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Report by the Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, University of South Australia to SA Active Living Coalition

Creating Active Communities: How Can Open and Public Spaces in Urban and Suburban Environments Support Active Living? A Literature Review

Associate Professor Jon Kellett and Dr Matthew W. Rofe School of Natural and Built Environments University of South Australia

August 2009

This report was prepared by Associate Professor Jon Kellett and Dr Matthew W. Rofe from the Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, University of South Australia for the South Australian Active Living Coalition, a collaborative forum for the planning and coordination of active living in South Australia. The Members include representatives from the following organisations: Heart Foundation (Lead Agency) Cancer Council of South Australia Department of Health Department of Planning and Local Government Department of Transport and Infrastructure (Office of Walking and Cycling) Land Management Corporation Local Government Recreation Forum Office of Recreation and Sport Planning Institute of Australia (SA Division)

Material documented in this publication may be reproduced providing due acknowledgement is made.

Enquiries about this publication should be addressed to the Secretariat of the SA Active Living Coalition: Heart Foundation 155 Hutt Street ADELAIDE SA 5000 Phone: (08) 8224 2888

Table of contents:
Executive Summary 1 1.2 Creating Active Communities: Introduction Aims of the Research 4 5 6

2 2.1 2.2

Definition of Terms Open Space Development Density

7 7 10

3 3.1 3.1.1 3.1.2 3.1.3 3.2 3.2.1 3.2.2 3.2.3 3.3 3.4

The Academic Literature on Open Space Provision Types of Open Space Provision Green space Non-green space Public Open Space: Issues of Access Uses of Public Open Space: Moderate Activity Vigorous Activity Passive Activity Location of Open Space Design and Open Space

13 15 15 16 18 22 24 24 25 27 30

4 4.1 4.1.1 4.1.2 4.2 4.2.1 5 6 7

The Policy Perspective Open Space Hierarchies Alternative Approaches Current Examples of Space Planning Open Space in Higher Density Urban Development Transit Oriented Development Conclusions Recommendations Recommendations for Further Work

37 42 44 46 48 49 52 55 57

8. 9

Reference List Acknowledgements

58 68

List of Tables, Boxes and Figures:

Table 1.1 Indicative measures of residential density 12

Figure 3.1

Reported barriers to walking for people 50 years and above


Figure 3.2

Proximity and Directness in neighbourhood design


Table 3.1

Park Types and Descriptions


Box 4.1

UK National Playing Fields Association Open Space Assessment Open space planning standards in Canberra


Table 4.1


Table 4.2

Example of an open space hierarchy


Table 4.3

Space provision using standards for 6,600 persons at high and low densities


Executive Summary Open space is an important component of urban areas and may be a key factor in promoting active living. This report seeks to identify the evidence base in respect of evaluating the importance of open and public space in supporting active living through a review of the academic and policy evidence. It begins by defining open space as space within the urban environment which is readily available to the community regardless of its size, design or physical features and which is intended for, primarily, amenity or physical recreation, whether active or passive. The report addresses the academic literature under four main headings namely, types of open space, uses of space, location of spaces and design of space. It is clear that open space covers a broad range of sizes and types of area from small pocket parks, children s play areas and urban squares to sports fields and extensive green areas. The evidence indicates that these fulfil a range of functions in respect of physical activity, from active sports to passive sitting, picnicking and as a venue for socialising for a range of age groups. Open space also needs to be viewed as fulfilling multiple urban functions such as amenity, biodiversity enhancement, flood mitigation and carbon sequestration. Open space may be located in dense urban centres, suburbs and urban fringe locations and may serve diverse populations in terms of density, demographics and cultures in multi ethnic cities. The evidence suggests that the full range of spaces is significant in promoting physical activity, but the literature tends to focus more on active pursuits than on the passive.

The evolution of open space policy is charted and common aspects such as open space hierarchies and open space standards are identified. It is clear that there is a long legacy of standards and approaches to the provision and design of open space, which is increasingly open to question and are beginning to change. The research addresses the issue of open space provision in different densities of urban development. It identifies a paucity of evidence in respect of the appropriate provision or design of open space in higher density and transit oriented developments. The conclusions emphasise the importance of well designed open space which is part of an interconnected network to promote pedestrian and bicycle trips between open space destinations. Design guidance recommendations

include distance thresholds for the location of open space in residential areas, the importance of safety in location and design and the value of needs based assessments which should include public input.

Creating Active Communities: How Can Open and Public Spaces in Urban and Suburban Environments Support Active Living? A Literature Review.
1. Introduction:

Increasing concern about chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity and depression, in 21st century urban populations has prompted a debate about the underlying causes of these diseases. A range of arguments are put forward including environmental factors such as air pollution from industrial sources and vehicle exhausts, increasing levels of work related stress and changing personal behaviour patterns, which include the sedentary nature of many modern jobs and an increased reliance on private cars for a range of transport needs. Related to these latter aspects it is further argued that the way we plan and lay out our modern cities is a factor in reducing physical activity, which has a direct bearing on decreasing levels of public health (Jackson, 2003). In particular the prevalence of low density residential suburbs, separated from places of work, shops, community and recreational facilities is seen as a stimulus to increasing rates of private car use, which in turn reduce opportunities for walking and cycling, forms of exercise, which to previous generations were an integral part of daily life. Allied to an increased concern about safety in the urban environment and an increasing trend towards more sedentary recreational pursuits, notably computer gaming, it is further argued that increasing levels of childhood obesity are a result of declining opportunities for outdoor play and activity, which in part stem from the design decisions of urban planners and housing developers.

If the nature of urban environments is a factor in the increased prevalence of these chronic diseases in modern society then a detailed analysis of the relationship between different types of land use, the density of development, the relative location of different land uses and crucially, the impact of different land use patterns on private car usage is required. A number of studies have concentrated

on this latter aspect in particular (Crane and Crepeau, 1998; Crane, 2000; Handy, 1996; Parsons et al, 1996). The evidence is not conclusive. There is no clear consensus that car trips are reduced and active forms of travel (walking and cycling) increase as a function of higher density development. Whilst there is sufficient evidence to argue that higher density forms of development reduce vehicle passenger kilometres travelled and reduce petrol consumption (Kenworthy et al, 1999), the scale of such savings is a matter for debate with a number of commentators suggesting that very large density increases are required to make appreciable savings in fuel consumption (Gordon, 1997, Troy, 1992, 1996, Boarnet and Sarmiento, 1998). A growing number of studies have sought to

identify key relationships between the urban fabric and public health (Hahn and Craythorn, 1994, Frank, 2000, Baum and Palmer, 2002, Frank et al, 2004, GilesCorti et al, 2007). The main findings and recommendations are diverse and relate to issues of land use and air quality, land use decision making impacts on water quality (Jackson and Kochtitzky, 2001), design for pedestrian safety from vehicles (Crum and Foote, 1996), and urban form and activity patterns (Frank, 2000). Saelens et al (2003) argue that land use mix which fosters close proximity of shopping, work and housing appears related to a greater uptake of walking and cycling amongst residents whilst Bull (2001) points to the research difficulties of obtaining data and reaching firm conclusions in this area of research. A Canadian review of evidence (Raine et al, 2008) suggests that walkability is positively influenced by increased residential density and mixed land use whilst it is negatively associated with low residential density, uniform land use urban sprawl. Recent Australian research has emphasised the increasing importance of fostering active lifestyles as a means of curbing the increase of the diseases referred to above (Kavanagh et al, 2005, Giles - Corti, 2006, Hume et al, 2007). How this can be achieved and what are the precise relationships between urban form and active living is the subject of ongoing research of which this paper forms a part.


Aims of the Research:

Much of the recent research into the relationship between urban form and active living focuses on the value of mixing land uses, of locating facilities such as shops, schools and community facilities within easy walking distance of homes and

providing safe and attractive opportunities for walking and cycling. The provision of open space as a focus for physical activity receives less attention. So the purpose of the current paper is to explore and review the literature which looks at the provision of open space within the urban fabric. In particular it seeks to identify the evidence base in respect of evaluating the importance of open and public space in supporting active living through a review of the academic and policy evidence.

The review also focuses on the issue of how increased urban densities may affect planning for open space in the urban environment. The currently high level of interest in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) begs the question of the appropriate level of open space provision. This is a key concern of policy makers in Australian cities at present and particularly in Adelaide, which has recently announced a strategy of concentrating on TOD developments within the metropolitan area in its 30 Year Planning Strategy (Government of South Australia, 2008). Opportunities for active recreation, playing sport, walking and cycling are all potential benefits of the provision within urban areas of open space areas. But how much space is appropriate? What size and designs are most effective in attracting and promoting active living? What accessibility standards are required to maximise the utility of open space in urban areas? And does the open space requirement change as densities increase? This review seeks to

address these questions through an examination of the evidence base.


Definition of Terms

2.1. Open Space:

It could be argued that any area within the urban envelope not occupied by buildings constitutes open space. The Plan for London, for example, defines open space as: All land use in London that is predominantly undeveloped other than by buildings or structures that are ancillary to the open space use.

The definition covers the broad range of open space types within London, whether in public or private ownership and whether public access is unrestricted, limited or restricted (Mayor of London, 2004).

To employ such a broad definition here may be problematic for a number of reasons. First our concern is open space that can be used for physical activity of some kind. Large areas of unbuilt land in cities are given over to vehicle usage as roads or parking and cannot be considered as available for physical activity apart from by cyclists. This in turn begs questions as to whether road verges,

pavements, footpaths, and cycle ways are to be considered as open space since most of these afford some potential for physical activity. The type of space is therefore an issue. Scottish planning policy defines open space as including:

green space consisting of any vegetated land or structure, water or geological feature within and on the edges of settlements including allotments trees woodland, paths and civic space consisting of squares, marketplaces and other paved or hard landscaped areas with a civic function (Scottish Government 2007).

