The publication of consistent terminology for public open space is incredibly important. Our ever-expanding communities require open space for sport and recreation at a time in our history when population and living pressures are increasing. In Western
Australia we have always taken the abundance of space for granted. Now, more than ever, careful planning of our playing fields and parks is required to ensure citizens are active and able to enjoy a quality mix of structured and natural environments.
This planning must be undertaken across sectors, with all players sharing a common understanding of both open space function and terminology.
This framework is designed to achieve that consistency and reduce confusion. It is the result of hard work by many people across different agencies and disciplines. I commend both the body of work and the people involved. The challenge now is to not only
continue to provide for our existing population, but to ensure a legacy of public open space for generations to come.
Ron AlexanderDirector GeneralDepartment of Sport and RecreationNovember 2012
Public open space (POS) can increase aesthetic appeal, amenity and value of a neighbourhood, suburb or regional area. Aside from providing places to play, be active or relax, public open spaces afford many benefits. Environmental benefits can be gained
through protecting local biodiversity and visual landscapes, retaining ecological systems and linkages, and management of urban water. Social benefits can be gained through community interaction and activation of places for formal and informal
sport and recreation. Cultural benefits can be gained through recognition and interpretation of Indigenous and historic values. Economic benefits can be gained through provision of services supporting visitation for sport, recreation and tourism.
This peer-reviewed cross-industry classification framework for describing POS was prepared by the Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR). The development of the framework involved extensive consultation with stakeholders in both
local and state government and is designed for use by professionals involved in public open space planning, design and management.
It is intended that the classification framework will:
Within this document, POS refers to urban green spaces: parklands, play areas, playing fields, bushland, greenways and other similar spaces people use for recreation, sport and social interaction.
Public open space (POS) is generally described as land set aside for the purpose of public enjoyment and protection of unique, environmental, social and cultural values for existing and future generations. Allocation of open spaces is most often
determined by a local or state government authority through urban development processes. Since 1955, Western Australian planning policy and guidelines have determined how much land must be ceded for POS within new residential developments.
Under current WA Department of Planning LNG, the hierarchy of POS includes local, neighbourhood, district, and regional open space, special purpose park, playing field or community purpose site. Descriptive guidelines in LNG include relatively
little discussion regarding the need to consider diversity of open space function within neighbourhood planning. In addition, the application of LNG has resulted in an imbalance in favour of smaller open spaces and those of an appropriate
size to accommodate organised sport.
Current practice in many local government authorities also defines POS in hierarchical terms, with criteria most often relating to size. When purpose or function is considered, "active" is used to describe areas designed and maintained for structured,
organised sport, with "passive" used to describe areas designed and managed for recreation and more informal activity. It is also recognised that categories of open space area can be nested within one another. For example, an open space categorised
as district because of size, infrastructure or use, may also act as local or neighbourhood open space for nearby residents if designed appropriately.
Provision of good quality POS involves shared professional understanding of key aspects of open space allocation and design. Planning and management of POS involves professionals in urban planning and design, community development, health and
fitness, engineering, landscaping and horticulture.
Research commissioned by Parks and Leisure Australia WA Region (PLA WA) and DSR in 2010 identified increasing concerns about the lack of clear and consistent terminology and descriptions that enabled comparable classification and shared understandings
of POS. While many of the same terms were commonly used (particularly active or passive, local, neighbourhood, district and regional open space), there was confusion regarding how each was defined and interpreted by professionals in different
disciplines. The development of cross-industry accepted terminology to describe fundamental form and function of different types of POS is a critical step in reducing confusion.
The primary purpose of this framework is to define terminology that can be universally used to describe POS. Agreed understanding of what constitutes different types of open space form and function is considered essential to developing well designed,
community-focused open space networks.
The framework classifies open spaces where community access is encouraged and explicitly managed. While it is acknowledged that substantial recreation activities occur in other areas of publicly accessible space, the framework is not intended
to apply to areas where the primary purpose or function is identified as:
Further, it is not intended that the descriptions contained in this framework be interpreted as a set of prescriptive standards for POS design or for the provision of infrastructure such as car parking or community buildings. Specific guidelines
for design and infrastructure provision will depend on local needs and are most appropriately articulated by the relevant local government authority (LGA) within their own suite of policies.
This open space classification framework was developed through extensive consultation within the WA Department of Planning, local government, and professional industry groups. In the first stage, a representative reference group was formed to
inform and guide the development of the draft framework. A cross-discipline workshop hosted by Parks and Leisure Australia considered the framework from the varying perspectives, with feedback assisting further refinement. A draft was distributed
for state-wide comment in 2011 and generated 38 submissions on behalf of 40 organisations, including state government, local government, private consultancy, peak bodies and community groups. The framework presented here is the result of an
extensive review of comments, questions and recommendations contained in those responses.
