WRITING in this week's Councillor Column, Cllr Richard Trail (SNP, Helensburgh and Lomond South) discusses the idea of a '20-minute neighbourhood' and what it would look like in Helensburgh.

* * * * * * * * * *

A new buzz word, or perhaps buzz phrase, has crept into the planning lexicon.

The “20 minute neighbourhood” was new to me, though a little research showed it has been around for a few years.

The concept is easy to grasp. It is like a Butlins Holiday Camp, or the modern successor, Center Parcs. All the facilities that you need for a family holiday are within easy reach and kids are free to roam safely without any cars.

Melbourne and Paris are both experimenting with the concept of creating neighbourhoods which encourage active travel. The “20 minute neighbourhood” considers the convenient walking distance to half a mile.

READ MORE: Opinion: Helensburgh Clock Tower coffee shop plan can only be good news

The car has encouraged concentration of shops into large retail parks which could be easily reached by car. The new concept is a push back to having more facilities close at hand.

What would it look like in Helensburgh? The town is small enough in physical size and has a large enough population to support shops, offices, and recreational facilities.

The actual town centre is offset from the centre of the built-up area, which takes the walking distance from the housing on the edge of the town to more than a mile.

So cycling would need to be encouraged. The streets are wide enough for cycle lanes to be created by reducing the width of the carriageways.

Many years ago, local shops would have a retractable canvas canopy that they would pull out and shield the window display from the heat of the sun.

READ MORE: Opinion: Ruth Wishart on what Covid-19 has taught us

The modern equivalent would be a permanent glass canopy over the pavements to give protection from the rain. That is done successfully in some Scottish towns, and is well worth considering here.

Meanwhile, after many years of austerity, Argyll and Bute Council has received a higher than expected allocation from the Scottish Government towards the cost of running vital public services in the area.

As you may imagine, the council has experienced a considerable loss of income last year, and has run up significant extra and unforeseen expenses as a result of the public health emergency.

It is welcome that this additional funding will repair some of the damage that has been done by the forced cut backs over the past years.

There will, of course, be a bill to pay when the Chancellor presents his reckoning for the largesse that he has shown over the past 12 months. This may be just a short-term reprieve.

Read more local news and views here