Defining Adequate POS Provision
There are many other factors to be considered in addition to the total amount of land to be provided as public open space within a given area. These include (but are not limited to) size, function, location and access and the relationship between these factors and the population they are to serve. To address this, State and Local Governments may specify standards for certain aspects of open space provision through town planning regulation and/or policy.
Standards will vary according to the urban typography, nature of the POS and intended users. They will also vary according to the physical and social environment. Standards generally relate to:
- Quantity standards – area of POS per head of population;
- Quality standards – a description of the required design and management standard including those relating to accessibility, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) principles etc.; and
- Accessibility standards- distance thresholds that take into consideration and physical barriers to movement and the location of entrances to POS.
Based on the recommendations of the Plan for the Metropolitan Region Perth and Fremantle, 1955 Report (the Stephenson-Hepburn Plan), the Western Australian Planning Commission’s (WAPC) operational policy known as Development Control Policy 2.3 – Public Open Space in Residential Areas (DC 2.3) generally requires 10 percent of the gross subdivisible area of a conditional subdivision to be given up free of cost by the subdivider for public open space and vested in the Crown as a Reserve for Recreation (in accordance with S. 152 of the P&D Act). (This standard is also iterated within LN 1 and LN 2).
The following documents can assist in the development of clear definition of the POS required and expected by the local government in terms of quality, function, facilities etc.:
In March 2014, the Department of Sport and Recreation and the Department of Water released the Public Parkland Planning and Design Guide which was based on the classification framework for public open space. This publication also received input and funding assistance from the WAPC.
These guidelines consider challenges and opportunities unique to WA and offer good practice planning and design principles and case studies to assist in the creation and care of parkland assets.
The guide provides information on water sensitive urban designed communities that match water use to levels of activity, including the environmental benefits that parklands provide.
Classification framework for public open space
In November 2012, the Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR) published a Classification framework for open space which was developed through extensive consultation within the Department of Planning, Local Government and professional industry groups.
The purpose of the framework is to define terminology that can be universally used to describe public open space and contains two central categories:
- Function (primary use and expected activities) identifies three primary types of open spaces – recreation, sport and nature spaces; and
- Catchment hierarchy (typical size and how far a user might travel to visit the site) includes four categories – local open space (0.4 to 1 hectares within 400 metres or 5 minute walk), neighbourhood open space (1 to 5 hectares within 800 metres or 10 minute walk), district open space (5 to 15+ hectares within 2 kilometres metres or 5 minute drive), and regional open space (size variable dependant on function serves more than one geographical or social regions users likely to use private or public transport to access).
In terms of function, the classification framework outlines the purpose and description of the three primary types of open spaces. It also outlines the purpose and function of each of the four open space catchment hierarchies, together with the activities that may be included within each.
The draft Liveable Neighbourhoods operational policy (currently being advertised for public comment) adopts the DSR’s classification framework completely and the work around the strategic Assessment for Perth and Perth also uses the framework’s terminology.
Healthy Active by Design
The Heart Foundation (in collaboration with the Departments of Education, Health, Planning, Sport and Recreation and Transport and sponsored by Landcorp) established the Healthy Active by Design project to develop a guide and website that links planning and health to support physical activity.
This guide is intended to assist planners, urban designers and developers to create active and healthy spaces and places by informing on the design of communities to support and promote healthy and active living.
Healthy Active by Design is based on nine key design features including: public open space, shared facilities, buildings, town centre/main street, schools, movement network, mixed use, housing diversity and sense of place.
Evidence, relevant case studies, checklist, examples and related policies are provided for the public open element (together with the other elements).
As previously discussed, one of the most critical considerations in planning for public open space is to ensure the adequate provision of active open space together with additional land for supporting infrastructure.
Emerging Constraints for Public Open Space in Perth Metropolitan Suburbs (2011) and Active Open Space (playing fields) in a growing Perth-Peel (2013), summary reports produced for the Department of Sport and Recreation WA, by the Curtin Centre of Sport and Recreation Research based on research by Middle, G., Tye, M., and Middle, I. A. suggest general measurements to assist with assessing and planning for adequate active space provision.
The studies found that delivering some planning policies (Bush Forever, Water Sensitive Urban Design and Liveable Neighbourhoods) has resulted in an unintended consequence, a reduction of the amount of open space to accommodate organised sport, and that it is highly certain that new suburbs in each of the fringe growth sub-regions of Perth already have a shortage of playing fields.
It is thought that there may be a shortfall of open space for active sport of approximately 495 hectares by 2031 and without a change in relevant planning policies and State Government provision of additional regional open space, this shortage will exacerbate.
Referred to as the “Curtin Guidelines”, the following is offered:
- For new suburbs where the density of development is typical for Perth’s suburbs 1.4% of the subdividable area should be set aside as active open space.
- For infill developments and greenfield developments that are much denser than typical, 6.5m2 of active open space per resident should be set aside as active open space.
This is a guide to planners, and not a fixed criterion setting aside around 7m2 per resident as active open space would be adequate. By extension, anything significantly less than this figure would seem inadequate and serious consideration needs to be given to providing additional active open space.
For those inner suburbs undergoing infill, many of which are likely to have ROS already supplementing the active POS, then the data on area of active open space per resident is likely to be a more relevant consideration because of the likely density difference.
As a guide to planners, and not a fixed criterion, setting aside around 1.4% of the residential part of new suburbs as active open space is likely to be adequate. By extension, anything significantly less than this 1.4% would seem inadequate and serious consideration needs to be given to providing additional active open space through either ROS or through a reduction in other forms of open space, for example, passive open space.
The studies go to great lengths to stress that these two metrics should not be seen as design criteria, but as guides in planning for the future. The figure of 1.4% of the suburb for active open space, or the figure of 7m2 per resident, are not recommended to be used as the standards for the provision of active open space.
Examples for consideration
Whilst it is helpful to look to other jurisdictions for guidance in regard to developing such standards, it is important to acknowledge that any standards adopted are suitable and applicable to the unique situation of each individual Local Government, and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate. For example, the needs of an inner city Local Government are very different to those of a large outer city Local Government, which in turn is different to a regional Local Government.
In addition to differences in standards between Local Governments, there may be a need to define what may be considered to be open space particularly in a situation where land is already well developed and retrofitting is required. This is an increasingly important consideration especially for those Local Governments within the inner and central sub regions of the Perth metropolitan region.
LN 2015 proposes to provide greater guidance and direction for public open space provision, particularly in a strategic sense; however it must be acknowledged that whilst this will be most helpful in greenfield development situations, it is less helpful for brownfield development situations.
A number of selected public open space standards from Local Government and State jurisdictions within Eastern Australia were compared with standards in LN1 and Draft LN 2015.
A number of common features generally emerged for all examples, including:
- existence of an open space hierarchy;
- a specified resident catchment, accessibility or demand by population size;
- size requirements;
- description /function of open space categories.
Examples of POS requirements used by Western Australian Local Governments: