Craig McLaren, Chair of the National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum, outlines how planning can help to support ambitions to increase walking
Let’s Get Scotland Walking – The National Walking Strategy (NWS) was published in 2014 and is a key step in the delivery of the National Physical Activity Implementation Plan (NPAIP): Building a Legacy from the Commonwealth Games. The National Walking Strategy sits within the context of the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework which describes the key outcomes desired for sport and physical activity in Scotland over the next ten years, National Planning Framework 3 and the Long-term Vision for Active Travel in Scotland 2030.
The strategy’s vision is for “a Scotland where everyone benefits from walking as part of their everyday journeys, enjoys walking in the outdoors and where places are well designed to encourage walking.” The ability to achieve this will rely upon the collective efforts of a wide range of stakeholders. Perhaps none more so than the planning profession.
We aim to build on the progress that has already been made towards the vision through the NWS Action Plan. This aims to do three things. Firstly, it champions walking and highlights its benefits to anyone who has an interest or a role to play in supporting it. Secondly, it coordinates action across organisations, sectors and disciplines to ensure that activities are complementary and mutually supportive. And thirdly, the action plan 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 action plan outlines some key game-changers. One of these is the role that planning can play in promoting multi-use development where people live in walkable proximity to employment and retail and through supporting the Town Centre First Principle. Planning is highlighted further in a strategic theme of the Action Plan which is to “achieve better quality walking environments with attractive, well designed and managed built and natural spaces and places for everyone”. Specific actions where planners can contribute are also contained in the action plan. They include:
- Prioritise and support good quality walking environments, including green infrastructure, through planning and development (land use, transport, housing etc.) at national and local authority levels in both urban and rural areas
- Ensure all households in Scotland’s urban areas are no more than 5 minutes’ walk from promoted, publicly accessible and attractive greenspace, parks or local path networks
- Ensure all future planning policies / developments prioritise walking
- Ensure designs for public and private developments deliver secure connectivity within communities for pedestrians
- Develop the capacity of locally based organisations, including community planning partnerships, to identify the scope for large and small improvements to the walking environment
- Ensure all local authorities, national park authorities and other land managers adopt the Path Grading System across Scotland
This means we will need to make best use of the National Planning Framework, Scottish Planning Policy, development plans and our development management processes to mainstream infrastructure and the right environments to encourage walking. This may be challenging but it gives us the opportunity to reinforce the role planners, planning and the planning system have in creating high quality, liveable and healthy places for people.