwith, more loosely scattered settlements.

The intention is that the next Local Development Plan (LDP2) will recognise that access to service hubs by our more remote communities is undertaken primarily by car. However, by continuing to focus development and services on Locality Hubs, reliance on travelling into Lerwick for basic retail services can be reduced – in line with 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles. The Main Issues Report suggests that 20 Minute Neighbourhood principles should form the basis of assessing new developments, to help implement this approach.

The Main Issues Report explains that Locality Hubs play an important role in the provision of business and retail services across Shetland's many communities: the local shop, for example, often plays a vital economic and social role in community life.

The village of Brae, on North Mainland, is an example of a Locality Hub. It contains a wide range of education, leisure, health and retail services which serve not only the population of Brae but the wider North Mainland locality too. It is also a significant employment hub for North Mainland. People can make one car or public transport journey to Brae to access a number of services in close proximity to each other and not available within their community, rather than have to continue 40km south to Lerwick.

The 20 Minute Neighbourhood approach outlined in the Main Issues Report seeks to consolidate and enhance Brae's nature as a 'hub' by strengthening its vitality and viability.

LDP2 will also support the continued development of public transport networks and active travel measures that enable easy access to and within Shetland's many service hubs. This reflects a co-ordinated approach to land use and transport planning, with Shetland Active Travel Strategy also taking a 20 Minute Neighbourhood approach to focus on improving accessibility of local destinations.


Email: localliving&20mn@gov.scot

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