Local Living and 20-Minute Neighbourhoods – Planning Guidance Consultation

Following the adoption of the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) in February 2023, new development has required to consider how it promotes Local Living, and specifically the 20-Minute Neighbourhood concept, by Policy 15 of the NPF4. Given Scotland’s diverse urban form, community structure, and patterns of living and working, it has not initially been clear how this concept applies in more rural communities, or remote areas of only a few properties.

The Scottish Government has now sought to address this by publishing draft Planning Guidance on the implementation of Policy 15. There is a consultation on this draft Guidance ongoing to allow stakeholders the opportunity to comment and provide feedback on this prior to it being finalised and adopted.

The 20-Minute Neighbourhood concept aims to provide everyone with “easy, sustainable, and equitable access to the key facilities and services needed on a daily basis”. The general notion is that these can be provided “within a 20-minute walk, wheel, or cycle”.

The draft Guidance sets some useful definitions in the application of this concept, but leaves others unaddressed. Importantly, it is defined that the “20-Minute” travel time alluded to in the name of the Policy should be considered a round-trip, so approximately 10-minutes to a destination and 10-minutes to return. It also acknowledges that the distance that can be covered in a 20-minute round trip will vary according to a number of factors, including the quality of the surrounding environment, the differing age and ability of individuals and their communities, and topography.

In rural or island contexts, the Guidance acknowledges that a varied approach needs to be considered, and that the 20-minutes should not be considered as a definite limit, but rather a “useful gauge” of how well a community enables people to live locally. An approach that takes into account an understanding of the area around a proposed development, and considers local context both physically and socio-economically is therefore fundamental.

Details of the Scottish Government’s draft Guidance, and the associated consultation, can be found here: Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods – planning guidance: consultation – gov.scot (www.gov.scot). The consultation is open until the 20th July 2023. If you would like further information about this draft Guidance or making a representation to this consultation, please contact a member of the Planning & Development Team, at planning@g-s.co.uk.