To improve liveability, we need to create a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods.
The 20-minute neighbourhood concept is all about ‘living locally’—giving people the ability to meet most of their daily needs within a 20-minute return walk from home, with access to safe cycling and local transport options.
What are 20-minute neighbourhoods?
Plan Melbourne 2017–2050 is the Victorian Government’s long-term planning strategy, guiding the way the city will grow and change to 2050.
Plan Melbourne is supported by the principle of 20-minute neighbourhoods. The 20-minute neighbourhood is all about ‘living locally’—giving people the ability to meet most of their daily needs within a 20-minute return walk from home, with access to safe cycling and local transport options.
These connected and walkable places are where people can live, work and play; buy their bread and milk, work from home or local business, access services and meet their neighbours at the central gathering places.
The places we live have a direct impact on our health. By 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. While many of our established areas have some built form features for a 20-minute neighbourhood, they are not always walkable and may not offer affordable housing options.
Plan Melbourne aims to make the 20-minute neighbourhood concept a reality for every person.
Liveable communities should have access to the following features:
Hallmarks of 20-minute neighbourhoods
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.
Work undertaken in partnership with the Heart Foundation (Victoria) and across the Victorian Government identified the following hallmarks of a 20-minute neighbourhood. They must:
- be safe, accessible and well connected for pedestrians and cyclists to optimise active transport
- offer high-quality public realm and open spaces
- provide services and destinations that support local living
- facilitate access to quality public transport that connects people to jobs and higher-order services
- deliver housing/population at densities that make local services and transport viable
- facilitate thriving local economies.
The measure of 20-minute neighbourhoods (800 metre walkable catchments)
Research shows that 20-minutes is the maximum time people are willing to walk to meet their daily needs locally.1
These daily needs may include accessing local health facilities and services, schools and shopping centres. This 20-minute journey represents an 800m walk from home to a destination and back again. Or a 10 minute walk to your destination and 10 minutes back home.2
The role and function of neighbourhood activity centres
Traditionally, the focal point for neighbourhoods were its high streets and local villages. While the structure of local shopping centres has changed over time, these places are an integral part of community life and fundamental to creating a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods.
‘Neighbourhood activity centres’ is the land-use planning term used to describe these local shopping centres. Community services and infrastructure are generally co-located with these places, planned and managed by local government. Neighbourhood activity centres provide retail services and goods (newsagent, bakery, supermarket), local entertainment facilities (cafes and restaurants) and local health services and facilities to meet daily needs. 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.
Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development established the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for all 193-member states. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on countries to commence efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals over the next 10 years. The goals address the needs of people in both developed and developing countries, emphasizing that no one should be left behind. Broad and ambitious in scope, the Agenda addresses the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental, as well as important aspects related to justice and effective institutions. Encouraging community participation in the planning process and creating a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods aligns with the following Sustainable Development Goals:
1. Badland H, Whitzman C, Lowe M, Davern M, Aye L, Butterworth I, Hes, D and Giles-Corti B 2014, Urban liveability: Emerging lessons from Australia for exploring the potential for indicators to measure the social determinants of health, Social Science and Medicine, 111: 64–73.
2. Gunn LD, King TL, Mavoa S, Lamb K, Giles-Corti B, Kavanagh A. Identifying destination distances that support walking trips in local neighbourhoods. J Trans Health 2017 .
In January 2018, the Minister for Planning launched the 20-Minute Neighbourhood Pilot Program to embed a whole-of-government approach to 20-minute neighbourhoods with a focus on established neighbourhoods.
Pilot projects were delivered in:
- Strathmore by the Moonee Valley City Council
- Croydon South by the City of Maroondah; and
- Sunshine West by City of Brimbank.
The pilot program was successfully led by DELWP in partnership with the Heart Foundation (Victoria), Victoria Walks and local government.
Pilot program reports
The pilot program report was released in August 2019.
The report details the benefits of creating walkable 20-minute neighbourhoods, along with key findings and recommendations from the pilot program. Neighbourhood reports have also been developed for Croydon South, Strathmore and Sunshine West.
Pilot program reports:
- 20-minute neighbourhoods – Creating a more liveable Melbourne (PDF, 9.8 MB)
- Croydon South – Our 20-minute neighbourhood (PDF, 2.6 MB) or (DOCX, 41.1 KB)
- Strathmore – Our 20-minute neighbourhood (PDF, 3.8 MB) or (DOCX, 44.9 KB)
- Sunshine West – Our 20-minute neighbourhood (PDF, 3.4 MB) or (DOCX, 39.9 KB)
Progressing community priorities in the pilot sites
To respond to community priorities raised in the 20-minute neighbourhood pilot program, both temporary activation and longer-term transformational concept plans have been prepared for the pilot sites.