This definition raises issues of whether open space needs to be contained within the urban areas as opposed to being on its edge and the nature of its surface treatment, namely, hard or soft. Other commentators present a variety of more restricted or distinct definitions (UK Department of Communities and Local Government, 2002, Girling and Helphand, 1994, Woolley, 2003). One concept which reoccurs is the concept of open space as a "third place" (Oldenburg, 2000, Baum and Palmer, 2002, Frumkin, 2003) that is neither home nor workplace, but part of a public realm where social encounter is enhanced. Of course third places need not be open space. Theatres, bars, restaurants, and sports facilities also constitute such third places, some but not all of which, have physical activity connotations. The concept of third places in turn raises questions about the

distinction between space, which is readily and legally accessible to the public and private space, most usually in residential settings, in the form of private gardens. The latter are often valued aspects of the residential environment and a location for physical activity for both adults, through active gardening, and children, as a

venue for play (Cook, 1968, Kellett, 1982, Hall, 1987, Halkett, 1975). There also exists a range of semi public spaces such as school sports fields and playgrounds and amenity space dedicated to specific developments e.g. gardens or parks shared between several dwellings. If we consider the literature which examines physical activity in the urban environment we see a range of considerations including parks (predominantly American), recreation space (predominantly UK based), and studies which focus on physical activity wherever it may take place in the urban context, including footpaths, trails, stairwells and sports fields. So

arriving at a definition for open space and public open space is not straightforward.

One approach is to distinguish between

Open space: Green i.e. predominantly soft surfaced space within the urban environment. This may be legally accessible to all, have partially restricted access or be private e.g. private gardens attached to dwellings,


Public space: Hard surfaced spaces within the urban environment but excluding the vehicle carriageways of roads and open air surface car parking areas.

Using this approach we primarily distinguish between types of space (i.e. soft or hard surface) and we ignore any hard surfaced space which is not publicly accessible to all. On balance it seems more sensible to consider private space, whether soft or hard separately, and employ one definition of Public Open Space as:

Space within the urban environment which is readily accessible to the community regardless of its size, design or physical features and which is intended for, primarily, amenity or physical recreation, whether active or passive.

Thus, we exclude cycle-ways, footpaths and pavements which are part of the urban fabric and attached to roads, even though these may have value for

physical activity, but we include nature trails and linear features such as cycle ways, provided they are physically separated from vehicle carriageways. Finally, water space is noted in the UK Planning Policy Guidance (Dept of Communities and Local Government, 2002) and Thompson (2008) as an area that may fall within an open space definition. This may include linear waterways such as

canals and creeks as well as reservoirs, lakes and smaller areas of water. We include water space in our definition.

2.2. Development Density:

In this review we are also concerned with the density of urban development, specifically in respect of evidence supporting levels of open space provision within higher density residential areas. Density itself is a simple concept which seeks to measure the intensity of occupation of the land. Thus we can assess density in terms of dwellings, floor space, habitable rooms, bed spaces or persons per hectare. We might also seek to describe an area in terms of its intensity of

occupation by certain groups, for example children or aged persons per hectare. None of this is complex, though the actual metrics rely on accurate measurement and data collection. But what, at first glance, seems a simple concept can become problematic when we seek to describe densities as low or high. In this sense density is culturally specific, so what may be seen as high density in an Australian city would likely be considered as relatively low in an Asian city. Also the actual measure of density is not always immediately discernible from the characteristics of an area. Thus, different dwelling forms, single as opposed to two or three storey, row, detached and semi detached and different spacing conventions particularly in respect of set back of buildings from the street can produce an impression of lower or higher density which is not borne out by the actual calculation of density for the area. These issues have been well illustrated by Planning SA (2006). A key concern is that it is as much the form and distribution of space around buildings as the dwelling form, which produces the density outcome. So a high rise (say 10 storeys) block of apartments may appear to represent high density living, but if it is widely separated from neighbouring blocks then it may represent a density of development no higher than the same number of dwellings in the form of row houses, occupying the same site area. Different

forms of dwellings can produce an illusion of density and it can be misleading to specify building form as a key density indicator. It should also be noted that a range of types of density measures exist. So we may be concerned with net residential density, which is the intensity of land use area of land taking only dwellings and their immediate surroundings into account. Immediate surroundings are normally taken to include associated garden space and sometimes local vehicle and pedestrian access and circulation space. Or we may be interested in defining gross density, which takes other associated uses such as schools, community facilities such as local shops and recreation parks as well the housing itself. Thus for the same general area, gross density measures are always

quantitatively less than net measures.

Australian cities display characteristics which rank them as low density on a comparative world scale of gross density. Australians have also tended to regard residential layouts, which are by international standards low density, as the norm. A net density of 10-15 dwellings per hectare (dph) is fairly typical of suburban residential layouts developed in the twentieth century in many Australian cities. In the last twenty years net densities in new developments have tended to increase. The Mawson Lakes development in Adelaide for example, displays net densities of between 15 and 20 dph. Despite representing an increase over previous

suburban densities, the areas of Mawson Lakes being described remain for the most part, single family detached houses. Inter block spacing is a key factor in changing density measures. In all developments planning standards, which seek to ensure vehicle access, privacy and sunlight access to dwellings, determine the minimum distances between building, fronts, rears and sides. Thus, once these minima are reached, it is possible to describe the change in dwelling form which is required to achieve different density thresholds. Table 1 below provides some indicative measures.


Net density Assessment Predominant Dwelling form Less than 17 Very low Detached 17-33 Low Detached 34-67 Medium Semi detached 67+ High Row houses + apartments Table 1.1: Indicative measures of residential density 1 Source: Planning SA (2006) Understanding Residential Densities and Kellett J (1983) Public Policy & the Private Garden, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Council for National Academic Awards, UK From Table 1.1 it is clear that in the Australian context, where the majority of the existing housing stock consists of detached single story dwellings, the limit of low density is reached at around 30 dph. Medium density can be viewed as

representing a measure of net density between the low 30s to around 65 dph. This latter represents a development of row houses with minimum inter block spacing

and allotment sizes averaging 150 square meters. Achieving densities above this

level requires a contribution of low rise (normally defined as 5 storeys or less) flats. Thus, given the predilection of the Australian population for houses as opposed to apartments, high density in the Australian context could be argued to range from 65 dph upwards.

The threshold at which low rise (5 storeys or less) needs to give way to high rise (above 5 storeys) is around 220 dph. All of these estimates depend on the average floor area of dwellings and the generosity of inter block spacing as well as localised site specific factors such as shape and slope. They should therefore be viewed as an indicative guide, not as hard and fast rules. Throughout this document the following terms are defined as follows:

High Density:

Greater than 65 dwellings per hectare

Medium Density:

30 - 65 dph

NB These density calculations use a definition of net density which does not include any public circulation space. As such they tend to inflate achievable density measures by around 25%.

Low Density:

1 - 29 dph

Active Living: A way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines


The Academic Literature on Open Space Provision:

An exhaustive review of the literature relating to the provision of public open space and activity was undertaken. These materials represented the diversity of interest in the topic at hand spanning academic studies, policy documents, advocacy reports and general community information packages. This section reviews the academic literature pertaining to the provision of public open space. We classify academic literature as research papers published in refereed journals of international standing by professional academics2. Distinguishing this material

form policy and/or advocacy literature is important for two reasons; first academic studies are characterised by an objective, inquiry-driven research paradigm and second publication by a blind expert referee process provides a significant degree of confidence in the veracity of reported research findings and their interpretation. Given the complex nature of public open space provision and public health the core literature sample demonstrated a significant breadth of academic disciplines and their relevant journals. Urban planning, design and geography journals were represented within the core sample. These included internationally prominent

journals such as Landscape and Urban Planning, Journal of Planning Literature and Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. However, the majority of the academic literature on the topic was published in the fields of public health and other health sciences. Prominent journals addressing public open

space provision and public health included the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Journal of Public Health Policy, the American Journal of Health Promotion, Public Health Reports and Health and Place. In their 2007 review paper, Kaczynski and Henderson s (2007, p.317) asserted that public health researchers are at the forefront of research into the public health benefits can be

This section includes 2 sources not published in refereed journals; these being Frank and Co (2008) and Thompson, S. (2008). These have been included in this discussion due to their high quality, the standing of the authors and/or the existence of a verifiable review process. Frank and Co s (2008) principle author is Dr Lawrence D. Frank who holds the Professorial Chair in Sustainable Transportation at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Thompson, S. (2008) is published online at Your Development. Your Development is an Australian online resource organisation promoting sustainable development. It is a national project in partnership with CSIRO and the Australian department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. All papers are reviewed by leading academic experts and/or industry authorities. 15

derived from the provision of public open space. The literature review presented here validates this observation and, while there appears to be significant research intersections between the urban planning and public health literatures, suggests that further attention should be devoted to these issues by planning academics generally and the publication of and debate over these issues within planning scholarship. 1998 has been identified as a key year in the development of this research field (see Kaczynski and Henderson 2007), with a number of international conferences being held, special editions of journals published (see Blair and Morrow 1998) and the emergence of what has come to be known in the United States as the active living movement (see Killingsworth et al. 2003).

