Walking the Walk? Planning to support the National Walking Strategy

Craig McLaren discusses the role for planners in the National Walking Strategy Action Plan


The new National Walking Strategy Action Plan has just been published.  I chair the plan’s delivery forum so I am probably biased, but I think that it is a very useful challenge to many of us to start thinking more about what we can do to support walking, including planners and other built environment professionals. The action plan planning’s role to “promote multi-use development where people live in walkable proximity to employment and retail and support for the Town Centre First principle.”  The plan also discusses game-changers that rely on planning such as climate change, transport and healthy environments.

A number of specific tasks contained in the action plan have a planning focus, including:

  • Support development and planning for NPF4 and future review of Scottish Planning Policy. Walking needs to feed through to Strategic Development plans and Local Development Plans.
  • All Town Centre Action Plans will ensure delivery of opportunities linked to walking including: Town Centre walking environment improvement plans; Town centre health checks and audits. All towns will use Masterplan Toolkit and Place Standard Toolkit.
  • Where regeneration, repair and/or re-design opportunities arise, retrofit street layouts to support environments that encourage more walking, consistent with Designing Streets principles
  • Develop guidance, monitor, engage with consultations on major developments (NPF4, SPP review), training etc relating to Place Standard
  • Ensure that planning policy at all levels mainstreams walking as an integral part of future development through the NPF4, the review of SPP, the planning review, Strategic Development Plans, Local Development plans, supplementary guidance, masterplans and charrettes
  • Promote the Place Standard as a means of encouraging developments to mainstream walking in their design
  • Encourage and support planning authorities to prioritise walking infrastructure and facilities as part of Section 75 Agreements on new developments
  • Promote the value of mainstreaming walking in new developments with investors and developers

The benefits of walking are well established. They are already supported by a wide range of organisations across Scotland.  We want to build on the progress that has already been made towards the vision where we have a Scotland where everyone walks as part of their everyday journeys, places are well designed to for walking and everyone enjoys walking in the outdoors.

The action plan is a real opportunity to champion walking and highlight its benefits to anyone who has an interest or a role to play in supporting it.  It will help to coordinate action across organisations, sectors and disciplines to ensure that activities are complementary and mutually supportive.  And it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what has been done, to measure progress and to assess the impact made. It will not be a static document, but reviewed as and when we see what is – and what isn’t – working.

The National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum has been established to take this forward.  I am delighted that we have a broad group of people who are committed to act as ‘walking champions’ and use their knowledge, ideas and networks to ensure that walking is embedded into how we think and what we do.  I want to highlight the roles that planners,  planning and the planning system can play and how it can work with others to make a difference. I’d be delighted if you want to accompany me on this journey so please feel to contact me if you want to discuss. We are wanting to make a step change in approaches to walking in Scotland.

I want planners to be at front of this group rather than having to run and catch up later.

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