Charter for Open Spaces in England

The Open Spaces Society has been defending open spaces in England and Wales since 1865.

Open spaces for the future

In recent years, people have been enjoying their local open spaces and paths as never before. But these spaces and paths are themselves under threat, from development pressures, neglect and local authority austerity.  Moreover, there is not equal provision and those who most need safe, quiet spaces close to home are denied them because it is left to local authorities to make decisions about the amount and location of open space.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) advocates the need to provide ‘high-quality open space’ (para 91) and to ‘plan positively for the provision and use of shared spaces’ (para 92).  However, too often these requirements are ignored.  We want to see these rules being followed.  It also makes provision for the dedication of land as Local Green Space (paras 99-101).

We call on government to:

  • Introduce a national plan for open spaces, with a national standard for the amount of green space and ring-fenced funding which will secure good-quality spaces close to people’s homes.
  • Place a duty on local authorities to ensure that everyone can enjoy good-quality, well-maintained and safe open space within 300 metres of their homes. This can be assisted by requiring:
    • local authorities to manage and protect their green spaces, and to provide the resources to achieve this;
    • developers to provide open space as an integral part of all major development, and to dedicate the land as town or village green so that local people have rights of recreation there and it is secure for ever;
    • improve the Local Green Space process and strengthen the protection

We call on local authorities to:

  • Adopt robust policies for the acquisition, management and protection of green spaces in their areas.
  • Establish a protected budget for green spaces.
  • Dedicate their green spaces as town or village green.

We call on local communities to:

  • Get involved in local and neighbourhood plans before land is allocated for development, and identify spaces which need protection.
  • Form friends’ groups, which can:
    • care for their local spaces,
    • raise money, carrying out voluntary work,
    • act as a pressure group to fight development.

The Open Spaces Society will:

  • Lobby government to secure open spaces and access to nature through the 25-year environment plan promises, and legislation currently going through Parliament, eg the Environment Bill and the Agriculture Bill, and to ensure that the new Environmental Land Management Scheme provides payments for improved access.
  • Advise our members on how to protect their open spaces for the benefit of their communities.

Open Spaces Society, July 2020


Natural England’s People and Nature Survey

  • During the period 2nd–30th April, nearly half of adults (49%) in England said that they had spent time outside in green and natural spaces in the previous two weeks. A further 46% reported that they had not spent time in these places.
  • Urban green spaces, such as parks and playing fields, were the most visited type of green and natural space (41% of adults reported visiting these places in the last month).
  • A quarter of adults (26%) reported that they had not visited any green and natural space in the previous month.
  • The large majority of adults (86%) with access to a private garden or allotment feel that this access is important to them (59% stating that it is very important).
  • Most people (61%) agree that they feel like they are ‘part of nature’.


New Economics Foundation

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) estimated that there were eight million fewer visits to parks and greenspaces across the United Kingdom than would usually be expected, when compared with the 2018 April average.  Further analysis by NEF using the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility dataset found different trends in use of parks or public green spaces between poorer and richer local authorities. Where data was available, they found that the poorest twenty local authorities reported an average 28% reduction in the use of parks compared with the 2018 April average, meanwhile the wealthiest 20 local authorities reported no change in park use.


Centre for Cities

The think tank Centre for Cities, focuses on improving the economies of the UK’s largest cities and towns. Its article ‘How easy is it for people to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic?‘ concluded that the provision of public open space, such as parks, varies by location and that not all built-up areas can currently provide enough space for the inhabitants to exercise safely and maintain social distancing.

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Need to know more?

  • Charter for open spaces in Wales

    Read our charter for the future of open spaces in Wales.

  • Strategic Plan 2019 - 2024

    Read our strategic plan for 2019-2024 which outlines how we will realise our vision for paths and open spaces.

  • How do we protect open spaces?

    Read our article about protecting open and green space close to where people live.

  • Town and village greens

    Find out how to register land as a town or village green.

  • How to win local green space though neighbourhood plans

    Part of our open spaces toolkit, this information sheet explains what you need to know about neighbourhood plans.

  • A problem solved

    Read some of the Open Spaces Society's advice and case studies relating to problems when protecting land.

  • Community assets and protecting open space

    Part of our open spaces toolkit, this information sheet explains what you need to know about community asset listing.

  • Local green space designation

    Part of our open spaces toolkit, this information sheet explains what you need to know about local green space designation.

  • Our Common Land

    This seventh edition has been revised and updated to include the many changes in the law which have taken place

  • Enabling healthy placemaking

    Royal Town Planning Institute July 2020 research seeks to identify the challenges faced by planners who try to integrate healthy placemaking principles in their decisions.

  • CPRE Manifesto

    CPRE call for greater green ambition and share their vision for building back better.

  • Vivid Economics & Barton Willmore case study commissioned by the National Trust

    Levelling up and building back better through urban green infrastructure: An investment options appraisal.

  • New Economics Foundation Research

    Read the New Economics Foundation post-Covid-19 research in full.

  • Centre for Cities

    Read about the think tank's artcle about how easy it is for people to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Wildlife & Countryside Link - putting nature at the heart of a Coronavirus recovery plans

    Read this blog about recent You Gov research commissioned by the RSPB

  • People and Nature Survey

    Read this research commissioned by Natural England in April 2020 about people and their relationship with nature.

  • The origins of sections 193 and 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925

    A comprehensive paper from Open Spaces Society Trustee Bernard Selwyn