In total, over 500 individual items of academic literature were identified. This total data set was rationalised to a core sample of approximately 100 academic papers. To ensure the most recent data was examined, the core sample was restricted to papers published between 1998 and 2009. The core sample was then classified as those papers reporting the findings of original research and those reviewing the existing literature. In the interest of presenting a succinct overview of the core literature this report does not discuss all academic papers reviewed. Rather, it focuses upon those papers considered to represent exemplary case studies of the role of public open space in the promotion of physical activity. In total 47 papers are discussed here in detail.

This review is divided into 4 inter-related sections. The first addresses types of open space provision addressed and/or discussed within the literature, the second findings on how open spaces are used, the third on the location of open spaces and the fourth on the design of open space and its reported impacts on physical activity. A review of the international literature is provided first and then a discussion of the Australian literature, where available, is undertaken. Thus, the Australian situation is contextualised within the wider, internationally-oriented, literature. A summary of key points is provided at the conclusion of each section.

Key points:

This section investigates academic literature only;


Academic literature is classified as research and/or review papers published in refereed journals; 47 academic papers (1998-2009) are reviewed in this section; The fields of public health and health sciences are well represented in the literature; Scope may exist to strengthen the planning literature in this field.

3.1. Types of Open Space Provision:

As stated in Section 2, defining open space is a complex undertaking.


reiterate, we differentiate between open space and public space, here understood to be predominantly soft surfaced, green space and hard surfaced, but excluding carriage ways and open-air car parks, non-green space within the urban environment respectively. Considering issues of public accessibility, we also

employ the term public open space, here understood to denote space within the urban environment which is readily accessible to the community regardless of its design or physical features and which is intended for amenity or physical recreation, whether active or passive.

3.1.1 Green space: a considerable literature exists upon the provision of green space and its impact upon and correlation with increased physical activity. Green space typically includes parks, both designed for formal and informal physical activities, playgrounds and nature reserves. Green space may also be informally created through communities using derelict urban spaces. Community gardens would constitute one such form of informal green space. Cohen et al (2009)

provide a valuable typology of green open space (see Section 3.4, Table 3.1). They categorise green open space according to type, purpose, location/proximity and provide guidelines for minimum size.

Proximity to and accessibility of green space has been noted as having positive physical and emotional benefits for community members (see Frumkin 2001; Hill 2002; Jackson 2003). Further, green space is suggested to constitute an

important aspect in the fostering of social capital and the maintenance of


community cohesion (see for example Kuo et al 1998). While not an explicit focus of this report, it is important to acknowledge the emotional and social benefits green space can offer.

3.1.2 Non-green space: Providing effective linkages between point of departure, home or work and open space destinations is a critical aspect of physical activity inducement. Jackson (2003, p.195) identifies the footpath as deserving more

intense scrutiny as a critical aspect of neighbourhood design. Jackson proposes the design of conducive walkways to promote increased physical activity. Conducive walkways should be designed to offer protection from the main carriageway, provide views of attractive scenery and meander through mixed-use areas rather than along main carriage ways and be well lit to provide a sense of safety (Jackson 2003). Frumkin (2003) draws a similar conclusion. Citing

Burden s (1999) Street Design Guidelines of Healthy Neighbourhoods, Frumkin (2003, p.1453) argues for the provision of buffers, continuity, and connectivity sidewalks with sufficient width, Allied with

[And] safe cross-walks .

narrower streets designed with improved traffic-calming provisions, such as speed-humps and roundabouts, more conducive walkways are said to be created.

Other forms of hard public open space, such as tennis and basketball courts, piazzas and squares are also featured in the literature. Hard surfaced sports

facilities are important sites for physical activity. This is especially the case for physical activities classified as vigorous (see Section 3.2.2). Piazzas and squares can be thought of as offering passive activity public open space (see Section 3.2.3). Hard, passive open spaces constitute important gathering places and can constitute important foci for the public interactions and the development and enhancement of community cohesion and social capital. While the activities

undertaken in piazzas and squares does not, necessarily, promote vigorous physical activity they are a nonetheless important aspect of urban fabric and community wellbeing.

Access to indoor, non-green space physical activity venues is also reported on in the literature. Both Brownson et al (2001) and Deiz Roux et al (2007) report that accessibility to indoor recreation facilities, such as gymnasiums and even

shopping malls, were perceived as providing both destinations and sites of physical activity for respondents. Brownson et al s (2001, p.197) study revealed that 20% of women and 26% of men sampled indicated that the availability of such facilities within close proximity to either home or place of work was a factor in their reported levels of physical activity. It must be noted that this research was based upon perceived availability of recreation facilities, rather than representing an objectively, statistically based study of actual physical activity involvement. Having said this, what the paper reveals is that the perception of access can be positively associated with physical activity (Brownson et al, 2001, p.199). Taking a more cautious approach, Diez Roux et al (2007, p.498) assert that [s]patial accessibility of physical activity resources appears to be a positive, albeit weak, predictor of activity levels . This finding was drawn from a large-scale, multiethnic sample of 2723 adults (45-84 years) from New York, Baltimore and Forsyth County in the United States. Such spaces represent a challenge for the creation of urban development policies that promote the provision of public open space. Neither gymnasiums nor shopping malls (after Brownson et al 2001 and Diez Roux et al 2007) are public open spaces. At best they can be considered as quasi-public spaces. In reality they are private spaces adopting some traits of public space, but retaining many rights of entry protections. Entry into these

spaces is monitored and often premised upon the purchasing of membership, as in the case of gymnasiums, and/or appropriate standards of dress and behaviour. Thus, many individuals and/or groups find themselves excluded from such spaces. While this calls into question issues of access the consideration of quasi-public spaces is important for effective policy formation as such spaces are a common feature of many new development forms.

In a similar vein, it is important to acknowledge the scope for shared spaces as sites of physical activity. Shared space may be thought of as private or regulated space to which wider public access is negotiated. Shared spaces may include school grounds, church facilities (such as halls etc) and private sporting club facilities. While negotiated access to these spaces and/or facilities may promote greater physical activity within the wider community, there are potentially significant hurdles to overcome. Foremost amongst these are matters of legal indemnity and insurance. Other concerns may revolve around appropriate times

of shared space usage and issues of safety, for example with regards to school grounds as shared spaces. While we acknowledge the potential for and limitations of shared spaces for wider physical activity uses, it must be noted that these issues are not addressed within the accessible literature.

3.1.3 Public Open Space: Issues of Access: Access is a critical issue in the provision of public open space. Typically, access is considered to be the ability of an individual to gain access to a facility or service. Foremost in such a definition is the ability to gain physically access. At face value this would appear to be

reasonable. However, we are cognisant that accessibility is impinged upon and influenced by a number of additional factors. These may include issues of socioeconomic status, race, gender, age and disability and how these intersect with physical ability to and perceptions about gaining access to public open space.

The role of socio-economic status and race in regards to public open space has been well documented in the North American literature (see for example Huston et al. 2003; Sallis et al. 2009). Studies indicate that the provision of public open space in low socio-economic neighbourhoods is extremely poor. Many such

neighbourhoods are either bereft of public open space or that which is available is of poor quality. Those spaces that are provided are typically non-green spaces, thereby depriving such communities of more natural public open spaces with their reported health benefits. Further, the maintenance of existing spaces is typically poor rendering them unattractive and, potentially, undesirable places to use. In effect a lack of open space provision or the nature of those spaces provided, combined with poor maintenance further impoverish low socio-economic status communities.

Exacerbating the above issues further, many low socio-economic neighbourhoods are located in marginal zoning areas within the city. Thus, such neighbourhoods are commonly situated close to or even bounded by industrial areas. Such

environments are not conducive to walking due to zoning and design induced deterrents such as railway lines, major carriage ways and heavy traffic usage. Such environments do not embody what Jackson (2003) refers to as conducive walkways.

Much has been written about safety in public spaces and the fear of crime. Specifically, there is a considerable body of knowledge about how perceptions of risk in the public realm constrain the spatial mobility of women, the elderly and young children. The literature at hand reflects these concerns. Authors such as Godbey et al (2005), Powell (2005), Babey, et al (2007), De Vries et al (2007), Miles (2008) and Babey et al (2008) all stress the importance of safety in enhancing wider community access to and usage of public open space. Babey et al s (2008) study into adolescents use of public open space, for example, noted that access to a safe park was associated with regular [physical] activity ,

whereas concerns over safety were associated with inactivity. This is interesting, given that much of the anxiety potentially experienced by other open space users often relates to the presence of young people.

The geography of women s fear is particularly well documented within the wider literature (see for example Valentine 1989, 1991). Within the field of planningrelated scholarship generally, the gender bias of planning towards masculine needs and endeavours is quite well developed. Doreen Massey s (1994) work is most instructive in uncovering the gendered heritage of planning and the role this has played in creating gendered landscapes. Massey s (1994) work demonstrates that simple policy assumptions and design decisions reinforce the common sense assumption that public space is male space. Questioning the gender base of planning reveals a system of gender relations (Massey 1994, p.189) that are These insights are echoed by other feminist

premised on gender inequality.

scholars such as Greed (1996) and Hayden (2000). However, issues of gender, perceptions of safety in public open space and how these may influence physical activity amongst women has not featured significantly in the literature. This is a striking omission, particularly given the assertion that [p]ublic spaces have the capacity to become participatory landscapes (Garcia-Ramon et al. 2004, p.216). In the interests of this project, we would contend that these concerns should be addressed by planning academics and professionals. Despite this silence, we would contend that concerns over safety are likely to erode physical activity in public open space for some members of the community. Strategies to address


this are broadly addressed in the urban design literature. A discussion of design approaches to crime reduction, either real or perceived, is undertaken in Section 5.