This framework contains two central categories - function and catchment hierarchy:Function (primary use and expected activities) identifies three primary types of open spaces:
Catchment hierarchy (typical size and how far a user might travel to visit the site) includes four categories:
Descriptions of these different types of POS include commonly observed functions and features and are not intended to be interpreted as prescriptive planning or design standards. Schematic layouts are indicative only and are provided as simple
examples of how a local, neighbourhood, district or regional open space might look. Typical size range provided within catchment descriptions is intended only as a guide, not an expected standard.
It is not assumed that descriptions of open spaces contained in this framework will match all circumstances. Categories and descriptions may need to be expanded or adapted within local policies to enable inclusion of specific sites, recognition
of local characteristics or variation in application due to contextual setting, eg inner urban residential, peri-urban greenfield development or within regional cities or townships.
Table 1 describes the function of recreation, sport and nature space.
Tables 2-5 describes the catchment for local, neighbourhood, district and regional open space. Descriptors include purpose and function, access, typical size, desirable location and design components, and activity opportunities.
Recreation spaces enhance physical and mental health through activity that provides relaxation, amusement or stimulation.
Recreation spaces can be accessed by all to play, socialise, exercise, celebrate or participate in other activities that provide personal satisfaction or intrinsic reward.
Recreation spaces include gardens and open parklands, community gardens, corridor links, amenity spaces, community use facilities, civic commons or squares.
Sport spaces provide a venue for formal structured sporting activities such as team competitions, physical skill development and training.
Sport spaces are designed to accommodate playing surface, buffer zones and infrastructure requirements of specific or general sporting activity.
Players and spectators attend with the express purpose of engaging in organised sporting activity, training or competition or watching the game.
Most sport spaces can also be accessed by community members for informal sport and recreation.
Nature spaces provide opportunity for low-impact recreational activities, such as walking, cycling, picnicking, playing, watching or exploring natural features.
Nature spaces may include bushland, coastal areas, wetlands and riparian habitats, and geological and natural features. Sites are managed to enable recreational access while protecting local ecological and biodiversity values.
Local open space (LOS) is usually small parklands that service the recreation needs of the immediate residential population.
LOS is primarily used for recreation and may include small areas of nature space.
LOS is unlikely to be used for any formal or informal sport.
LOS activities may include:
** Small open spaces can provide numerous community benefits, particularly within an inner urban context. The inclusion of small parks (less than 0.4ha) in greenfield residential developments is not generally considered optimal unless purposeful
function can be demonstrated.
Figure 1 Example of local open space
Neighbourhood open space (NOS) serves as the recreational and social focus of
a community. Residents are attracted by the variety of features and facilities and
opportunities to socialise.
NOS can assist to engender sense of place and protect specific conservation values
through retention of nature spaces.
NOS may be used for junior sport or sports training if appropriate space is
NOS may also:
NOS may include a combination of open parkland and bushland with activity
spaces for casual play.
NOS may include sport facilities, depending on ability to accommodate desirable
field dimensions and necessary supporting amenity.
Figure 2 Example of neighbourhood open space
District open space (DOS) is principally designed to provide for organised formal
DOS will very likely include substantial recreation space and some nature space.
DOS design and function should consider biodiversity principles and environmental
DOS serves several neighbourhoods with players and visitors travelling from
Within 2 kilometre or 5 minute drive.
In regional WA, DOS may provide sporting facilities for the wider district and
DOS may also:
Figure 3 Example of district open space
Regional open space (ROS) may accommodate important recreation and
organised sport spaces as well as significant conservation and/or environmental
ROS may provide substantial facilities for organised sport, play, social interaction,
relaxation and enjoyment of nature.
ROS can assist to protect biodiversity conservation and environmental values
through retention of bushland, wetlands and other natural features.
ROS serves one or more geographical or social regions and is likely to attract
visitors from outside any one local government area.
Users not living within close proximity will use either private vehicles or public
Size is variable and dependant on function.
When sporting space is identified as a necessary regional function, allocations for
playing fields and sports facilities should be 20+ha in area.
ROS should be large enough to accommodate various concurrent uses, including
organised sports, children’s play, picnicking, bush walking, and protection of
Carter, M.E. (2010). Public open space planning in Western Australia: Key issues relating to policy, design and management. Perth, WA: Parks and Leisure Australia (WA Region).
Curtis, B. (2010). Industry accepted terminology for open space. Perth, WA: Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation.
The Department of Sport and Recreation acknowledges Parks and Leisure Australia (WA branch) and members for assistance in developing this framework.
For further information, please contact:
Julie Rutherford Strategic Project Manager Department of Sport and Recreation 246 Vincent Street, Leederville, WA 6007 PO Box 8349 Perth Business Centre WA 6849 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.dsr.wa.gov.au
Do not submit enquiries with this form.