Hallmarks of 20-minute neighbourhoods

To establish the features of a 20-minute neighbourhood as policy, the state government developed criteria to demonstrate ‘hallmarks’ of a 20-minute neighbourhood.

The ‘hallmarks’ are established in Plan Melbourne Direction 5 — Create a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods. They provide outcome measures that are an integrating framework to support delivery of more inclusive, vibrant and healthy neighbourhoods.

In 2018, The Heart Foundation (Victoria) and the Victorian Government worked together to identify the 20-minute neighbourhood hallmarks.

They must:

1 be safe, accessible and well connected for pedestrians and cyclists to optimise active transport. 2 high-quality public realm and open spaces. 3 provide services and destinations that support local living. 4 facilitate access to quality public transport that connects people to jobs and higher-order services. 5 deliver housing/population at densities that make local services and transport viable. 6 facilitate thriving local economies

Liveability, health and the link to 20-minute neighbourhoods

Creating well-designed walkable neighbourhoods that are connected through a mix of land-uses, housing types and access to quality public transport, we can create more healthy, liveable communities. Liveable communities should have access to the following features:

Why focus on the neighbourhood scale?

Neighbourhoods are the places where we live, spend time with our family and friends, and connect with our community. These places are critical in supporting community health and wellbeing. Building pedestrian friendly neighbourhoods will help create a sustainable transport system by enabling short trips to be made walking.

“20-minute neighbourhoods can improve the quality of life for residents, who can live nearby public transport, shops, work and services”  - Professor Carl Grodach, Monash University

If 50% of short private vehicle trips were instead made walking, it would save the Victorian economy approximately $165 million a year in congestion, health, infrastructure and environmental costs.

There is overwhelming evidence that active, walkable places produce a wealth of health, social, economic and environmental benefits.

Health, social, economic and environmental benefits




How do we measure them?

The 800metre value is to be used as a guide only and offers a standard comparison measure that approximates the distance covered in a 20-minute return walk for the average person

Research shows that 20-minutes is the maximum time people are willing to walk to meet their daily needs locally.

These daily needs may include:

  • local health facilities and services
  • schools
  • supermarkets.

This 20-minute journey represents an 800 metre walk from home to a destination and back again or a 10-minute walk to your destination and 10 minutes back home.

Different people will be able to walk a variety of distances and durations to meet their daily living needs. These measurements underpin our work to deliver inclusive, vibrant and healthy neighbourhoods. This reflects the intention of Outcome 5 of Plan Melbourne 2017-2050.

Note: The 800metre value is to be used as a guide only and offers a standard comparison measure that approximates the distance covered in a 20-minute return walk for the average person.

Victorian government policies that embed 20-minute neighbourhoods hallmarks

The Creating a More Liveable Melbourne report recommended that the 20-minute neighbourhood concept be adopted as whole-of-Victorian government policy when planning for Metropolitan Melbourne.

There are many state government departments and related entities that have achieved this in one or more areas.

The table below provides an indication of the coverage of the policy’s incorporation to date, highlighting the 20-minute neighbourhood hallmarks (1-6 as above) the policy addresses.

DELWPPlan Melbourne 2017-2050
Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria     
Living Locally: Creating Resilient 20-minute neighbourhoods in Greenfield Growth Areas 
Land Use Framework Plans
Creating a more liveable Melbourne     
Victorian Open Space strategy     
Trees for Cooler and Greener Streetscapes 2019    
DELWP/RMITIdentifying and valuing the economic benefits of 20-minute neighbourhoods     
VPAPSP Guidelines 2.0
DJPRVictorian Cycling Strategy 2018-28     
Active Victoria Refresh 2021    
DHHSPublic Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019-2023  
Health Planning and Development Guidelines    
State-wide design, service and infrastructure plan for Victoria’s health system    
DFFH10-year strategy for social and affordable housing     
Victorian GovernmentSkills for Victoria's Growing Economy    
DoTPublic Transport Guidelines for Land Use and Development     
Movement and Place Framework     
Suburban Rail LoopSRL Urban Design Strategy
Infrastructure VictoriaVictoria's Infrastructure Strategy 2021-2051   

Plan Melbourne update (Addendum) 2019

An update to Plan Melbourne was approved and released in January 2020. This update (or Addendum) has now been introduced into planning schemes through amendment VC168.

The Plan Melbourne 2017-2050: Addendum 2019 (the Addendum) was prepared to update growth projections for Melbourne and identify proposed major infrastructure projects including the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL).

The Addendum also seeks to embed an approach to 20-minute neighbourhoods in major infrastructure projects.

What does this mean for 20-minute neighbourhoods?

Work has already been undertaken by the State Government to test delivery of 20-minute neighbourhoods. This highlighted the importance of developing partnerships with the community, bringing them along on the journey and empowering them to influence the direction of the work.

This work also found that a ‘place based’ approach to planning is effective. This involves bringing together stakeholders to think about the place or neighbourhood under a clear framework and coming to an agreed solution. This contrasts with individual and sometimes competing infrastructure and planning projects delivered in isolation.

It is important that neighbourhood and other centres within the catchment of new stations benefit from investment and growth, through placed based planning of local services, infrastructure and destinations.

This is particularly important for communities where there are (or there intends to be) higher concentrations of people, ensuring they are well connected to the stations and directly benefit from the significant investment being made.

These considerations are to be taken into account in the planning and delivery of the precincts around the new train stations.

Why are Neighbourhood Activity Centres important?

The role and function of Neighbourhood Activity Centres (NACs)

Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 uses the land-use terms Metropolitan and Major Activity Centres for our larger commercial and retail centres. The development of these centres is guided by state government policy and significant resources are spent on their planning and development.

Neighbourhood Activity Centres (NACs) is the land-use term used to describe smaller, local centres. They are usually planned and managed by the local government.

Why does the 20-minute neighbourhood program currently focus on NACs?

In the past, both state and local governments have concentrated support on the larger centres, as they served the largest populations. They often have a concentration of services, uses and activities that attract people beyond the immediate walkable catchment. The smaller neighbourhood and local centres usually service local residents and provide a variety of daily living needs. These include;

  • retail services and goods (newsagent, bakery, supermarket),
  • local entertainment facilities (cafes and restaurants) and
  • local health services and facilities.

For a healthy, walkable Neighbourhood Activity Centre to survive and thrive in order to enable people to ‘Live Locally’ they need enough people living within the walkable catchment to support them.

What is the network of 20-minute neighbourhoods? And why is it important?

There are hundreds of Neighbourhood Activity Centres (NACs) scattered throughout Melbourne. While individually these places may only serve a local community’s needs, the network of these places across the city plays a significant role in creating a sustainable, equitable, and accessible city. Revitalising and enabling Neighbourhood Activity Centres to accommodate the necessary supporting populations is key to ‘creating a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods’. This is a long-term aspirational city shaping ambition which will evolve over time.

Sustainable development goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on countries to begin efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals within the next ten years. The goals address the needs of people in both developed and developing countries, emphasizing that no one should be left behind. Creating a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods aligns with Sustainable Development Goals:

  • 3 - Good helath and well-being
  • 10 -  Reduced  Inequalities
  • 11 - Sustainable cities and communities
  • 16 -  Peace Justice and strong institutions
  • 17 - Partnerships for the goals

3 - Good helath and well-being10 -  Reduced  Inequalities11 - Sustainable cities and communities16 -  Peace Justice and strong institutions17 - Partnerships for the goals

Page last updated: 15/11/22