20 minute neighbourhoods: Defining ambitions with stakeholders

The Programme for Government 2020 committed the Scottish Government to working with local government and other partners to take forward ambitions for 20 minute neighbourhoods: “where people can meet their needs within a 20 minute walk from their house – enabling people to live better, healthier lives and supporting our net zero ambitions.” – Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2020-2021.

The concept has been used in a number of urban settings globally, for example in Melbourne, Barcelona and Ottawa. This presented a challenge in terms of translating the concept to a Scottish setting – applicable to urban and rural settings.

Finding ways to create successful 20 minute neighbourhoods across Scotland – in communities, towns and cities – can make an important contribution to specific policy aims such as reducing car kilometres and reaching net zero. But it also delivers significant benefits to local economies and to health and wellbeing.

ClimateXChange was asked to map current features of Scottish neighbourhoods, rural and urban, and to work with stakeholders to define options, ambitions and actions to realise 20 minute neighbourhoods in Scotland.

Our work created a set of ambitions that relate to the many dimensions involved in 20 minute neighbourhoods: the co-benefits with tackling the climate crises, reducing health inequalities, strengthening the local economy and improving the quality of life.

An extremely valuable piece of research which from its publication has helped to demonstrate how the concept can be made relevant to both urban and rural Scotland and the importance of both access and quality of services in local areas.

Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect, Scottish Government

The concept takes in several dimensions relating to physical infrastructure, the services available and how accessible and enjoyable these features are to people living or working in, and using, a neighbourhood. To cover all these aspects, we had a project steering group with a wide range of expertise and engaged with stakeholders on project scope, methodology and data gathering, and to frame the ambition and recommendations for action.

Grounding the recommendations in both physical data and the feedback from stakeholders meant the report was immediately picked up to inform debate; the findings have defined the agenda and been presented across diverse settings. These range from events organised by the SURF regeneration forum’s 20 Minute Neighbourhood Practice Network to the Place Standard Tool Our Place website and a Nordic Council session at COP26 looking at healthy, climate-friendly places.

The recommendations are practical and consider current policy, governance, delivery options and knowledge gaps. This means the report is instantly usable in a wide range of policy-development and decision-making processes: it speaks to the challenges stakeholders experience in making local communities more walkable, equitable and enjoyable.

We have benefited from having a research report that could readily be used in policy development and provides an excellent baseline for further work on 20 Minute Neighbourhoods.
Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect, Scottish Government”.

Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect, Scottish Government