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.

Part 2 – what local living looks like

Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods

Part 2 of this guidance supports the consideration of local living in a Scottish context. The aim of local living is to provide everyone with local, sustainable, and equitable access to the key facilities and services required daily.

NPF4 emphasises 'local liveability'. Scotland's urban and rural geographies and communities are diverse. They will require flexible approaches to achieving local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods. Local communities are best placed to determine what works for them based on their specific context and must be involved from the outset.

The distances covered in a 20 minute round trip can vary based on multiple conditions and factors. The quality of the walking environment, individual and community circumstances, age, ability, location, and topography are all contributory factors in the distance people are willing or able to travel by walking, wheeling, or cycling to access services.

The 20 minute timeframe is an approximate guide and does not rigidly define or limit local living in any context. It serves as a useful gauge for reasonable access and distances to services within a neighbourhood - or within a network of connected neighbourhoods or settlements - to enable people to enjoy a good quality of life.

Daily needs and the Local Living Framework

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

Daily needs can be defined in terms of the services, amenities and facilities required for daily living. How people's daily needs are met in dispersed, rural and island communities, small towns, or larger towns, or cities, is likely to look quite different depending on the context. Some core daily needs are universal, such as the need to access good quality work, affordable and healthy food, sustainable transport, education, training, and health and social care services, to participate in leisure and cultural activities, spend time outdoors, and access local shops, irrespective of the settlement size and location. However, the extent and type of access required will vary depending on the particular needs of communities and groups within them.

The quality of the services, amenities and facilities and the community experience in accessing them is as important as the quantity available. This underlines the importance of community engagement, and the gathering of qualitative data to support decision making. Part 3 of the guidance provides further details on both qualitative and quantitative information that can be used to better understand what a place might need to support local living.

Planning or designing for local living should begin with engaging with the community to find out what their daily needs are, what their place is like currently, what works well, and what they would need or want to change in the future.

Taking a community-led, 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 we must tackle multiple issues together and provides a consistent approach to help support positive impact and multiple benefits.

Local Living Framework

The Local Living Framework has been developed to provide a consistent structure to consider how local living is, or can be, supported in a place.

The framework is structured around 14 themes, within 5 overarching categories of Movement, Space, Resources, Civic and Stewardship. Each theme is supported by a set of key considerations designed to highlight the issues that should be considered in order to help support local living.

The categories and themes in the framework are interlinked and how they are considered may vary dependent on the context and characteristics of a place. The framework can help form the basis for engagement, analysis and planning and design work to deliver local living.

The application of the Local Living Framework can also be supported by the use of the Place Standard tool and the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes[7] which are inter-related resources structured around the same 14 themes and based on evidence[8] around how place impacts on health and wellbeing.

Fig. 7 diagram showing the Local Living Framework, which aligns with the Place Standard tool and the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes.

Key considerations for local living: using the Local Living Framework

The Local Living Framework is designed for early conversations about what is needed to support our daily lives. It has 5 main categories, each of which brings together several inter-related place and wellbeing themes to help a holistic consideration of their importance for local living.

The considerations noted below are illustrative rather than exhaustive and may be helpful to generate initial thinking and discussion about local living that can then be developed with the use of the Place Standard tool.

Considering the incorporation of quality local infrastructure for fulfilling daily needs should be part of all place planning and design processes at the earliest design stage. The walking, wheeling, and cycling environment can support local living and can ensure safety and good accessibility are at its heart. Well-designed infrastructure is important in encouraging individuals to travel sustainably, this includes the design and integration of appropriate parking measures that are evidenced[9] to reduce car reliance in a way that is equitable. Engagement with local people can ensure accessibility and mobility is prioritised in a way that it makes moving around safe and inclusive, taking account of local context and need.

It is particularly important to consider and address the transport needs of diverse groups, including those with protected characteristics at the earliest stage, to ensure safety and accessibility, and that measures do not promote inequity. Access to services digitally or remotely may reduce the need to travel and widen access even where there isn't the population density to necessarily support local provision. It is important to consider the balance of digital service provision against the value of in-person access, the social and economic impacts, and quality of experience for communities.

Moving around

The ability to walk, wheel and cycle in convenient, safe, and inclusive ways is central to delivering local living and the Scottish Government's national target to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.