The temporary activations respond quickly to the COVID-19 recovery process through low-cost and easy-to-implement activations that support local traders and the community. They are the first step in developing the pilot sites as 20-minute-neighbourhoods and provide an opportunity to trial possible permanent interventions.
- Living Locally - Activating Croydon South (PDF, 11.2 MB)
- Living Locally - Activating Sunshine West (PDF, 9.2 MB)
- Living Locally - Activating Strathmore (PDF, 2.9 MB)
Living locally fact sheet:
- Living Locally – 20-Minute Neighbourhood Pilot Program fact sheet (PDF, 666.8 KB)
New neighbourhoods in greenfield areas face a different set of challenges than more established neighbourhoods. To better understand and respond to these challenges, in 2019 DELWP partnered with Resilient Melbourne to coordinate research projects and test the principle of 20-minute neighbourhoods in greenfield developments settings.
Research projects in greenfield areas
The final report from Resilient Melbourne released in October 2020 brings together the findings of four DELWP-funded research projects conducted by Monash University and RMIT University that looked at issues and potential pathways for achieving 20-minute neighbourhoods in greenfield developments:
- Living Locally: Creating Resilient 20-minute Neighbourhoods in Greenfield Growth Areas. (PDF, 6.7 MB)
The four research projects that the Resilient Melbourne report summarises were undertaken by RMIT University and Monash University and include:
- Beveridge North-West report, reviewing key literature, precinct structure planning and 20-minute neighbourhoods in growth areas.
- Mambourin report, recommended strategies to stage community infrastructure delivery in growth areas through temporary activation and land-use.
- Economic benefits report, identifying and valuing the economic benefits of 20-minute neighbourhoods.
- Assessment of the retail model in greenfield development settings, identifying the social and health impacts of the form of shopping centres in new suburbs.
The following research reports are available via the links below:
- Economic benefits of 20-minute neighbourhoods (PDF, 14.6 MB)
- Assessment of retail model in greenfield development settings (PDF, 6.2 MB)
- Mambourin Report - Staging Community Infrastructure (PDF, 9.2 MB)
- Beveridge North West - A review of key literature: Precinct structure planning and 20-minute neighbourhoods in greenfield areas (PDF, 3.3 MB)
- Beveridge North West – Scenario modelling 20-minute neighbourhoods in greenfield areas (PDF, 5.0 MB)
The research supported the review of the Precinct Structure Plan Guidelines in 2020. These revised guidelines to be released in 2021 will embed the delivery of 20-minute neighbourhoods in planning, particularly in greenfield neighbourhoods.
The case for 20-minute neighbourhoods
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 costs1.
There is overwhelming evidence that active, walkable places produce a wealth of health, social, economic and environmental benefits.
1. Badawi, Y, Maclean, F, and Mason, B, (2018). The economic case for investment in walking, Victoria Walks, Melbourne
The following resources provide more information to help urban designers, planners, engineers and other place-making professionals who are seeking to create a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods.
The Heart Foundation Healthy Active by Design guidelines provides tools and case studies to support the development of healthy neighbourhoods that promote walking, cycling and active public life. The Heart Foundation seeks to improve the built environment to support people to be healthy and more active in places they live, study, work and play. The resources are updated by collaborators at the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities.
Victoria Walks provides an online information toolkit that professionals can use to promote walking and to enable more walkable environments. Victoria Walks also undertakes research projects that support investing in walking. In November 2018, Victoria Walks released the Economic Case for Investment in Walking in collaboration with ARUP. A 2019 report on Walking and transport in Melbourne suburbs, focused on the role of walking and access to suburban shopping centres, which highlighted how walking is a fundamental part of the transport system.
Resilient Melbourne provides resources and case-study projects on the benefit of participatory design and how to create cohesive communities.
Urban Liveability Checklist
RMIT has developed the Urban Liveability Checklist which comprises a set of validated built environment indicators that promote health and wellbeing. The checklist has been designed as a short and simple tool for urban planners to apply in established or proposed urban areas, to assess liveability and the potential to improve health and wellbeing.
Student resource and design competition
To promote the 20-Minute neighbourhood concept and to strengthen youth participation in the planning of our city, DELWP has partnered with the Geography Teachers' Association of Victoria to develop a student resource and design challenge.
The student resource is available across Victoria and aligns the liveability and place curriculum with the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods. The resource encourages students to develop ideas and re-imagine their own 20-minute neighbourhood. To find out more, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please email email@example.com if you have any questions or need further information.
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 (PDF, 3.4 MB) (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-miniute 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.
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Page last updated: 23/03/21