Public open space is a form of green infrastructure that enhances the character of the Western City District’s neighbourhoods, supports healthy and active lifestyles, and brings communities together. As the district grows, providing for and developing innovative ways to optimise open space areas for recreation, sport and social activities, as well as establishing physical links that support social networks and create a sense of community will become increasingly important. Delivering connected walking and cycling trails will maximise their use.
The key considerations for planning open space are quality, quantity and distribution. The Greater Sydney Green Grid will help improve access and distribution. Within established areas there will be relatively few opportunities to increase the quantity of public open space, and therefore greater emphasis will be needed on improving the quality and distribution of open space including sporting facilities. Within the land release areas of the District, provision will need to be made to accommodate new open space areas to fulfil the wide needs of the community – from local playgrounds to sportsgrounds.
Councils already identify innovative solutions for the shortfall in active open space, including making better use of existing sportsgrounds, converting existing open space into sportsgrounds and partnering with schools to share spaces outside school hours.
Urban renewal also creates opportunities for increasing the quantity of open space. Planning for urban renewal needs to consider opportunities to deliver new, improved and accessible open spaces, including space for active sport and recreation, that meets the needs of the growing community. High density development (over 60 dwellings per hectare) should be located within 200 metres of open space and all dwellings should be within 400 metres of open space.
People in urban neighbourhoods should be able to walk to local open space. In high density neighbourhoods, public open space is used like a shared backyard, providing a green communal living space. Open space in high density neighbourhoods needs to be durable, multipurpose and accessible to a wide variety of users. High density neighbourhoods also need to have high quality open space within close proximity.
In local and strategic centres, Planned Precincts and Growth Areas, local open space is important to provide places for workers to relax and for people to meet and socialise. It also provides for tree and vegetation planting in the centre. Place-based planning can identify opportunities to improve the quality, management and use of existing open space, and to provide new open space.
Almost 91 per cent of the District’s residents live within 400 metres of open space (refer to figures 25 and 26). Understanding the open space needs of the community will help determine the quantity, quality and distribution that will be required. In the Western Sydney Airport and South West Growth Areas, new areas of open space will be created to meet the needs of growing communities, including a major open space corridor along South Creek. New open space will also be created within the Wilton Growth Area and Greater Macarthur Growth Area.
Nature based recreation also helps connect communities to the natural landscape. Demand for nature-based recreation will need to be managed to minimise impacts on biodiversity.
Where the future of any larger spaces used for activities such as golf courses are uncertain, due to declining membership and attendance figures, any land or facilities in public ownership should be retained as open space and transitioned to shared open space and facilities, including for organised sports. For land in private ownership, there may be opportunities for part of the land to be re-purposed or set aside for open or shared spaces. Open space within school grounds is a potential asset that could be shared by the wider community outside of school hours.
The Government Architect NSW is developing an open space toolkit, a resource for councils to use for open space planning.