Arguing for the need to design neighbourhoods that support aging in place, Frank and Co (2008) stress the importance of considering the specific needs of the elderly in the location of public open space. Physical activity, particularly walking, has been identified in numerous studies as having positive health benefits for elderly populations (see for example Taylor et al 2003). While a number of

barriers facing the elderly in gaining access to public open space reflect a number of core barrier issues, a number are specific to this group. In their study on

barriers to walking for persons over 50 years of age, Ritter et al (2002, cited in Frank and Co 2008, p.21) identified the following factors as impinging upon access to public open space for the elderly (see Figure 3.1):

Figure 3.1: Reported barriers to walking for people 50 years and above Source: Ritter et al (2002) from Frank and Co (2008, p21).

Further, Frank and Co (2008, p.20) observe that the elderly take longer to walk the same distance as younger members of the population. They cite elderly walking

rates as approximately 0.75m per second as opposed to 1.2m per second for ablebodied adults. Thus, in areas with a high elderly resident population it is advisable that the distance threshold to public open space been lowered.

Ward Thompson (2002), drawing upon the UK Lord Rogers Urban Task Force report (DETR,1999), recognises the importance of greater accessibility for persons with various forms of disability. Specifically, Rogers (1999, p.47 in Ward

Thompson 2002, p.60) argues the importance of creating inclusive places of avoiding disparity of opportunity and promoting equity . Golledge (1993, p.63) understands disability to refer to those situations where an individual is prevented wholly or partially from performing the full range of actions and activities usually performed by members of the society or culture in which the person lives . This may be experienced as a permanent or transitory state. However, the degree of impairment can have significant implications for the disabled. Golledge (1993, p.64) is extremely lucid about these implications:

For the disabled

obstacles and barriers not only are multiplied, but

they are expanded well beyond the normal range; gutters become chasms, sidewalks and streets become treacherous paths, stairs may be impossible cliffs, distinctive sizes, shapes or colours may lose their significance, layout becomes a maze, maps and models may be uninterpretable.

Thus, the disabled live in transformed space even though they occupy the same places as their able-bodied community counterparts (Golledge 1993, p.64). Inadequate consideration of the needs of disabled community members perpetuates at best, creates at worst what Imrie (2001, p.232) refers to as architectural apartheid. Addressing these issues is critical for addressing the

specific needs of disabled persons and central to the creation of more inclusive neighbourhoods and cities.

Baum and Palmer s (2002) Adelaide-based research is most instructive in how the design and maintenance of public space and its usage shape perception. Drawing


on in-depth interviews with 40 residents in an undisclosed suburb or suburbs3, Baum and Palmer explored perceived hindrances to community participation in both physical activity and public open space usage. Their results indicated that homogeneous land use significantly constrained physical activity, most notably walking. A lack of walkable destinations, such as local shops, was commented on by numerous respondents. Further, issues of crime or the fear of crime featured prominently. In the words of one respondent:

this beautiful park

nobody goes there any more now. All the The parents won t let their kids go

hoods congregate down there there

in case they pick up a syringe such a beautiful park, a full

block, and nobody [uses it] (in Baum and Palmer 2002, pp.254-255).

Strategies to overcome issues such as those stated above through design are discussed in Section 5. However, design alone cannot alleviate social problems.

Key points:

The provision of green public open space is reported to have positive physical and mental health benefits for individual community members and communities overall. Non-green open space is critical in providing both spaces for physical activity in their own right and connectivity with green open space. Access to public open space is complex and impinged upon by a number of factors, including yet not limited to age, gender and socioeconomic status.

3.2. Uses of Public Open Space:

Uses of public open space are varied. Indeed, the term physical activity is not explicitly defined in the vast majority of studies addressed here. One exception to

While Baum and Palmer (2002) do not explicitly identify the suburb/s within which they conducted their research, nor provide a detailed study site justification or discussion, it is apparent that research was conducted in Port Adelaide and other, unspecified, suburbs in Adelaide s north-western suburbs. 24

this is Kraczynski and Henderson (2007, p.318) who adopt Caspersen et al s (1985, p.126) definition that physical activity involves any bodily movement Such a

produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure .

definition is, nonetheless, general in the extreme. More specifically, the Healthy People 2010 report (U.S. Department of Health and Human services, 2000 in Kaczynski and Henderson 2007, p.316) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity per day. achieved by walking briskly. Moderate intensity is said to be

Effective public open space should not be designed for a single physical activity. Rather, effective public open space should cater for a diverse range of activities and uses. Several studies have noted a multiplier effect inherent in public space usage and the uptake of physical activity. Notable amongst these is Cohen et al (2007) who observe that adults accompanying children to public open space playgrounds could be encouraged into greater physical activity by the provision of adult-oriented exercise equipment. They conclude that this could be an effective may to increase female participation rates in physical activity. An Australian case study by Baum and Palmer (2002) also noted the role of children in attracting supervising adults into public open space and, potentially, enhancing their physical activity. Further, Baum and Palmer also acknowledge the role of dogs as a While the health benefits of increased

stimulus for human physical activity.

physical activity facilitated by involvement in play with children and dogs are evident, there are also increased socialisation opportunities available to adults as children and dogs are social enablers thereby having potentially positive benefits for community development and social inclusion.

Physical activity in public open space has been the subject of several large-scale surveys (for example Hutson et al. 2003; King et al. 2003; Cohen et al. 2007; Floyd et al 2008). Broadly, these studies classify observed activates as being either passive (often referred to as sedentary behaviour), moderate (such as walking) or vigorous (such as running or the playing of team sports). For example, Cohen et al (2007) found that 66% of persons observed in their study were


engaged in sedentary activities, 19% were walking and the remaining 16% were undertaking vigorous activity.

3.2.1 Moderate Activity: Walking features prominently within the literature as a key form of physical activity. Lee and Moudon (2004, p.154) assert that [w]alking is a preferred form of physical activity across different gender, age, and

income groups . Walking is considered to be an informal form of physical activity, not reliant upon organisation such as team sports and not dependant upon specialised equipment. Thus, walking is an extremely equitable from of physical activity. King et al s (2003) study into the walking habits of older women found that high-walking rates were primarily associated with journeys to local shops (25.5%) and parks (20%). While several studies have noted the role of amenities and aesthetics in enhancing rates of physical activity (see for example Corti et al. 1997; Booth et al. 2000), Lee and Moudon (2004, p.163) assert that many persons are not deterred from walking despite sometimes poor environments . Having

said this, Lee and Moudon agree that the propensity for more people to walk and/or for people to walk longer can be promoted by improvements in the destinations themselves and the built landscape connecting destinations. This reflects, in part, Jackson s (2003) assertion that the creation of conducive walkways can enhance physical activity.

3.2.2 Vigorous Activity: Vigorous activity is reported as constituting the least amount of directly observed physical activity reported within the literature. As

stated previously, Cohen et al (2007) reported that only 16% of observed public space users were engaged in vigorous activities. These findings are consistent with other studies. Floyd et al s (2008) study of 9456 persons across 28 parks in Tampa and Chicago reported only 11% were involved in vigorous activities. Hutson et al (2003) reported similar findings in their North Carolina study. Of those engaged in vigorous activity their park usage was focused upon specific physical activities and related park facilities. Cohen et al (2007, p.511) reported that 34% of observed vigorous physical activity occurred on multipurpose sports fields, while 26% was focused on playground facilities. Floyd et al (2008) reported


a similar spatial emphasis. Further consistencies between the two studies were noted on the types of sporting activities undertaken. Both studies recorded

significant rates of involvement in basketball, tennis and volleyball.

While the literature is unanimous in setting a low spatial threshold as a key determinant in promoting physical activity in public open space, it must be noted that proximity does not solely determine usage. Indeed, as Hutson et al (2003) reflect persons already prone to undertake physical activity display a heightened awareness of public open space facilities. Barriers exist to the uptake of physical activity in public open space that effective policy making and urban design alone cannot overcome. It is important that public awareness of public open spaces be heightened and the benefits of physical activity be promoted. Thus, the

management of open space facilities and the coordination of physical activities within them is a critical factor in improving community participation in physical activity (see Cohen et al 2007; Cohen et al 2009). Certainly, Cohen et al (2007) report higher public participation rates in physical activity when organised events were held. Flowing from this observation, strategies proposed in North American studies have included the scheduling of formal physical activities, the provisions of suitably qualified trainers and or activity supervisors and the appointment of fulltime public space managers. The uptake of such initiatives has not been reported on in the available literature. Further, the highly structured, formal nature of such proposals would appear to be beyond the scope of many local government bodies and certainly suggest a more regimented approach to physical activity that may be culturally unsuitable in the Australian context.

3.2.3 Passive Activity: The assumption that people use public open space for physical activity is highly problematic. Two prominent North American studies, these being Cohen et al (2007) and Floyd et al (2008) report high rates of no physical activity amongst park users (see also McKenzie et al 2006 cited in

Floyd 2008). As noted in Cohen et al s (2007, p.513) North American study, parks provide an important destination for local residents who were often sedentary after arriving there . Their data reveals 66% of observed park-users as being



Floyd et al (2008) support this finding.

In their exhaustive

observational study of 9456 persons across 28 parks in Tampa and Chicago, 65% were observed to be sedentary. They conclude that while parks have the

potential to support physical activity, a substantial amount of use can be sedentary (Floyd et al. p.300). This is extremely important. The provision of public open space, its location and design may not be enough to promote strenuous physical activity.

