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10/13/2022 - There has been previous focus on the development of 20 Minute Communities in an urban setting but could the concept work in the Highlands and Islands?

'20 minute communities' are places that are designed so residents can meet their day-to-day needs within a 20 minute walk of their home; through access to safe walking and cycling routes, or by public transport.  

HITRANS and SUSTRANS commissioned Nick Wright Planning to examine what the 20 Minute Community concept might look like in a rural context, exploring two questions in particular: 

·       What could a 20 Minute Community look like in a rural and island context?

·       What would need to happen for a rural settlement to become a 20 minute community?

With support from practitioners and planners across the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere in Scotland the report of the work is available to view. It should be of interest to anybody who wishes to understand:

·       The background to 20 Minute Community.

·       How the concept could be applied in the Highlands and Islands, and elsewhere in rural Scotland.

·       Examples of real projects across rural Scotland that make 20 Minute Communities a practical concept.

·       Case studies showing what 20 Minute Communities could look like in different contexts from Islay to Orkney.

·       Challenges and solutions to delivering 20 Minute Communities in rural Scotland as outlined in draft National Planning Framework 4.

The starting point was to work out: what exactly are people’s typical daily needs in the Highlands and Islands? By establishing those, it was then possible to build up a picture of what a 20 Minute Community should offer – from work and play to homes, community facilities and transport – illustrated by case studies in Orkney, Ullapool, South Loch Ness and Islay.

Key lessons from the report included:

1.     The 20 Minute Community policy contained in draft National Planning Framework 4 can be tailored to the Highlands and Islands with three simple adjustments: embracing sustainable transport rather than simply walking and cycling, treating 20 minutes as a target rather than a requirement, and ensuring the language and tone encompasses rural as well as urban Scotland.

2.     Designing and delivering 20 Minute Communities needs to be a collaborative process – it is an ideal opportunity to align community action, local authority services and planning, and national policy and resources, ideally through the lens of Local Place Plans.

3.     There are plenty of examples across the Highlands and Islands of good projects which deliver individual elements of 20 Minutes Communities. The challenge – and the opportunity – is to deliver all of those things in every place.

To see the report, please click on these links:

·       Low resolution 3mb PDF

·       High resolution 23mb PDF


Following on from this report, in 2022 HITRANS commissioned Ramboll to provide baseline data mapping for 20 Minute Communities in a Rural Context. 

Ramboll wrote the original Climate eXchange paper for Scottish Government, “20 Minute Communities in a Scottish Context”, which concluded that communities across Scotland have the required services and infrastructure that would allow them to be 20 minute Communities – in both urban and rural areas.

Ramboll has now produced a GIS based tool taking data from HITRANS’ five Local Authority partners, which will provide a strong evidence base to understand the opportunities and challenges for community demonstrator projects and wider spatial planning.

The tool will assist Partners to plan and deliver services, transport and infrastructure within the 20-Minute Community concept across the region. The tool makes it easy to see where communities can be easily connected with active travel infrastructure or improved transport links, such as Demand Responsive Transport, enabling access to services, recreational opportunities and transport halts. 

Councillor Ken Gowans, Highland Council member of the HITRANS Board and Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee at Highland Council said: “The importance of local places for people's health and wellbeing has been highlighted by the Covid19 pandemic. The ambition for Scotland to be a network of 20 minute communities promotes local living and connected settlements as hubs with good active travel and public transport links, digital infrastructure and improved public realm.  Living Well Locally should be available to rural as well as urban communities, and the work done by Nick Wright Planning and Ramboll shows that this is possible, and that further investment and planning is needed in many areas to make it a reality.”

Funding for both pieces of research was provided by the Scottish Government through Sustrans Regional Transport Partnerships support programme funding.

The Nick Wright Report: “Living Well Locally” and the Ramboll Living Well Locally Mapping Tool and Manual are available on the Active Travel Research Page in the Corporate section of the HITRANS website.

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