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20 minute neighbourhoods

A different approach to local planning in the face of climate change, now being implemented in Edinburgh.

Amid a climate emergency, town planners are turning to new approaches to reduce communities’ carbon emissions and pollutants: paving the way to decarbonising society. The idea of ’20 minute neighbourhoods’ (or ’15 minute city’), refers to the spatial organisation of neighbourhoods so that residents’ everyday needs can be reached within a short walk or cycle ride from their homes, to reduce residents’ dependency on private vehicles day-to-day. Such neighbourhoods have begun to be implemented in parts of Paris, Melbourne and Portland, USA.

The benefits of a 20-minute neighbourhood are widespread and look to improve both the environmental quality and experience of place:

  • Promotes ‘buying’ locally, supporting local economies and shop owners

  • Less reliance on private cars, reducing carbon emissions and pollution

  • More time in the community and a stronger sense of belonging, improving health and wellbeing

  • Improving access to services, reducing poverty and health inequality

Edinburgh is one of the latest cities seeking to trial this approach, in the hope that it will support Scotland’s capital in becoming net zero. This planning strategy was first introduced in the summer of 2021, with it very much aligning with Scotland's Government’s vision: having access to these everyday needs nearby making owning a private vehicle almost redundant in these urban areas.

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic in particular demonstrated the centrality of community and access to local amenities, prompting a rethink of how these spaces are both used and designed. Edinburgh’s proposal to introduce ’20 minute neighbourhoods’ is almost a reaction to this, with the aim for these local spaces to include shops, schools, leisure activities, local services (such as a GP practice), green spaces and the workplace within a more compact area. The community are an integral part of the implementation process, with consultations, surveys and workshops ongoing.

Article by Heidi Surfleet

References list:

20-Minute Neighbourhoods Creating Healthier, Active, Prosperous Communities An Introduction for Council Planners in England (no date) Town and Country Planning Association. Available at: (Accessed: February 10, 2023). 

Birt, A. (2022) The 20-minute neighbourhood-what does it mean to you?, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland. Available at: (Accessed: February 10, 2023). 

The 20-minute Neighbourhood (no date) Town and Country Planning Association. Available at: (Accessed: February 10, 2023). 

The City of Edinburgh Council (no date) 20-minute neighbourhoods, The City of Edinburgh Council. Available at:  (Accessed: February 10, 2023).


⅕ of UK greenhouse gas emissions came from road transport in 2017

Up to 36,000 deaths per year in the UK are attributed to poor air quality. This is an approach seeking to change this!

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