Considering the motivations for open space usage is important. As the central focus of this report is to evaluate the current literature on the physical activity opportunities afforded by public open space, the potential exists to equate sedentary usage of open space as a failure of those spaces. On the contrary, what is construed as sedentary from a physical activity/exertion perspective alone ignores the mental health benefits possible through more passive activities. Ward Thompson (1998) acknowledges that notions of parks as private refuges are deeply embedded in the Western psyche. Public open space in this sense

provides a retreat from the pressures of modern life, being seen as more akin to the rural than the urban. Appreciating these dynamics can avoid the pitfall of perceiving failure of design intent.

To date there have been few large scale Australian studies akin to the international studies discussed above. One of the most recent and prominent Australian studies was conducted by Giles-Corti et al (2005) in Perth and published in the prestigious American Journal of Preventative Medicine. This

study combined a quantifiable environmental audit of public spaces in excess of 2 acres in conjunction with an observational survey of physical activity with these parks with qualitative interviews with 1803 adults in a multimethod approach. In doing so, the authors were able to explore the intersections between physical amenities, threshold distances and how these were perceived by and reacted to by community members. This study concluded that was positively associated with accessibility use of public open space (Giles-Corti 2005, p.172).

Significantly, the authors found that park aesthetics and size were also factors influencing physical activity. Interview respondents with good access to parks that

were considered to be attractive and large were found to be twice as likely to engage in physical activity in public open space.

Key points:

Minimum physical activity is recommended to be 30 minutes of moderate exertion per day. This is said to be achieved by waking briskly. Activity in public open space is classified in three activity categories; moderate, vigorous and passive activity. Moderate activity is primarily reported as walking. identified as a key moderate activity. Vigorous activity is primarily reported as engagement in organised group sports. Passive activity is primarily reported as sitting in public open space. Passive activities should not be construed as having little or no positive health benefits. Activity categories have important implications for location, size and design of public open space. Dog walking is

3.3. Location of Open Space:

The international literature is unanimous in the finding that to maximise public open space usage the distance from place of residence and/or work should be no more than 1.6-2kms (see for example Cohen et al 2007; Diez Roux et al 2007). This is considered to represent a walkable distance. However, it must be noted that this distance cannot be applied in a uniform manner. In an earlier study, Cohen et al (2006, p.1388) found that distances of less than 1km from place of residence to public open space correlated with higher physical activity rates. A distance decay effect is observed as operating for public open spaces that are further away from place of residence. Cohen et al s 2007 study found that 64% of park users travelled less than 0.8km to access public open space, while only 13% has travelled more than 1.6km.


The above findings can be considered as representing distance thresholds. Beyond a given distance threshold the literature advances that willingness to travel declines with a corresponding impact on physical activity rates. In light of this, the location of open space can be thought of as a proximity issue (after Frank et al 2004). The greater the proximity to public open space, the greater the likelihood of physical activity is said to be. This activity may be in the form of journeys to and/or exercise at open space. However, it is misleading to assume that proximity

directly equates with physical activity. Proximity must be considered alongside directness issues. Directness can be thought of as the physical route of the

journey taken from point of departure to destination. Thus, public open space facilities that are within the proposed distance threshold can be said to be proximate to a given place of residence. However, if there is a lack of route directness to these facilities then the purported benefits of their proximity are potentially negated. The key is to provide effective connectivity. Connectivity enhances proximity by emphasising directness. According to Frank et al,

disconnected neighbourhood design is typical of many low-density suburbs within Western cities. This relationship is illustrated in Figure 3.2:

Figure 3.2: Proximity and Directness in neighbourhood design Source: Frank et al (2004, p.89).

Figure 3.2 represents how disconnected neighbourhood design limits proximity to public open space by stretching out the connection between point of departure and destination. Another important aspect of effective neighbourhood design to


enhance physical activity is illustrated in Figure 3.2; this being the representation of distances as both a crow-flies as opposed to a network buffer. The crow flies buffer represents the much promoted 1km distance to public open space as a radius from the sample point of departure; in this case a household. While the crow-flies distance locates public open space within the 1km radius the network buffer places it further than the recommended 1km distance threshold. This is due to connectivity, as the network buffer represents a walkable 1km distance as dictated by street layout and design. Thus, the notion of a 1km threshold must consider both the physical design of the neighbourhood in question and suburb density as discussed in Section 2.2. The planning of new neighbourhood

developments must adopt a more sophisticated notion of design to ensure that proximity is not reduced to linear distance, but rather reflects the actual journey an individual would have to make to access public open space.

While the above discussion considers the horizontal scale, it is also important to consider the influence of the vertical scale. Hilly terrain can be considered as providing positive health benefits due to increased physical exertion. However, such terrain can erode the ability or willingness of some community members to engage in physical activity. This may be related to age or disability as discussed in Section 3.1.3. Further, community members with young children may find

negotiating hilly terrain problematic. There is also evidence within the literature that upper-floor residents of high-rise apartment developments report lower rates of physical activity engagement (see for example Evans et al 2000; Wells 2000). An earlier study by Lindheim and Syme (1993, cited in Jackson 2003) identified mothers with children less than five years of age as most vulnerable to the erosive impacts of high-rise living with regard to physical activity engagement. Further research is required in this field. However, anecdotally the need to provide readily accessible public open space in areas of high-density, apartment development is apparent.

As noted previously, trips to and physical activity in public open space may be enhanced by the provision of facilities and/or activities that promote a diverse range of activities. Diez Roux et al (2007) argued that a higher density of physical activity facilities in a given area positively influenced public participation and


Stated simply, effective public open space should provide scope for

multiple activities.

Key points:

An accessibility threshold of 1.6km is commonly agreed upon, with an ideal accessibility distance of 800m being recommended within the literature. Accessibility thresholds are typically measured as the crow flies. This does not adequately account for potential accessibility barriers such as major road ways etc. Accessibility should be determined using a connectivity assessment. Accessibility considerations should take into account site specific population characteristics. Accessibility considerations should consider changes over time within the resident population such as aging and natural population increase due to child birth.

3.4. Design and Open Space:

Design, either explicitly or implicitly, is central to much of the literature about public open space and physical activity. The literature is unified in the assertion that design approaches that create low-density, homogeneous land use

neighbourhoods increase dependency upon private vehicle usage and actively discourage physical activity. Thus, it is asserted that urban sprawl is a key

contributor to declining public health standards. Accepting this argument leads to the conclusion that much of this public health decline can be stemmed, if not reversed by more insightful and considered design. However, as stressed in

Section 1 the empirical evidence for this chain of assertions is not conclusive.

This section considers the literature on design and public space from two interrelated perspectives. First, it considers the literature on neighbourhood

design and how this can positively influence physical activity. This discussion is


limited as a fuller discussion of broader neighbourhood design is addressed in Section 4.2, which explores the role of Transit Oriented Design, public space and physical activity. Second, it examines issues of the design of specific public

spaces themselves.

After Pollard (2003), it is apparent that the design of public open space is multifaceted due to the array of spaces that are required to enhance access and physical activity. At the broadest level Pollard (2003, pp.112-113) promotes the need to provide further and protect existing open space. Pollard (2003, p.112) advances that two scales of public open space are required, these being:

1. large, regional parks

[that] protect and offer access to natural areas and

provide access to range of activities 2. smaller, neighbourhood parks and connected greenways within walking distance of most residences ;

Cohen et al (2009), building on their research into physical activity levels observable amongst public open space user (Cohen et al 2007) (see Section 3.3), classify public spaces themselves as either active or passive. That is to say, that they consider the size and design of different forms of public open space to lend themselves to different types and degrees of usage. Active spaces typically

provide for organised sporting activities, especially team sports such as soccer etc. It is important to note that active spaces may also be hard non-green spaces; for example basketball and tennis courts. Opposing this, passive public open spaces promote sedentary activities and light physical activity by providing

lawns, trees, landscaped gardens and shrubbery, lakes, fountains, picnic areas and/or walking trails (Cohen et al 2009, p.1383). Drawing upon the U.S. National Recreation and Parks Association data, Cohen et al (2009) identify eight types of public open space broadly identified as parks. reproduced as Table 3.1: These classifications are


Park Type Mini-park

Definition Addresses limited an/or unique recreational needs

Location/Proximity <400m

Size 280-420m2

Central location within Recreational/social focus of Neighbourhood Park neighbourhood. Provides for informal active and passive recreation 400-800m service area radius, uninterrupted by nonresidential roads/barriers Combines school with public open space Meets community-based needs of Community Park several neighbourhoods. meets diverse recreation needs and preserves unique landscapes Determined by school location Determined by quality and suitability of site. service area radius of 800m-5km. 2-4 ha

School Park


Determined by desired uses. Typically a 12.5-20ha Determined by

Large Urban Park

Serves broader purpose than community parks

Determined by quality and suitability of site

desired uses. typically a minimum of 20-32ha

Consolidated site catering for Sports complex organised recreational activities. consists of sporting fields and complexes Land set aside for preservation of Natural Resource Area significant natural resources, remnant landscapes, open space and visual aesthetics/buffering Covers a broad range of parks and Special Use recreation facilities oriented toward single-purpose use.

Strategically located, community-wide facilities variable

Resource availability and opportunity


Variable, depending upon specific need/use variable

Table 3.1: Park Types and Descriptions Source: After Cohen et al (2009, p.1384).


As already discussed in Section 2.3, perceptions of public space are important determinants in how public space is used. From a design perspective, how people perceive the physical aspects of public open space is extremely important. Studies into what local residents want from public open space emphasise the need for high quality amenities. Indicative of this is Asakawa et al s (2004) large scale questionnaire survey of local residents in Sapporo, Japan. This study focused upon resident attitudes to the management and amenity quality of a waterway green belt. Results revealed that foremost amongst local resident s perceptions was that green space retains its natural vegetative state. Unsurprisingly, walking and relaxation were reported as the principle physical activities in this green space. The results of the Sapporo study are not necessarily directly comparable with other public open spaces.