Aspects to consider include:

  • convenient access to safe and pleasant walking and cycling routes (local and national routes) that are accessible for all to use, are overlooked and well-lit, connecting to the places people want and need to go
  • the availability and quality of multiple access points, good connections to key routes, local services and facilities and green spaces
  • provision of cycle parking and storage, and other active travel infrastructure
  • creating and/or supporting active building frontages and edges and vibrant streetscapes that incorporate green infrastructure and support biodiversity
  • clutter-free and accessible routes with design approaches that consider the availability and location of outdoor seating, desire lines, clear signage, and opportunities for enclosure, shelter, and shade

Public transport

Efficient, affordable, and integrated public transport can provide people with important access to daily needs and to other destinations and activities further afield.

Aspects to consider include:

  • meeting the public transport needs of the community: convenience, efficiency, and quality
  • the location and design of public transport stops that are inclusive, well integrated within the setting, sensitively designed and conveniently situated
  • opportunities to support efficient and convenient interchange between local and regional public transport and active travel
  • sustainable travel options, including the integration of community transport schemes, mobility hubs, Mobility As A Service (MAAS) schemes operating Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), (when available), car share/trip share schemes and shared transport as an alternative for public transport in rural and island contexts and to reduce private vehicle reliance

Traffic and parking

Reducing the dominance of vehicles and traffic on communities can help to deliver local living and prioritise pedestrian movement and safety.

Aspects to consider include:

  • promotion of modal shift through low/no car developments in built up accessible areas, mobility hubs, car reduction schemes and traffic management measures, and pedestrianised areas
  • level and layout of parking that is sensitively designed to integrate with surroundings, prioritise care needs, and facilitates inclusive accessibility, delivery, uplifts and loading
  • interventions that are evidenced to be effective in reducing car use
  • electric vehicle parking and charging infrastructure located and designed to facilitate and promote sustainable travel, for example close to mobility hubs

Our places, spaces and streets are important elements of local living and provide the structural and visual character of a place. Buildings, landmarks, greenery, views, and natural landscape and spaces can help to create attractive places that are important to quality of life and encourage investment through the creation of a positive sense of place. Such assets are part of our heritage. They give us connection with a place and our culture, a sense of belonging, which contributes to our local identity distinctiveness that can encourage investment, growth, and prosperity.

Opportunities for connections with nature, and for play and recreation outdoors, are important for people of all ages and are fundamental in supporting children's physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Streets and spaces

Streets and spaces that are designed for all users, are attractive and multifunctional can help deliver local living, support social, civic, and economic activity, address climate needs and contribute to sustainability and improving biodiversity.

Aspects to consider include:

  • creating vibrant, attractive, and accessible streets that relate to human scale and local context and character
  • creating streetscapes that are distinctive with design features and local landmarks and key views that help people to navigate and orientate themselves
  • integrating multifunctional design including incorporating nature-based elements such as street trees, swales, and raingardens
  • providing access to local squares, parks and spaces that support community activity, take advantage of location and orientation, and provide shelter
  • incorporating spaces for community food growing and allotments
  • maintenance of spaces and areas to prevent or combat anti-social behaviour and encourage activity and positive identity

Natural space

Access to good quality natural space provides a wide range of benefits for wellbeing and the environment and is a central aspect of delivering local living.

Aspects to consider include:

  • providing inclusive access to attractive, nature rich routes, parks and open spaces and our natural landscape for movement, recreation, and play
  • supporting biodiversity protection, restoration, and enhancement and nature-based solutions
  • incorporating nature-rich blue/green spaces, providing habitat for wildlife and pollination
  • supporting existing natural features and forms, ecosystems, and biodiversity, incorporating allotments and growing spaces, including community food growing

Play and recreation

Local access for all community members to safe, accessible, and attractive play and recreation opportunities is essential to support local living. Local areas for play and recreation should be easy to access in a safe manner, such as being located away from busy traffic routes, and to provide safe crossing where necessary to support children's ability to play outdoors more readily.

Aspects to consider include:

  • safe and inclusive access to sports, culture, art, and leisure activities, for all ages
  • supporting the ability of children and young people to readily spend time outdoors through both formal and informal opportunities to play and socialise

Local access to the resources in the form of facilities and services, work and local economy, housing, community support and opportunities for social interactions is essential to support local living. The range of services supporting local living is best informed by the specific context and the daily needs identified with the local community. Population density and easy access generates footfall, supporting the long term viability of facilities and services. Greater engagement may be required between partners in rural communities, where the availability of services and extent of local infrastructure may be dispersed or require creative and collaborative solutions.

