Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods: planning guidance

The guidance on local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods aims to encourage, promote and facilitate the application of the Place Principle and create connected and compact neighbourhoods which prioritise environmental, social and economic sustainability.


This guidance supports the application of Policy 15, Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods as set out in the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4).


NPF4 sets out a clear commitment to think differently about our places, applying the Place Principle and delivering the National Performance Framework. The complex challenges we face - from the climate and nature crises, to poverty, disadvantage, and stark health inequalities – require a joined-up and collaborative approach to deliver positive outcomes for people and the environment. NPF4 puts climate and nature at the forefront, tackling long-standing challenges and inequalities, and leading the transition to stronger, greener, fairer, and healthier communities across Scotland. NPF4 supports the delivery of liveable places where we can live better, healthier lives. It names 'local living' as one of six spatial principles by which we should plan our places.

NPF4 policy 15 sets out the policy requirements to support the delivery of local living. This guidance is intended to provide further detail to support the implementation of the policy, with a focus on informing development planning and development management processes.

What is local living?

Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods can help to deliver the healthy, sustainable, and resilient places required to support a good quality of life and balance our environmental impact.

Local living

Local living provides people with the opportunity to meet the majority of their daily needs within a reasonable distance of their home.

It is centred on supporting people to 'live well locally'.

20 minute neighbourhoods

The 20 minute neighbourhood concept is one of many ways to support local living.

The 20 minute neighbourhood concept aims to provide access to the majority of daily needs within a 20 minute walk, wheel, or cycle from home.

It is an approach likely to be more readily achievable in urban places, towns, villages, and cities. It is designed to be applied flexibly, in response to local circumstances.

The timeframe of 20 minutes is derived from research[1] undertaken in the fields of health and wellbeing, urban design and planning which explores the associations between walking and local destinations, and the ease of access to local services, infrastructure and community spaces when travelling by foot. This is based on a walk of approximately 10 minutes to any destination(s) and a 10-minute return journey. It is not a prescriptive approach, and the 20 minute travel time is not fixed, nor is it about creating boundaries or restricting people.

Many existing places already support local living or operate as 20 minute neighbourhoods. Some may require change to improve their liveability, or to maintain it into the future. Placemaking is incremental, it can take a while to build a thriving and vibrant place that effectively supports local living as places evolve and their communities and their needs change over time. New places and developments should be designed with local living at their heart.

No one organisation or group can alone provide the facilities and services and connections needed to enable local living. To enable local living, collaboration is needed across many organisations, agencies, groups, and with communities.

Effective community engagement at the start of a process and throughout, is core to these approaches. This will lead to better democratic participation, better services, and improved outcomes for communities, as set out in the key guiding principles of the National Standards for Community Engagement.

Local living can also contribute to meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), which include themes around inequality, climate, health and wellbeing, and economy.

Structure and how to use this document

The guidance is intended to assist and support planning authorities, communities, businesses, and others who have key roles in helping to deliver local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods.

  • planning authorities: It is expected to be of particular relevance to planning authorities in the preparation of Local Development Plans (LDPs) and to support decision making in planning. Planning authorities are expected to consider how the guidance can be applied in a proportionate and place-based way, and to use their judgement in deciding which components of the advice are relevant to their processes
  • community planning partnerships: To support community planning partners/public sector organisations working together to plan and deliver public services in local authority areas, through locality plans and local outcome improvement plans
  • community groups and councils/third sector business: The guidance is also intended to support understanding of local living for organisations engaged in the planning system and in initiatives such as local place plans
  • development proposers: Those involved in the preparation of development proposals and planning applications such as: client organisations, housing, health, education and infrastructure providers and funders, developers, commercial and retail businesses, designers, and planners

This guidance sets out:

PART 1 – why local living

The benefits and context for local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods. This will be useful for all readers.

PART 2 - what local living looks like

The key considerations for local living in a Scottish context. This section explains the use of the Local Living Framework as a consistent structure with suggested considerations for communities, applicants, and planning officials to consider the daily needs of a place. It will be particularly useful for planning authorities in preparing the LDP and considering development proposals.

PART 3 - ways to support local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods

This will be useful for all readers but is of particular importance for those leading or participating in the LDP process, preparing a local place plan, or other community-led plan.

PART 4 – case studies

In this part of the guidance, a range of case studies are presented, showing how place-based interventions are supporting the implementation of local living across a variety of scales and geographic locations.


Email: chief.planner@gov.scot

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