Vegetation is a key aspect of green space design.

Kuo et al (1998, p.843)

asserted that vegetation had a positive influence upon community attachment to public open space. They concluded that [g]reener common spaces appear to attract people outdoors, increasing opportunity for casual social encounters among neighbours and fosters the development of neighbourhood social ties (Kuo et al 1998, p.848). Similarly, Crow et al (2006) report that in their Chicago based-study community members reported an enhanced sense of place and urban quality in areas with well developed green spaces. Crow et al referred to well maintained green space attributed positively to the development of a green residential atmosphere. The importance of such an atmosphere cannot be under estimated. As previously discussed in Section 3.3, promoting physical activity amongst elderly residents is considered an important undertaking within the literature. Providing support for this, Takano et al s (2002, p.916) Tokyo study argued that [w]alkable green streets and places near the residence significantly and positively influence the five year survival of senior citizens . Takano et al s findings cannot be directly attributed to walking alone. However, the literature is adamant that the provision of attractive, accessible green space walkways for example community members. what may be considered conducive

have a positive health benefit for the elderly and other


As discussed in Section 3.3, a number of issues concerning safety impinge upon public open space usage. While the provision of naturally vegetated green open space has been documented as having a positive influence on physical activity, it must also be acknowledged that vegetation can be perceived negatively by some community members. Vegetation can provide or be seen to provide cover for persons engaged in anti-social and/or illegal activities, thereby reducing public open space usage by other community members. Qualitative data reported in Baum and Palmer s (2002) Adelaide-based study dramatically illustrate this. Thus it is important that the design of green open space balances the provision of vegetation with the interests of public safety. Steve Thompson (2008) argues that the design and [maintenance of] public open spaces to ensure that public safety

is commensurate to the level of use and targeted user groups is vital. Drawing upon the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Principles (CPTED), Thompson (2008) advances four key design principles to enhance public safety:

1. 2. 3. 4.

surveillance; access control; territorial reinforcement; management and maintenance.

Surveillance: good sight lines should be provided to enhance passive surveillance. Sight lines can be thought of as both internal and external.

Internally, it is proposed that clear sight be provided between 0.5 and 2m above ground level. Thus, dense shielding vegetation should be avoided where possible. This need not compromise vegetation as tree planting provides suitable shade and visual attractiveness, while providing good lines of sight. External surveillance can be enhanced by internal areas being visible from outside spaces such as roads and footpaths.

Access control: public open space can be designed to direct and therefore control public access. Providing clear and logical entry points and connectivity helps reduce ad hock entry points. However, this is not to propose limiting the number of entry/exit points significantly as this could unwittingly create entrapment zones thereby limiting opportunities to escape danger if required. Thompson

(2008) asserts that the provision of adequate and appropriate signage can assist in directing public space usage as it provides a sense of the function of space for users.

Territorial reinforcement: open space boundaries should be clearly identifiable and distinguishable from surrounding areas, especially adjoining private spaces. The delineation of space, it is argued, is important in the creation of a sense of appropriate activities and behaviours in the public realm. Design for territorial reinforcement needs to consider the aforementioned principles of surveillance and access control.

Management and maintenance: public open spaces are, typically, not natural environments and required effective management and maintenance. Where

possible a diversity of uses should be encouraged to attract a diversity of users. This is said to enhance usage, thereby enhancing passive surveillance. Further, ongoing maintenance is required for both hard (non-green) and soft (green) public open space infrastructure. Here, hard infrastructure may be thought of as play and/or recreation equipment to ensure safety and the provision of a high quality, user friendly environment. Soft infrastructure may be thought of as vegetation and landscaping. The maintenance of soft infrastructure should ensure that vegetation does not become overgrown, thereby reducing sight lines and/or creating entrapment zones.

Further, the provision of adequate lighting is vital.

Lighting is important for a

number of reasons. During daylight hours the sheer presence of lighting fixtures is said to create the impression of good surveillance and management. At night lighting reduces concealment zones. The later function of adequate lighting is important even if public open space is not used by community members after dark. Combined with appropriate external sight lines, lighting can deter anti-social and/or illegal activities through passive surveillance.

Inherent in the above discussion on CPTED and public open space are issues of risk. Risk mitigation is an important consideration for the provision of playground infrastructure for children. A brief discussion of these issues is considered

important. Despite community concerns over injury risk in public open space, Ball s (2002, 2004) UK research found that playground related injuries were very low. A detailed analysis of data from the UK health system between 1988 and 2002 revealed that, statistically, only one death occurred every three to four years (Ball 2002) as a result of playground accidents. While tragic, Ball contextualised this against the 500-600 accident related child deaths that occurred annually in the UK during this same period. Further, Ball estimated that approximately 40% of these accidents were in no way related to the provision or maintenance of playground infrastructure. Franklin s (2002) London study, specifically the

boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, supports the findings of Ball (2002, 2004). This study found that over 50% of injuries reported were related to tripping and falling rather than inadequacies with playground infrastructure. These tripping/falling injuries were more serious when they occurred on hard surfaces such as concrete or bitumen. This has prompted calls for more suitable, However, it is

absorbent surfaces to be provided in children s playgrounds.

important to note that safer play spaces may be viewed by children as boring. Unwittingly, safety may erode children s senses of enjoyment and ultimately reduce physical activity. Staempfli (2009) emphasises the need to provide play spaces that balance safety with acceptable risk. Drawing upon the European

experience of developing adventure playgrounds since the late 1970s, Staempfli (2009, p.277) argues that independence adventure playgrounds reinforce learning, foster

and offer children the opportunity for testing boundaries and

exploring positive risk . Effective supervision by a parent of guardian is a crucial aspect of risk minimisation in adventure playgrounds. While not expressly stated in this paper, engagement in children s play activities offers adults with further physical activity opportunities.

Key Points:

Design of open public space varies according to size and purpose of space. The type of open space provided influences its usage, location and proximity and size.


There is reported to be significant community demand for the provision of green space with natural vegetation. CPTED principles are cited as important in the design of public open space; specifically passive surveillance, access control, territorial reinforcement and management and maintenance. Lighting is also an important aspect of CPTED design principles. Risk mitigation is an important aspect of designing public open space for children. However, UK data suggests that accidents suffered by children in public open space are likely to be the consequence of accidents not involving recreational equipment.


The Policy Perspective:

The provision of urban open space within cities has been a public policy concern for well over a hundred years. The nineteenth century industrial cities of Europe and North America were often criticised for the paucity of their public and green spaces. Grants of much needed urban space by philanthropic donors in

nineteenth century Britain were viewed as enormously beneficial to urban conditions at the time. The urban remodelling of major European cities of

Barcelona (1850s) and Paris (1860s) included major new parks and the City Beautiful Movement in North America in the late nineteenth century also laid great emphasis on the provision of parks (Ward, 2002). These were viewed not only as aesthetic improvements to otherwise drab urban landscapes but as important areas for recreation and social interaction. Their health benefits were more

usually seen as relating to the opportunity to breathe fresh air away from the crowded streets and industrially dominated urban landscape but the benefits of physical exercise offered by the park were implicit and no less important.

Efforts to define public open space standards began in the USA in 1901 with a recommendation of 2ha per 1000 population. In the UK in the 1920s the National Playing Fields Association (NPFA) set down a standard of 6 acres (2.43 ha) per 1000 population, which has remained influential both in the UK and internationally ever since (Veal, 2008). The origins of this standard lie in an attempt to quantify


the space required for participation in recreational activity for all age groups within reasonable distance of home. All local authorities in the UK were encouraged to provide 5 acres (2.1 ha) of public open space for every 1000 people, of which at least 4 acres was to be set aside for team games, tennis and bowls with 1 acre (0.4 ha) of parks and public gardens. Various amendments to this standard, which Veal (2008) makes clear were not grounded in any evidence based research on actual usage rates, adjusted it first to 2.83 ha per 1000 between 1934-38 and subsequently to 2.43 ha per 1000 population as the space for passive recreation (0.4 ha) was dropped from the standard. It is clear that the standard derives from a range of assumptions about the amount of space required for active team sports and likely participation rates by different age groups. Subsequent reviews of the standard took rising living standards and changing demographics into account but failed to make any changes to the standard. Thompson (2008) provides

corroborative evidence for the 2.83 ha per 1000 standard but further notes that provision is often split 1.62 ha for active and 1.21 ha for passive open space, citing Raymond Unwin, the designer of Letchworth garden city and Hampstead garden suburb as its source. This is exactly the split recommended by Winchester City Council (2008) in its Open Space Strategy, suggesting that it is well known and applied in the UK. This suggested standard downgrades the active component of the NPFA standard to the benefit of the passive. The assessment of open space needs which underlies the NFPA standard is set out in Box 4.1:


The UK National Playing Fields Association calculated that:

For every 1000 population, 500 people were below the age of 40:

Of these it was assumed that 150 would either not want to play sport or would be unable to because of infirmity; A further 150 would use school facilities; So 200 people in every 1000 would need to be catered for.

Given the size of sports teams and frequency of play, it was estimated that the needs of these 200 people could be accommodated on:

1 senior football pitch 2 tennis courts; 1 junior football pitch 1 children's playground of acre (0.2 ha.); 1 cricket pitch 1 pavilion; 1 three-rink bowling green

These facilities would occupy 6 acres [2.43 ha.].

