The Scottish Government published draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) on the 10th November and it is open for public comment until Thursday 31st March 2022. It is simultaneously under scrutiny from the Scottish Parliament and there is a call from various Parliamentary committees for views to be submitted to them by Monday 10 January 2022. SURF will be responding to both and we are already in discussion with peer organisations on shared agendas and will be drawing evidence from our network on the practicalities of implementing policies as drafted. 

The spatial strategy and identification of national developments will be familiar elements but Part 3 – National Planning Policy seeks to apply Scottish Planning Policy across all planning authorities, arguably to increase consistency in local development plans and to reduce the amount of work required in forming these. NPF4 sets the planning agenda for the next decade which in turn will a determinant of whether Scotland meets the various climate related targets set for 2045. We will be looking at it with an eye to how it meets the recommendations of the Scottish Land Commission, Scottish Climate Assembly and the Scottish Infrastructure Commission to name but a few. But more fundamentally our focus will be on how NPF4 ensures that communities experiencing deprivation are in the driving seat in planning, delivering and maintaining improvements to the places they live and work. 

SURF host the 20 Minute Neighbourhood Practitioner Network and therefore Policy 7: Local Living is of particular interest (and extracted below). It provides a high level understanding of the principle as it seeks to be relevant to urban and non-urban environments – Scotland is the first nation to attempt to apply it nationally, not just on a city basis. It may be easier to apply in new development but to retrofit the concept in existing places requires much work outside of the planning system such as when and where public service delivery and funding is being considered, e.g. community planning partnerships, and what place does the community have at that table? The Scottish Futures Trust  recently published a new ‘Place Guide’ that should assist. Policy 7 also requires an integrated approach to the delivery of public transport which will be key to ensuring improved connectivity to, and between, settlements outwith dense urban environments.  

NPF4 is drafted with future challenges unlike any other and in the face of such a human crisis it seems reasonable to question whether or not a list of policies that “should” be followed rather than “must” be applied rises sufficiently to that challenge? Communities and developers need a clarity that seems denied in current practice, the climate crisis is the opportunity to change that. Not everyone will find the just transition to a zero carbon future comfortable but it is crucial that NPF4 sets policies that are both deliverable and unavoidable.  

Euan Leitch, Chief Executive, SURF

Scottish Government Information

Draft National Planning Framework 4  

Liveable Places 

20 minute neighbourhoods 

We want our places to support local living. 

20 Minute Neighbourhoods are a method of achieving connected and compact neighbourhoods designed in such a way that all people can meet the majority of their daily needs within a reasonable walk, wheel or cycle (within approx. 800m) of their home. The principle can be adjusted to include varying geographical scales from cities and urban environments, to rural and island communities. Housing would be planned together with local infrastructure including schools, community centres, local shops, greenspaces and health and social care to significantly reduce the need to use unsustainable modes of travel, to prioritise quality of life, reduce inequalities, increase levels of health and wellbeing and respond to the climate emergency. This can also include providing digital services where appropriate. 

We urgently need to reduce the need to travel unsustainably and to encourage people to live more locally. This can be achieved by building on the Place Principle in the creation of 20 minute neighbourhoods where the accessibility credentials and the quality of our places support our health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities and respond to the requirements for the creation of resilient places to cope with and tackle climate change. The planning system should support development that will contribute to the creation of walkable, liveable and thriving places that provide and encourage sustainable travel options, provide communities with local access to the wide range of facilities, services, work and opportunities for socialising, leisure and play activities that they need to support a healthier and flourishing community. 

This concept will apply differently in urban and rural areas and should be guided by the Place Principle and place-based working that informs the local development plan. Communities will be well-placed to inform the approach to their own areas. Dense urban areas will more easily be able to benefit from a network of 20 minute neighbourhoods and the focus should be on maintaining mixed uses and improving the quality and diversity of local areas, particularly for communities who face more disadvantage. Retrofitting facilities in areas which are predominantly residential should also help to reduce the need to travel. 

The application of the 20 Minute Neighbourhood will vary across the country and will need to be adjusted to suit local circumstances particularly in rural areas where the delivery of services and extent of local infrastructure may not necessarily be supported by the surrounding density of population. 20 Minute Neighbourhoods are however an opportunity to rethink how housing, service provision, city, town or village centres could be re-configured to support new ways of working, homeworking and community hubs in line with localism objectives and reducing demand for motorised travel. 

Policy 7: Local living 

Decision makers can determine what facilities can reasonably be expected to be accessible from homes, taking into account local circumstances, as well as the role of digital connectivity in providing some services remotely. 

  1. a) Local development plans should support the principle of 20 minute neighbourhoods, including through the spatial strategy, development proposals, associated site briefs and masterplans. The approach should take into account the local context for the plan and reflect the particular characteristics of the area. It should set out proposals to support the development and network of 20 minute neighbourhood by bringing together relevant policies in this NPF to promote development that will contribute to the creation of safe, walkable, liveable and thriving places that provide and encourage sustainable travel options, provide communities with local access to the wide range of facilities, services, work, natural spaces and opportunities for socialising, leisure and play activities that they need to support a healthier and flourishing and climate resilient community.
  2. b) Development proposals that are consistent with the principles of 20 minute neighbourhoods should be supported. To inform this, relevant development proposals, including those for homes,should be safe, take into account the infrastructure of a place and be accessed easily by walking, wheeling and cycling from homes. Consideration should be given to:
  • local public transport and safe walking, wheeling and cycling networks; 
  • local employment opportunities, good connections to public transport, jobs and services within the region; 
  • local shopping areas; 
  • local health and social care facilities and services; 
  • local childcare, schools and lifelong learning opportunities; 
  • local playgrounds and informal play opportunities, parks, green streets and spaces, community gardens, sport and recreation facilities; 
  • safe streets and spaces; 
  • affordable housing options, ability to age in place, housing diversity; 
  • the level of interconnectivity with the surrounding neighbourhood. Proposals should demonstrate how the development will relate to, and enhance, the local area.