Step 2 – scope and context

Public open space strategy guide for local governments.

It is important to ask the question, “why have a public open space strategy?”. The strategy should have strategic importance for the local government and its community and it should contribute toward the vision and goals that have been set at a district level.

The scope of the strategy needs to be considered as part of the initial planning phase when the local government decides to develop a public open space strategy. 

What does the strategy aim to achieve?

Consider the following opportunities and be clear about what the public open space strategy is setting out to achieve:

  1. assist delivery of high quality, sustainable and accessible public open spaces for the community
  2. focus and coordinate the activities of different sections of council relating to public open space provision and development
  3. ensure that recreational, cultural and health needs of community are met
  4. consider new opportunities for the use of existing spaces
  5. provide input into local government planning framework:
    • 10 year strategic community plan
    • capital and operational budgets
    • local planning strategy and policies
    • environmental strategies
    • community facilities plans
    • asset management plans
    • development contributions schemes.
  6. provide guidance to the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) particularly on matters relating to the size, distribution, function, landscape design and park management arrangements which must be considered and assessed in the early stages of local structure plan preparation.

What will the strategy cover?

A public open space strategy should include:

  1. a vision for public open space in the district
  2. a brief summary of the context for the strategy
  3. overview of community consultation process
  4. the results of the public open space audit
  5. results of the needs assessment of changes needs
  6. gap analysis and opportunities
  7. strategies for meeting needs
  8. a series of spatial plans outlining the strategy (short, medium and long term)
  9. priorities
  10. implementation plan including how the priorities will be reflected in other council plans, strategies and documents
  11. timeline, performance indicators and review process.

How do you define public open space?

With respect to what the strategy should cover, there are a number of definitional issues that should be clarified so that everyone has a clear understanding of what is in scope and how it is to be classified.

The strategy should consider all public open space within the local government area. It should also consider the relationship between public open space in its district and that within neighbouring local governments and spaces that operate on a regional scale.

Public open space is strictly defined as land provided as 10 percent of the gross subdivisible area, given up free of cost during subdivision and vested in the Crown occurs under the provisions of Section 152 of the Planning and Development Act 2005. The 10% public open space contribution, applies to all urban areas for residential purposes across the State including all regional areas outside the Perth metropolitan area.

Land for public purposes including foreshore reserves (SPP 2.6 and SPP2.10), community purpose sites, verges, national and regional parks, and private open space all contribute to the network of spaces providing sport, recreation and nature opportunities for residents. 

At a functional level, the department provide a classification framework for public open space (Table 5). This provides for three functions:

  1. recreational spaces
  2. sports spaces
  3. nature spaces.

The framework applies to open spaces where community activity is encouraged and explicitly managed. See 2.4.1

Examples for consideration:

“Public open space refers to urban green spaces: parklands, play areas, playing fields, bushland, greenways and other similar spaces people use for recreation, sport and social interaction.”
Classification Framework for Public Open Space (DSR, 2012)

“Public open space includes all land reserved for green space and natural environments including parks, reserves and bushland which can be all be used for recreation by the general public at no cost.” Dr Paula Hooper (PhD full thesis pg144)

“Public open space refers to publicly accessible land set aside for sport, recreation and community purposes and may include parklands, sporting fields, playgrounds, bushland and built areas such as civic squares, plazas or skate parks.” Parks and Leisure Australia Position paper – Public Open Space Planning in Western Australia (2010)

What is the scale of the strategy?

The scale of the strategy should also be considered. This should include within the local government area, between neighbouring local governments and at sub regional and regional scales. Opportunities to partner with others in the development and/or implementation of the strategy should also be considered. Partners could include neighbouring local governments, other government agencies, the community, not for profit groups, and the private sector. In any event, a public open space strategy will need to positively relate to any vision, policy and direction provided at a State Government level.

What is the timescale of the strategy?

How far into the future is this document designed to reach and when is it due for review? The timescale of the public open space strategy should align with, or bring itself into line with the timescale of council’s suite of relevant strategies and policies to ensure it is integrated into the review process.

What is the status of the strategy?

Local governments are required to produce key strategic documents to produce key documents, such as the 10 year community strategic plan supported by a four year corporate plan, that reflect the long term vision for the district and can frame the direction of a public open space strategy. At a corporate level these plans also provide the framework for implementation. It is essential that any local government strategy, including the public open space strategy is integrated into, and informs, all relevant local government activities. 

How it will link to other strategies and policies within the organisation and at a regional and or State level?

The strategy needs to be integrated with other council documents. The vision of the public open space strategy should align with the council’s strategic community plan and its local planning strategy.  It is important to identify all local government plans and activities that may influence or be influenced by a public open space strategy. Potential areas of overlap or conflict should be documented.

A decision should also be made on whether the strategy should be a stand-alone strategy that becomes part of a suite of strategic documents including things such as a housing strategy, economic development strategy and environment strategy. The relevant strategies and priorities would then be captured in the council’s strategic community plan, budget, local planning strategy and other key council documents.

An alternate approach would be to review key documents to embed public open space strategies and priorities in each of them. It would still be necessary to go through a process to establish these strategies and priorities but there would not be a stand-alone strategy. 

It is essential that the priorities from the strategy be imbedded in all relevant corporate and statutory planning documents, for example:

  • 10 year strategic community plan and associated 4 year corporate plans
  • capital and operational budgets
  • local planning strategy
  • local planning policies and guidelines
  • local place plans
  • reserve/foreshore management plans and strategies
  • environmental/biodiversity strategies
  • community facilities plans
  • asset management plans
  • development contributions schemes/plans.

An understanding of the local planning system, the tools available within it and how they relate to the State planning framework will assist with the development of a public open space strategy as it will set the parameters for what is possible and how it may be achieved.

Planning regulation allows for the development and implementation of a number of local planning tools (some statutory and some not) including (but not limited to) the following:

Planning regulation allows for the development and implementation of a number of local statutory and strategic planning tools.
 Local planning schemes (includes zones, reserves and special control areas; and development provisions) Local planning strategy
 Structure plans/outline development plans/* Structure plans/outline development plans*
 Developer contribution plans* Local planning policies and guidelines

*depending on the provisions of the relevant local planning scheme, could be either statutory or non-statutory.

These local planning tools are the key method of implementing the strategy in relation to land development processes and can assist in guiding development of a local government public open space strategy.

Page reviewed 26 February 2024