The standard excluded:

School playing fields military sports grounds; Verges woodlands; Commons gardens and parks; Golf courses large areas of water; Indoor facilities

The standard was reviewed in 1955, 1971, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1992 Box 4.1: UK National Playing Fields Association Open Space Assessment
Source: Veal A J (2008) Open Space Planning Standards in Australia: In Search of Origins, Working Paper 5, University of Technology Sydney, School\of Leisure, Sport and Tourism.


The NPFA standard of 2.83ha of open space per 1000 population has been widely applied in Australia. New South Wales continues to apply the standard. Veal (2008) cites several local council planning documents which specify this standard and notes that this is particularly important because it gives a legal basis for a defence of open space requirements demanded from developers.

Thus, it can be argued that this standard, derived from a needs based calculation of sporting activity rates of the UK population in the 1920s has formed the basis of open space planning in New South Wales. Elsewhere in Australia different

standards have been applied. The detailed description of the NPFA standard set out in the box above illustrates that calculation of the total amount of open space required by a residential population is complicated by what is included and excluded. The NPFA standard clearly concentrates on active sporting facilities such as soccer pitches and bowling greens. Nevertheless, it does not include golf courses, which because of their usually large space requirement would significantly increase the recommended area; nor does it include any indoor facilities such as gymnasia, basketball courts or swimming pools, all of which are clearly important for physical activity. We have already noted that the area given over to amenity and passive recreation, (strolling, sitting, picnicking etc) was removed from the NPFA` standard in the 1930s. So there is potentially significant scope for an increase in the recommended standard of open space provision. Furthermore, it is clear that standards relating to physical activity do not necessarily take into account the provision of urban green space which is important for biodiversity protection (Angold et al, 2006), sustainable urban drainage (Girling and Helphand, 1997), carbon sequestration (Nowak and Dwyer, 2007) or general amenity. Veal (2008) cites a number of commentators who have classified the range of urban open space standards recommended internationally and in Australia notably Daly (1995) and (1969). The National Capital

Development Commission for Canberra set a standard of 4 ha /1000 persons in 1981. This is further subdivided as in Table 4.1 below.


Playing fields Local Neighbourhood parks Town and District parks Ancillary space Demand Space

1.8 ha / 1000 persons 1.2 ha / 1000 persons 0.4 ha / 1000 persons 0.4 ha / 1000 persons 0.2 ha / 1000 persons

Table 4.1: Open space planning standards in Canberra

Source: National Capital Development Commission (1981)

No evidence is provided to support these standards, beyond a reference to practice in unspecified overseas countries being similar (cited in Veal, 2008). However, it can be noted that 4 ha/1000 is more generous than the previously cited 2.43 ha /1000.

The University of Western Australia's Centre for the Built Environment and Health has produced a large volume of literature on public open space partly via Western Australia s (WA) Liveable Neighbourhoods Project. The WA government specifies an open space contribution of 10% of the gross subdivisible area of a conditional subdivision be donated free for public open space (Planning Western Australia, undated). This standard derives from the 1955 Stephenson Hepburn plan for the Perth/Fremantle metropolitan region which demanded 3.3 ha/1000 persons of public open space (excluding school playing fields). On the basis of a uniform density of 30 persons per hectare, a standard contribution of 10 percent of the gross residential area for public open space has been applied since the 1950s. The policy notes that this requirement remains valid, as gross residential densities have remained much the same since that time, with smaller lot sizes being offset by declining household occupancies.

As part of its neighbourhood principles Victoria s Melbourne 2030 plan suggests a range of open spaces to meet a variety of needs, with links to open space networks and regional parks where possible Victorian state planning policy seeks to create walkable neighbourhoods. However, it does not suggest any state wide standards for neighbourhood space provision beyond pointing out the importance


of diversity, good design and spaces appropriate for all age groups in society (Department of Sustainability and Environment, 2005).

South Australia demands a 12.5% open space contribution for all residential developments over 20 allotments in size (Government of South Australia, 1993). If we assume a development for 1000 people, who represent households at the average size of 2.6 persons then the housing component would require 385 dwellings. This number of dwellings developed at a net density of 20dph requires 19.2 hectares of land. A 12.5% contribution therefore represents 2.4 ha, which is remarkably close to the well used 2.43 ha per 1000 standard.


Open Space Hierarchies

The Greater London Plan of 1944 represents a milestone in public policy making in respect of urban open space in that it introduced the concept of a public open space hierarchy and further attempted to identify quantitative open space requirements set against population levels (Museum of London, 2009). This

remained an influential standard throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Crucially the plan set standards not just in terms of the quality of open space required per 1000 population, but the distribution and accessibility of such space. The quantitative space standard set out in the Plan was 4.1 ha/1000

persons. It appears to have been largely based on the NPFA standard in that it sets out requirements for various types of recreational space, football pitches, tennis courts and bowling greens that reflect the NPFA scheme but in overall terms is more generous.

Open space was viewed by Patrick Abercrombie, the plan's principal author as needing to be organised in a hierarchical fashion with local neighbourhood spaces at the base and regional open space at the head.



Distance from Home Characteristics

Function Large areas of rural type land, including

Regional Parks, Regional Wildspace and Green Belt

Mainly weekend and occasional visits by car or public transport Up to 8 km

woodland and agricultural land. Some areas not publicly accessible. Primarily providing for informal recreation, but should include a strategic area for play. Car parking at key locations.

Mainly weekend and Strategic Open Space and occasional visits by Wildspace cycle, car or public transport Up to 8 km

Large areas of open space. Includes: formal parks and private open space; land of rural character; and land of nature conservation value. Should include a strategic area for play. Adequate car parking and cycle parking. Landscape setting with a variety of natural

Mainly weekend and Town Parks occasional visits by foot, cycle, car or public transport 1.2 km

features providing for a wide range of activities; formal and informal, or of a more specialist character e.g. nature conservation. The nonspecialist parks should include a neighbourhood area for play. Size about 15-40 ha. Some car parking. Providing for court games, children s play,

District Parks or Large Open Spaces

For pedestrian visitors

0.4 km

sitting-out areas, and landscaped or natural environment. Should include a neighbourhood area for play. Size about 5-15 ha.

Neighbourhood Parks or Open Spaces

Similar to District Parks, but likely to be For pedestrian visitors 0.4 km between 2 and 5 ha in size. Should include a neighbourhood area for play. Local Parks and Open Spaces, Wildspaces, Public Squares and other Hard Landscaped Areas up to 0.4 km Gardens, sitting-out areas, children's playgrounds, hard landscaped areas and public squares, and other areas of a specialist nature, including nature conservation areas. Should include a local or neighbourhood area for play, depending on size. Size up to 2 ha. Canal towpaths, paths, disused railways and other routes, which provide for informal recreation and/or nature conservation. Often

Local Parks and Open Spaces, Wildspaces, Public Squares and other Hard Landscaped Areas

Linear Open Spaces

Pedestrian visits

0.4 km

areas that are not fully accessible to the public, but contribute to the enjoyment of the space. May provide important links in the open space network.

Table 4.2: Example of an open space hierarchy

Source: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (undated)

This hierarchical concept has been widely applied around the world ever since (Harnik and Simms, 2004) and continues to be so. The concept is useful in that it serves two main functions, namely to analyse and categorise existing open space provision and to guide future provision or enhancement. Numerous local

authorities in the UK and Australia note the existence of an open space hierarchy in their development plan policies. The London Borough of Bexley (undated) and Sandwell (undated) in the West Midlands of England represent two typical examples. The City of Ballarat (undated) in Victoria and Norwood Payneham and St Peters Council (undated) in South Australia represent typical Australian examples. Land Com the NSW state land developer illustrates a hierarchy of spaces in its open space design guidelines (LandCom, 2008). 4.1.1. Alternative Approaches: Whilst the principles of setting open space standards and applying these in a hierarchical fashion have proved to be robust policy tools over a number of decades, current policy advice has shifted away from such a prescriptive approach. The hierarchical approach has been criticised by Woolley (2003) who raises concerns about the failure of this approach to recognise the different experiences that different parks can provide. Instead, a need based assessment has become a popular alternative to the standards based approach as part of a large scale review of urban policy, notably in the UK. The UK Urban Task Force report ( DETR, 1999) notes:

to achieve urban integration means thinking of urban open space not as an isolated unit be it a street, park or square but as a vital part

of urban landscape with its own specific set of functions. Public space should be conceived of as an outdoor room within a neighbourhood, somewhere to relax, and enjoy the urban experience, a venue for a range of different activities, from outdoor eating to street

entertainment; from sport and play areas to a venue for civic or political functions; and most importantly of all a place for walking or sitting-out. Public spaces work best when they establish a direct


relationship between the space and the people who live and work around it.

