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Towards creating a strategy for 20-minute neighbourhoods


So you want to implement a 20-minute neighbourhood strategy in your town or city – what next? This blog outlines the key requirements of a 20-minute neighbourhood before covering practical actions councils can take to formulate a strategy and start making changes.

A brief overview of 20-minute neighbourhoods

20-minute neighbourhoods, sometimes referred to as ‘15-minute cities’ or similar, have steadily gained popularity in the field of urban planning. The emphasis on an equal spread of easy access to key services across neighbourhoods is a contrast to the widely dominant layout of cities whereby residential areas are separated from economic activity.

The core principles of the 20-minute neighbourhood:

  • Every neighbourhood has access to essential services and retail – with emphasis on fresh food and healthcare – within a 20-minute walk or cycle.
  • Every neighbourhood has varied housing types, levels of affordability, and availability such that people can live nearby where they work.
  • As retail, offices, co-working spaces and hospitality are spread throughout areas, people can work close to home and/or work from home.
  • High environmental quality; availability of green spaces and clean air.

As outlined in our more in-depth briefing on Melbourne’s 20-minute neighbourhood strategy, Melbourne identified the following features as central to their vision for Plan Melbourne.

Source: Victoria State Government

Say I want to implement 20-minute neighbourhoods. What next?

If your local authority is on board with creating a 15-minute city, and you have a vision for it, where do you start?

Gathering neighbourhood-level geospatial data to identify gaps in infrastructure and services is a crucial first step. Alongside available data on amenities, groceries, green space and basic demographics, input from residents and businesses should be sought to gain a full picture of what the city does and does not offer at neighbourhood level – and what they’d like to see prioritised – creating a participatory process. The Inclusive Community Engagement Playbook by C40 Cities offers a detailed guide to delivering community engagement in an inclusive way.

Using the information gathered and potentially making use of mapping technologies, you can begin to identify which neighbourhoods already meet the criteria, and which are far from it. From here, drawing up a concrete strategy becomes possible – but be sure to focus on lower income neighbourhoods or areas lacking key services first. The strategy will need to comprehensively include plans for most major policy areas – e.g. transport, housing, local economic development – all working in tandem with each other. For local governments, this is likely to mean the vision must be shared and implemented across multiple departments in order to be effective.

C40 Cities provide some useful actions that town and city planners can take to work toward a 20-minute neighbourhood strategy:

1. Improve walking and cycling infrastructure, including by reallocating street space to pedestrians and cyclists.

2. Create complete neighbourhoods by decentralising core services and developing a social and functional mix.

  • Ensure that shops selling fresh food are present in all neighbourhoods
  • Update the city’s plans and zoning to ensure that they require critical public services, infrastructure and green space to be accessible to all residents at neighbourhood level.
  • Promote affordable housing in each neighbourhood.

3. Implement planning measures to help complete neighbourhoods to thrive.

  • Promote active ground floors and bustling streets.
  • Encourage the flexible use of buildings and public space.

4. Encourage teleworking and service digitalisation to limit the need for travel.

  • Increasing the digital offering of service and leading by example.
  • Increasing the provision of widespread wi-fi and high-speed internet
  • Promoting neighbourhood co-working spaces

For more information on 20-minute neighbourhoods with global case studies, read our comprehensive briefing.

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