Is it time for a national open and play space policy?

03 Apr 24

To try to address these issues and bring it back up the agenda, Fields in Trust are developing a new digital tool to assist developers, Councils and anyone involved in the development process to create compliant and sustainable greenspace, and to think about the quantum and type of open space early in the process. 

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We all know that open and play space provides significant health and wellbeing benefits and are a pivotal part of creating sustainable places that people want to live, shaping the future of our communities. But despite clearly being incredibly important, are we doing it properly?   

We are facing an open and play space crisis, with the latest data from Fields in Trust showing that an estimated 4,000 new parks and green spaces will be needed by 2033 just to maintain current levels of open space provision. We also know that children are losing out on the ability to play in open space and nature, with the most deprived children at real risk of being unable to access these spaces. In March, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee identified that without a national strategy on this issue, green spaces will continue to be deprioritised. 

The problem, in my experience, is that we take a very segmented approach to open space in planning policy, sometimes a mere tick box exercise in both plan making and decision making, that often comes towards the end of the process.   

To try to address these issues and bring it back up the agenda, Fields in Trust are developing a new digital tool to assist developers, Councils and anyone involved in the development process to create compliant and sustainable greenspace, and to think about the quantum and type of open space early in the process. 

Last week we held a roundtable discussion in partnership with Fields in Trust to discuss how this tool could be used in practice and the benefits of addressing not only the quantum, but accessibility and social value of existing and proposed open space.  

What came through loud and clear from the feedback was that we currently have too many layers of policy and guidance, that it is difficult to find and navigate through, resulting in a lack of consistency or transparency. It is almost as if a National Development Management Policy on open space and recreation would be very helpful… something that Iceni will be advocating for, aiming to get the new Fields in Trust online tool embedded into the process.  

If you have any queries regarding open space and recreation need, or would like to be involved in further discussions on these topics, Katie now sits on the Planning and Policy Committee with Fields in Trust and would love to chat further about these issues and how to work through them on your site/s. Please get in touch.  

Katie Inglis Associate Director,Planning

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