Living local: rural pilot launched

Man with beard and glasses beside woman with long blonde hair, both in outdoors clothing

Could 20-minute neighbourhoods, where people can meet their daily needs within a short walk from their home, be the answer to Scotland’s net zero ambitions? Locals living in villages east of Loch Lomond are about to find out.

Charity Forth Environment Link has received funding from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority’s Green Recovery Fund to pilot the ‘living locally’ concept in a range of rural communities, from Drymen to Balmaha – with a view to rolling it out to other areas of the National Park.

Project Coordinator, Stuart Guzinski from Forth Environment Link said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been terrible, but it has had some unexpected benefits. With many of us staying closer to home, we’ve connected with our neighbours, re-discovered local green spaces, shops and services, and won back time from the daily commute to work. The 20-minute neighbourhood concept is a great way to capture those positives and improve the places where we live, work and play - making them better for people and planet.”

The concept of living locally is gaining momentum across the globe as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and enhance our sense of place; with town and cities across the world from Barcelona to Melbourne, using 20-minute neighbourhoods to shape urban planning.

The National Park pilot will seek to replicate their success in a rural context, as Stuart explained: “The pilot will give locals the opportunity to shape the future of their villages, so that they can meet more of their daily needs locally and live more sustainably. The potential benefits for the local economy, health and wellbeing and climate are immense.

“Villages like Drymen already have many of features of a 20-minute neighbourhood, but with some innovative thinking from the community we believe people will be able to get more of what they need within a short walk from their doorstep.”

The pilot will build on work by Drymen Community Council and Drymen Community Development Trust.

Paul Saunders, Chair of the Trust said: ‘We are very pleased that Forth Environment Link have chosen Drymen to conduct their 20-minute neighbourhood pilot. The results from their consultation with residents will help us to develop a new Community Place Plan, allowing us to work on delivering the actions that result from the study.”

Andrew Richardson, Secretary of the Drymen Community Council added: “The 20-Minute Neighbourhood project will allow our community to identify ways in which we can collectively reduce our impact upon the environment, whilst supporting the local economy for the benefit of our whole community.”

The 20-minute neighbourhood project is funded by the National Park’s Green Recovery Grant Scheme. Stuart Mearns, Director of Place at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “Empowering communities to take action at a local level is crucial not only to tackling the climate emergency, but also to enabling local people to explore and deliver the change they want for their local areas.

“Our Green Recovery Fund enables us to support local communities to recover from the pandemic in a sustainable way and the 20-minute neighbourhood pilot around Drymen is an excellent example. There are significant benefits to be realised if people can meet the majority of their daily needs locally, including improved quality of life, support for local businesses and helping to respond to the climate emergency.

“We look forward to using the shared learning and innovative approaches that will be developed with this pilot project to support communities across the National Park as they develop their Local Place Plans.”

To kickstart conversations about what a 20-minute Neighbourhood might look like and give local people of all ages the chance to shape and influence local decision making, Forth Environment Link will be hosting a series of fun and sociable events from walk and talks and cycle rides, to community pot dinners and school visits in December and January. 

Pictured are Stuart Guzinski and Jules Ryan of Forth Environment Link. For further information, contact Stuart Guzinski.