Residents in Scotland will soon be driving less and walking more as the country’s planning system has been reformed to create “20-minute neighborhoods,” The Big Issue reports.
According to the Scottish government’s Transforming Planning website, the Scottish Parliament recently approved National Planning Framework 4. NPF4 is a plan to create neighborhoods where the services and facilities residents use most often, like grocery stores, will be located within a 20-minute walk or bike ride from each home.
To achieve this, the planning system will prioritize bike lanes and public transportation, while making it more difficult to get approval to build businesses that require cars. The Big Issue says these businesses, including drive-throughs and large shopping centers, will need to demonstrate that they don’t “negatively impact on the principles of local living or sustainable travel,” according to the planning ministers.
NPF4 also favors renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms.
For residents of Scotland, this could lead to major lifestyle changes. In a neighborhood where all major services are easily reachable by foot, there’ll be less need for cars. This means cleaner, quieter streets with less traffic.
Residents who live and work in the neighborhood may even eliminate their daily commute — which, as climate activist Laura Young points out, means more time for “family and friends, exercise, and hobbies.”
At the same time, less driving means less fuel burned — a crucial step in reducing the amount of heat-trapping gases the country produces.
“Transport is Scotland’s biggest source of climate emissions,” says Gavin Thomson, a transport campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland. “Taking action on climate change has to mean taking action to change the ways we travel.”
The Big Issue reports that the Scottish government has committed to cutting car travel by 20% in the next seven years, and 20-minute neighborhoods are key to making that happen.
“Our planning system has had a ‘car is king’ fixation for far too long,” Thompson says, “and these new measures from the Scottish government hopefully signal an end to that.”