Revised draft National Planning Framework 4 was laid before the Scottish Parliament on the 8th November and, following scrutiny by the Local Government Committee, is expected to be adopted before the recess of 24th December. There is no opportunity for amendment before adoption.

20 Minute Neighbourhoods remains a flagship policy woven throughout with inclusion in regional spatial plans and local development plans required. Policy 15 – Local Living and 20 Minute Neighbourhoods does make it clearer that local context and settlement patterns are important, allaying fears that urban qualities are applied to rural settings as raised by SURF and several other organisations.

New development should have local access to the following:

  • sustainable modes of transport including local public transport and safe, high quality walking, wheeling and cycling networks;
  • employment;
  • shopping;
  • health and social care facilities;
  • childcare, schools and lifelong learning opportunities;
  • playgrounds and informal play opportunities, parks, green streets and spaces, community gardens, opportunities for food growth and allotments, sport and recreation facilities;
  • publicly accessible toilets;
  • affordable and accessible housing options, ability to age in place and housing diversity.

The inclusion of allotments and publicly accessible toilets are a change from the previous draft. It is worth observing that while affordable housing is mentioned, the affordability of shopping and public transport is not. It could be argued that their affordability is beyond the remit of the planning system but both shopping and public transport are also delivered beyond the powers of planning and their affordability is crucial to many communities.

The 20 Minute Neighbourhood concept in Paris and Melbourne are substantially based on high density living, a premise raised by SURF and RTPI Scotland, yet this is not referenced in the policy. It may be implicit in the policy intent of “compact neighbourhoods’ and density is referred to in other sections, such as the six qualities of successful places.

The delivery programme specifies that further guidance on 20 Minute Neighbourhoods will be drafted and consulted upon in 2023.

This policy is first and foremost applicable to new development and of use to developers and planners working within development management, and it will be of interest to learn whether this gives the clarity and power required to create settlement extensions and new places that are locally liveable. But it does give insight into qualities that decision makers outside of planning, in health and education, should be thinking about when siting of services. Planning also does not address how our places are maintained, poor maintenance being a significant contributor to the desirability and possibility of active travel.

One salutary note: policy outcomes sought include “support health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities” and yet recent research from the University of Glasgow states that “Access to 20 MN domains was greatest in areas where individual health status tends to be worse. A policy focusing solely on improving access to key facilities and amenities for deprived areas may be ineffective in reducing health inequalities.”

Good planning is a contributor to improving outcomes, but it is not an end in itself.

You can find more background on 20 Minute Neighbourhoods and recordings of our meetings in our 20MN Practice Network.