Innovations in digital technology and science are shaping how services are designed in our communities to enhance service accessibility. Digital services can complement physical service provision, especially in rural and island communities, but should be considered alongside the vital wellbeing benefits of face-to-face interactions. A thorough and detailed understanding of the existing facilities, amenities and infrastructure, homes[10] and current and future needs is required to develop an appropriate approach to supporting local living through new development and regeneration. The extent of the area that a local centre can serve should be considered through mapping and qualitative analysis, identifying people's needs and considering accessibility. Collaborative working across local authority boundaries may be needed for centres that serve or cross more than one authority area to identify where new centres may be needed.

Incorporating a community wealth building approach can help to deliver jobs, business growth, community-owned assets, and shorter supply chains. This can create greater resilience and support net zero ambitions through harnessing the economic leverage of anchor institutions.

Support and services

Local living requires communities to be able to access a mix of uses, services and facilities to meet their daily needs. Concentrating services in centres following the Town Centre First approach will help viability, especially the business viability of shops, cafes, pubs or restaurants and service industry.

Aspects to consider include:

  • the range and type of services needed to support members of the community of all ages and abilities, including education, health and social care facilities, places of worship, sport, leisure, and cultural activity
  • lifetime support and the ability to age in place
  • variety and mix of uses and quality of services
  • utilities and innovative energy solutions, repair, waste, and recycling
  • access to healthy food

Work & local economy

A vibrant local economy will bring inward investments, encourage people to spend locally and support sustainable employment and long-term prosperity of the local community.

There may be opportunities for supporting local enterprise and/or enabling community-owned assets through community wealth building and through harnessing the economic leverage of anchor institutions to help deliver services and jobs and shorten supply chains. This can support local living, create greater resilience locally and help deliver net zero ambitions.

Aspects to consider include:

  • opportunities to support and develop an active local economy
  • quality of employment particularly for women and those with caring responsibilities
  • training opportunities and access to education and life-long learning
  • workspaces and working from home, community enterprise, the third sector
  • supporting local businesses and entrepreneurship

Housing & community

The connection with, and proximity to, existing communities, services and amenities, local centres, energy, and transport infrastructure is a critical determinant in achieving successful local living.

A variety of types, sizes, and tenures can ensure people can be supported to remain in their local community as circumstances change throughout their lives. In cities, towns and villages where there are existing services and infrastructure, efforts should be made to maximise opportunities for people to live in or close to the centres, taking the Town Centre First approach. This may be achieved through repurposing and retrofitting existing built properties or building new in vacant or gap sites.

Aspects to consider include:

  • density of development to support local services and activity
  • quality, well-designed, and adaptable homes offering a range of tenures, types, and sizes of homes to support changing life circumstances
  • relationship with the local area including proximity to schools, community centres, local shops, greenspaces and health and social care services
  • community assets and shared resources, provision of communal facilities, energy, and sustainability

Social interaction

Good social networks and opportunities for formal and informal social interaction to take place can provide support for people in their everyday lives and their wellbeing and can help to build community resilience and a sense of belonging. Importantly, living in a supportive and inclusive community may benefit vulnerable population groups including those with disabilities, older people, and those with lower incomes, and can be an important factor in reducing inequalities.

Aspects to consider include:

  • a range and variety of accessible indoor and outdoor social spaces, informal and formal spaces that can support opportunities for social interaction
  • community facilities and spaces to support local clubs, groups, organisations, and communal activities
  • hospitality venues, restaurants, cafes, squares, and civic areas
  • supporting increased accessibility with the incorporation of outdoor seating, picnic benches and other street furniture in considered locations

Civic activities involve local people coming together, both formally and informally, to engage in community activities in their local area and/or around common interests. The identity of a community or neighbourhood is intrinsically linked to civic activity within that area as well as social, and cultural, connections.

Traditionally, local, village, town or city centres are where the civic, commercial, and cultural activities are located. Centres are a natural focus of civic life and of 20 minute neighbourhoods, providing communities with an identifiable location to access the goods, services, and recreational opportunities they need for everyday living.

Civic identity, including a sense of pride for a place is complex and can be influenced by a number of physical factors that planning and design can help to foster. Consideration should be given to protecting/enhancing local culture, natural and built heritage, existing pattern of building blocks, streets, open spaces, and landscape character.

Identity and belonging

Buildings, streets, landmarks, squares and our natural features, greenspaces, and landscapes tell the stories of our past, tether us to our places and help give us a sense of identity and belonging. Interventions aimed at improving the local environment, can also help to reinforce and develop community cohesion, and neighbourliness, nurturing community wellbeing, to stimulate community activities and support local living.

