Why parklands are important
Our parklands are important community assets that help keep us
healthy, active and socially connected. To maintain these valuable
assets, it is important that parklands being planned now continue to
meet the needs of current and future generations through user-focused,
sustainable design and efficient use of our water resources.
Public parkland enhances urban amenity and provides landscapes that
can positively impact community health and social connectivity,
biodiversity, local water quality and water management, air quality and
mitigation of the urban heat island effect.
Parkland refers to land that has been reserved for the purpose of
formal and informal sport and recreation and/or preservation of natural
environments such as bushland, wetlands, river and coastal foreshore
Public parklands include places with conservation and heritage value,
and natural landscape features that can engender a unique sense of
place. Parkland for sport and recreation may include sporting fields and
physical activity spaces; open areas with picnic, playground and
barbeque facilities; and quiet places to rest and reflect.
In order to achieve community benefits, it is important that all
those involved in parkland planning and design understand the common
functions of parklands within urban and regional areas.
Various parkland functions that must be considered during all stages of parkland provision include:
- Sport and recreation: providing for a range of formal (organised
sport and structured activity) and informal (exercise, play and
socialising) recreation activities;
- Culture and heritage: preserving places with significant heritage or cultural connections (both colonial and Aboriginal);
- Environmental conservation: protecting wildlife habitat and maintaining ecological linkages;
- Landscape and buffer zones: enhancing the visual appeal of urban
landscapes, providing green buffers and softening of the built
- Physical linkages: linking larger areas of open space, natural
features and community facilities through walkable corridors and
- Environmental quality: ameliorating the impact of urban heat island effect and improving air quality; and
- Water quality: filtering stormwater and run-off and providing buffer zones for watercourses and wetlands.
Water Supply – Constraint or an opportunity for innovation?
Most parkland in Western Australia is currently irrigated by
groundwater. Groundwater has historically been regarded as an abundant
resource, conveniently located just beneath the surface, easily tapped
to keep our parklands green year-round.
Water is an increasingly scarce resource across the South West of
Western Australia, with rainfall, groundwater-recharge and dam inflow
all declining markedly since the mid-1970s. This has coincided with
growth in urban development, population and demand for water, including
for irrigation of public parkland. It is essential that consideration of
alternative water sources and maximum efficiency of water use is
incorporated into parkland planning and design.
Therefore, this guide to good parkland planning and design encourages
consideration of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) principles,
fit-for-purpose water sources and efficient water use, while maintaining
high levels of parkland function and usability.
Purpose of this guide
This guide is intended to inform those working in planning and design
about principles and practices to assist in achieving parkland that:
- meets user needs;
- optimises community benefits;
- augments existing landscape features;
- suits the local environment; and
- supports sustainable water use.
This guide may be used as a reference point for discussion between
planners, developers, designers and associated agencies and authorities
throughout the planning and development process. Addressing issues
relating to planning, design and diversity of public parklands will
ensure optimal provision that meets community needs into the future.
It is envisaged that use of this guide will assist to:
- ensure that parkland can adequately meet the functional needs of the community;
- promote greater industry knowledge and understanding through multi-disciplinary approaches to collaborative decision making;
- encourage and support integrated planning and policy development at all levels; and
- focus planning and design on end-user experience.
It is expected that this guide will be relevant to:
- officers from state and local government departments and
agencies engaged in parks planning and management, park operations and
irrigation design; environmental planning and management; community
development and engagement; engineering; water management; local area
- individuals and organisations involved in residential development, planning and design.
How to use this guide
This guide is presented in three sections.
- Land and water use planning in Western Australia outlines the
different stages of land and water use planning and how this relates to
- Parkland planning outlines objectives, guiding principles and
critical considerations in land allocation and water planning to meet
community needs and ensure best use of water resources.
- Parkland design outlines objectives, guiding principles and
critical considerations to enhance parkland usability and function and
create sustainable, water-efficient sport, recreation and nature spaces.
Case studies are included in planning and design sections and provide
examples of how key aspects described within this document have been
applied effectively in Western Australia.
A list of relevant policies, strategies, guidelines and other resources is also included at the end of this document.
Objectives and principles
To ensure optimal allocation of land and water resources to provide a
well-distributed and connected suite of parklands that can be adapted
to meet changes in social and environmental conditions.
- Determine range of potential functions and allocate appropriate parkland area.
- Plan parklands as a suite of multi‑functional open spaces accommodating sport, recreation and nature spaces.
- Plan for conservation, protection and enhancement of local landforms, ecological systems, cultural assets and heritage sites.
- Plan for water allocation and access to fit-for-purpose water sources.
- Apply collaborative, integrated, multi-disciplinary planning processes to inform decision making.
- Challenge planning frameworks as necessary to ensure optimal provision of parkland types and functions.
To ensure access to high quality, well-activated, sustainable
parkland systems that meet diverse community needs and expectations.
- Start with consideration of parkland function and end-user needs.
- Develop multiple-use parklands and balance provision of sport, recreation and nature spaces.
- Integrate and enhance existing landscape and geographic features in site design.
- Ensure human activity interacts positively with natural processes.
- Ensure stormwater management infrastructure and other utility areas are well-placed.
- Ensure maintenance requirements are considered and integrated into the initial design process.
- Make efficient use of local resources and materials.
Public open space (parkland) is often defined in hierarchical terms
using criteria related to size. Within many parkland hierarchies, areas
for structured, organised sport have traditionally been described as
“active open space”, with “passive open space” used to describe areas
for recreation and more informal activity. This criteria and terminology
is now generally regarded as inadequate and confusing.
To counter this, a cross-industry classification framework based on
agreed terminology was developed by the Department of Sport and
Within the Classification Framework for Public Open Space, different
types of parkland are categorised by primary function: recreation, sport
and nature space; and by expected catchment: local, neighbourhood,
district or regional open space.
Descriptions of primary function comprise:
- Recreation space
- Provides a setting for informal play and physical activity, relaxation and social interaction.
- Includes open parkland and gardens, community gardens,
corridor links, amenity spaces, community use facilities, civic commons
- Sport space
- Provides a setting for formal structured sporting activities.
- Includes playing surfaces, buffer zones and supporting infrastructure such as clubrooms.
- Nature space
- Provides a setting where people can enjoy nearby nature.
- Includes sites managed to encourage recreational access while protecting local ecological and biodiversity values.
Catchment category descriptions are based on expected purpose,
typical size and how far a user might travel from their home to visit
parkland, and include:
- Local Open Space
- Usually small parklands that service the recreation needs of nearby residents.
- 0.4ha to 1ha in size and within 400 metres or a 5 minute walk.
- Neighbourhood Open Space
- Usually provide a variety of features and facilities with opportunities to socialise.
- 1ha to 5ha in size and within 800 metres or a 10 minute walk.
- District Open Space
- Usually designed to provide for organised formal sport and inclusion of substantial recreation and nature space
- 5ha to 15ha in size and within 2 kilometres or a 5 minute drive.
Larger areas of Regional Open Space are expected to serve one or more
geographical or social regions and attract visitors from outside any
one local government (LG) area. Size will be variable and dependent on
function. When sport space is identified as a necessary regional
function, land allocations for playing fields and sports facilities are
expected to be upwards of 20 hectares in area.
Classification framework for public open space