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20 Minute Neighbourhoods in the Highlands and Islands

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Can 20 Minute Neighbourhoods work in the Highlands and Islands? Yes!

During the first half of 2022, Ines Triebel of WMUD and I have been exploring two questions for HITRANS and Sustrans:

  • What could a 20 Minute Neighbourhood look like in a rural and island context?
  • What would need to happen for a rural settlement to become a 20 minute community?

With huge thanks to many practitioners and planners across the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere in Scotland for their help and support, the report of the work has just been published. It should be of interest to anybody who wishes to understand:

  • The background to 20 Minute Neighbourhoods.
  • 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 Neighbourhoods a practical concept.
  • Case studies showing what 20 Minute Neighbourhoods could look like in different contexts from Islay to Orkney.
  • Challenges and solutions to delivering 20 Minute Neighbourhoods in rural Scotland as outlined in draft National Planning Framework 4.

Our starting point was to work out: what exactly are people’s typical daily needs in the Highlands and Islands? By establishing those, we were then able to build up a picture of what a 20 Minute Neighbourhood 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 Neighbourhood policy contained in draft National Planning Framework 4 can be tailored to the Highlands and Islands with three simple adjustments.
  2. Designing and delivering 20 Minute Neighbourhoods 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 element of 20 Minutes Neighbourhoods. The challenge – and the opportunity – is to deliver all of those things in every place.

To see the report, please click on these links:

Just as the report builds on other people’s recent research and experience, we hope that the content of the report will be discussed and developed by others.  The report is a step on the way to delivering 20 Minute Neighbourhoods across Scotland, not the last word.


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