Aspects to consider include:

  • landscape, topography, natural and green spaces
  • significance and importance of natural and built assets as features within a community
  • culture, heritage, landmarks, gateways, legibility, perception
  • design codes, local architectural styles, distinctiveness

Feeling safe

Movement, activity, and engagement in places requires the community to feel safe and secure. Perception of safety is related to a wide variety of factors including building and landscape design, the effects of vehicle traffic, lighting, visibility and the presence of other people, anti-social behaviour, and derelict or vacant areas. The quality of the immediate environment can play an important role in ensuring that places feel safe.

Aspects to consider include:

  • passive surveillance/opportunities for areas to be overlooked. Ground floor uses of buildings for homes and commercial properties contribute to feeling welcome and safe
  • reactivation of derelict spaces and care, repair, and regular maintenance
  • the design and specification of boundaries and landscaping to support feelings of safety through strong connections between buildings and public spaces
  • re-purposing of existing underused buildings, buildings at risk, spaces or landmarks can help preserve the local identity and character of a place and improve feelings of safety and ease for communities
  • designing and planning for extreme weather and climate-related concerns to help with the fostering of trust and feeling safe within a community

Places are more likely to work well when communities are engaged and can participate in, and influence decision making, when they have control and can continuously influence change and future improvements.

Social isolation and a lack of support can be a major cause of stress, particularly for those living on low incomes, and for those with children, and impacts on older people too. For people living in difficult or chaotic circumstances, where they may feel they have little control or influence over their lives, the effects of living with stress for long periods of time can have an adverse, and often significant, impact on their wellbeing. Some population groups may be particularly marginalised, and it is often those who experience barriers to engaging with public services that would benefit most from participation in decision-making.

All sectors are encouraged to work together to ensure places are cared for and are well maintained making them more sustainable in the long term. This can help build a positive image and sense of place, and feelings of trust between sectors, making them attractive for investment and improving local living for all.

Care and maintenance

Addressing the climate emergency and nature crises requires us to ensure that existing assets (our buildings, streets, and spaces) are maintained and capitalised on, mitigating adverse environmental impacts, and waste. Well maintained streets and buildings and the development of vacant and derelict land can influence residents' satisfaction, perceptions of safety, contributes to overall wellbeing and encourages future investment.

How well a place is looked after can also have a significant impact on supporting social connections and neighbourliness within communities. Poor maintenance can create negative perceptions of a place, damage community resilience and lead to the erosion of physical, and social assets.

Aspects to consider include:

  • management, care, repair, and maintenance
  • responsibilities and rights, communication channels
  • fitness for purpose, quality and longevity, procurement, and operational costs
  • planning for and mitigating the climate emergency and weather events

Influence and sense of control

Participating and contributing to decision making processes increases trust and security within a community. Reaching out to those seldom-heard groups of local population through innovative engagement in place-based activity can capture the important knowledge and views of diverse groups and those with protected characteristics and help guide processes that are truly inclusive and most likely to be effective. Supporting communities experiencing social and economic deprivation is important in reducing inequalities and eliminating discrimination.

Aspects to consider include:

  • consultation, democratic participation, engagement methods, building capacity and supporting the community to engage in local processes, access funding and deliver change in their local areas
  • community activity and ownership
  • long-term management and ongoing improvement

Other tools and resources

Other tools that can be used to support thinking and discussion about local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods, include;

  • Place Based Framework - a framework for considering place based investment
  • Understanding Scotland's Places – a tool that can help communities better understand the towns they live and work in
  • Reducing car use for a healthier, fairer, and greener Scotland - the Scottish Government is working towards an ambitious national target to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030, with means to achieve this detailed in the route map
  • Town Toolkit - developed by Scotland's Towns Partnership, as a source of information and inspiration for anyone who wants to make their town centre better
  • Talking About Heritage guidance – prepared by Historic Environment Scotland to support communities as they research, identify and gain recognition for the heritage they care about. It includes a section on local place plans and other ways of sharing information about and celebrating locally important heritage
  • 20 Minute Neighbourhoods in the Highlands and Islands – commissioned by HITRANS and Sustrans, explores what 20 minute neighbourhoods could look like in a rural and island context
  • Place Value Wiki - an online resource, developed by the Place Alliance, holds the evidence to help understand the impacts of place on a range of outcomes. It can help to make the case for investing in the quality of place
  • Young Placechangers Toolkit - developed by Greenspace Scotland and Youth Scotland, aims to inspire, engage, and empower young people to engage with their places and help influence the local decision-making process


Email: chief.planner@gov.scot

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