Open spaces for the future
In the lockdown people are enjoying their local spaces and paths as never before, and are likely to continue to do so beyond the pandemic. 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.
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.
- Introduce a new designation, similar to the Local Green Space in England but with clearer criteria, stronger protection and public access.
- Require the revision and update of TAN16 Open space and recreation guidance note.
- 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.
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.
- Produce supplementary planning guidance about open space provision and guidance as good practice (Carmarthenshire, Caerphilly and Swansea have done this or are working on it), and use Natural Resources Wales’s Green Space Toolkit.
We call on local communities to:
- Get involved in local 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 the Westminster government to secure open spaces and access to nature in 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.
- Lobby the Welsh government to ensure that these laws and policies, when implemented in Wales, secure the protection of open spaces and access to nature.
Advise our members on how to protect their open spaces for the benefit of their communities.
Open Spaces Society, July 2020
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.
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.
Natural Resources Wales Green Space toolkit.