Following on from this policy advice, public open space provision in the UK now rests on four principles, namely,

1. Local needs which are likely to vary considerably from one place to another, even within a single local authority area,

2. A multi- disciplinary approach across different local authority departments to the provision of a network of high quality, sustainable open spaces and sport and recreation facilities

3. Improving and enhancing the accessibility and quality of existing provision as well as new provision where needed.

4. The value of open spaces or sport and recreation facilities, irrespective of who owns them, depends primarily on two things: the extent to which they meet clearly identified local needs and the wider benefits they generate for people, wildlife, biodiversity and the environment (Department of

Communities and Local Government, 2002)

Two major changes in the approach to planning for open space provision are apparent from this advice. First local needs must be assessed. These may vary depending on socio-demographic and cultural factors as well as the number of visitors to the area. This advice implies that different areas may require different levels, distributions and types of open space provision. The importance of community participation in this process is stressed by CABE (2005). Ensuring effective public involvement early in the development or regeneration process is a frequent observation of the CABE case studies. These further stress the likely reduction in ongoing maintenance costs of spaces which suit local needs and in which local residents feel a sense of ownership. Secondly, the function and value of open space in the urban environment needs to be viewed from a variety of standpoints rather than purely from a local recreational needs perspective. In

essence open space needs to work harder and provide for a more complex set of urban and environmental needs which include, but extend beyond, local recreational provision. This in turn, may impact on the design and management strategies for open space. The emphasis in policy terms has also shifted towards the provision of green space networks, which can provide enhanced access for populations whose open space provision is inadequate and also enhance biodiversity (Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, 2002). The concept spaces, which are interconnected by green corridors or walking and cycle routes, is a recurrent theme in recent literature (Pollard, 2003, Sallis, Bauman and Pratt, 1998, Barton and Tsourou, 2000) and in UK and US policy, but appears less prevalent in Australian policy documents. Nevertheless there are exceptions. The Victorian advice stresses interconnections, as does Gold Coast City Council, which is actively supporting a Green Ways and Walkable Neighbourhoods Plan (Gold Coast City Council, 2009).

4.1.2: Current Examples of Space Planning: Western Australia s Liveable Neighbourhoods Code (WAPC, 2009) is a good example of current policy in regard to public open space in Australia. It provides detailed advice on a range of factors which go towards making high quality walkable neighbourhoods in new subdivisions. Public open space is viewed as a hierarchy of spaces which ranges from small local parks (maximum area 3000 square meters), through neighbourhood local parks to district playing fields which are located between neighbourhoods and envisaged as being shared between them. A developer's contribution of 10% of gross space is required but local government is noted as being in the best position to decide on the size and distribution of open space provision. Sunarja et al (2008) have produced useful guidelines on design of open spaces based on the Liveable Neighbourhoods Code. These are again

hierarchical. The advice provides graphical examples of good practice design components of different types of space and a matrix of standards in respect of a range of factors such as walking, cycling, active play, formal sports and relaxation and picnicking taking different age groups into account. Whilst this advice is a clear step forward from previous standards based assessment elsewhere, in that it notes a clear evidence base where this exists, it could be argued that it lags behind UK and US policy particularly in respect of assessment of local needs and

in that it does not argue for connectivity of green spaces throughout the neighbourhood and beyond. Emphasis is clearly placed on the appropriateness of space and its design for various activities in a safe and pleasant environment, but it has little to say about the cultural diversity of needs for space or multi purpose space which takes biodiversity, water catchment, and management or

sustainability objectives into account.

Barnett (2001) also notes the lack of

attention given to ecosystem services such as the role of trees and vegetation in attenuating micro climate in open spaces in the Liveable Neighbourhoods policy.

Probably the most thorough analysis of open space in the urban environment has been carried out by the UK based Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE, 2005). The CABE Space Project was set up to champion excellence in the design and management of parks streets and squares in towns and cities. It argues that appropriate, high quality public space contributes to both the sustainability and success of place making. The scope of the project extends well beyond physical activity. For example, it argues that high quality green space is positively related to increased house values and has a role in tackling anti-social behaviour. It uses a series of examples from the UK and mainland Europe to illustrate the role of open space in reducing flood risk, linking communities, enhancing biodiversity and transforming the image of a region. The health

benefits of open space receive less emphasis. Whilst the thrust of much of the discussion relates to the use of open space and the need to engage communities in planning and designing their local spaces, the value of physical exercise within such spaces is not made explicit. Either it is taken as a given that use of space carries health benefits or the issue is seen as less pressing than in Australia because the nature of urban development in the UK and Europe is more mixed use and higher density, thus encouraging walking for local trips. In Australia the most comprehensive work on the relationship of public open space to the surrounding urban environment and PA levels is the RESIDE project. This is a five year research project that aims to evaluate the impact of urban design on health. In particular, the impact of urban design on walking, cycling, use of public transport and sense of community is studied. The neighbourhood questionnaire includes walking and cycling to parks, ovals, bushland both within the neighbourhood and outside the neighbourhood. It also includes general questions

about the amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity (Giles-Corti et al, 2007).


Open Space in Higher Density Urban Development

It is often argued that a diverse land use mix which contains both homes and jobs within close proximity is a useful strategy for reducing commuter car trips, promoting alternative healthier modes of travel and incidentally improving public health through promoting more physical activity. Settlements and suburbs

designed along such lines have been a consistent theme in planning literature ever since the late nineteenth century when a number of private sector industrial developers first built new towns (the so called industrial philanthropists) and the garden city movement advocated by the English reformer Ebenezer Howard called for such "balanced" communities (Howard, 1902). However, it is important to be precise in terms of scale when discussing these concepts. All of the examples cited above relate to areas with a population measured in hundreds or a few thousand. The maximum size for Howard's garden city was 32,000, which

translated into spatial area using the traditional garden city density measure of 12 dwellings per acre (30 dph) net, produces a town which can readily be crossed by a pedestrian in under one hour. Furthermore the city centre is accessible to the majority of households in 20 minutes or less on foot. It is often asserted that a distance of around half a kilometre or 5 minutes is the maximum walking trip acceptable to the majority of able bodied people (Ker and Ginn 2003). However, a recent review of evidence suggests that there may be more variability in behaviour than previously thought (McCormack et al, 2008). Thus acceptable walking distance to a range of facilities including open space is an important consideration when formulating policy. Effective policy in this regard requires an evidence base but also demands a consideration of density.

The policy direction of many Australian cities towards urban consolidation and a more diverse mix of land uses raise questions about the nature of open space provision in such new and denser neighbourhoods. To date urban consolidation has meant different things in different locations. Suburban consolidation within existing low density neighbourhoods has often meant the insertion of low rise

group dwellings on windfall sites, which are often limited in area. Typically they might consist of a large suburban allotment (800 2000 square meters) which is Here there is often no

subdivided into two or more units of accommodation.

attempt to introduce a mix of uses, so whilst the net density increases, cars generally remain the usual transport mode for trips to shops and other facilities. Similarly, larger scale developments within or adjacent to existing suburbs are often entirely residential in form. Whilst some show an increase in net density over earlier types, usually as result of smaller allotment sizes, they still often cannot be classified as high density and again there are few incentives for increased physical activity levels as result of the built form. In the urban core, the last fifteen years or so have witnessed some major steps towards a form of living that may be described as high density. Multi story apartment blocks, either

conversions of existing buildings or new structures, have increased the population density of a number of urban centres (Adelaide is a good example). In such locations the availability of open space to resident populations is potentially an important issue which needs to be addressed. International examples of high density urban cores which lacked public open space point to the need to provide adequate levels of open space for dense urban populations. The city of Barcelona is a leader in this field. As its inner city industrial sites became redundant in the 1970s and 1980s it pioneered the introduction of new urban spaces at different scales ranging from small childrens play spaces to major new urban parks (eg Parc Industriel). Around 200 hectares of new public open space was thus created in a very dense urban environment (Gehl and Gemzoe, 2008). The city of

Amsterdam is a further example of this approach, which in this case was led by local citizen action in the Westerpark district as was the city of Malmo in Sweden with its Vastra Hamnen regeneration project (CABE, 2005).

4.2.1: Transit Oriented Development: Two key questions which face Australian cities such as Adelaide with its stated intention of developing around a dozen high density TODs are;

at what density will these schemes be developed and how will the open space needs of their residents be catered for?


Approaches to open space provision which rest on a set proportion of the development being set aside for open space may not be appropriate where high density schemes produce large populations on small sites. For example ,as Table 4.3 demonstrates, a requirement for 12.5% open space in a development for 6,600 people on a 30 hectare site (gross density 220 persons per ha) would yield The same number of people housed at typical low

3.75ha of open space.

Australian densities (15 dph or 30 people ph) would be provided with 27.5 ha of space. Similarly, if we apply the NPFA standard of 2.43 ha/1000 persons then in both cases we would expect an open space allocation of 16 ha. In the latter case the actual space allocation exceeds that required under the NPFA standard by over 10 ha, or 0.66 ha /1000 persons.


Gross site area

Gross Density

12.5% space Space /1000 NPFA contribution persons Standard

High Density Low Density

30 ha 220 ha

110 dph 15 dph

3.75 ha 27.5 ha

0.56 ha 4.1 ha

16 ha 16 ha

Table 4.3: Space provision using standards for 6,600 persons at high and low densities
NB Table 4.3 assumes an average household size of 2 persons in each case

This comparison graphically demonstrates the problem with applying blanket standards in a range of situations. Using the example of Georgian squares, CABE (2005) points out how effectively a small amount of well designed green space can contribute to the urban environment. The report also points to the large amounts of amenity green space that often accompanied high rise housing developments in 1960s Britain. Often this space was little used, unattractive in appearance, a focus for antisocial behaviour and expensive to maintain. On the basis of these and similar examples CABE presents a persuasive argument for assessing open space needs and providing well designed open space which fits the demographic, cultural and behavioural characteristics of the local population. CABE provide a set of useful guidelines for making such open space audits and assessments as well as providing advice on community involvement and design principles (CABE, 2004). Another key aspect in respect of open space provision in higher density

developments is noted by the US Local Government Commission (LGC, 2003). This report advocates the benefits of high density residential developments using case studies to demonstrate that all facilities such as local shops, supermarkets, schools, bus stops, jobs and parks are significantly closer to home and more walkable in higher density developments. The nearest park in a 48 dph

development is noted as 106m from the typical dwelling as opposed to 216m in a development at 15 dph.

Land Com (2008) has produced guidelines for open space provision in new developments. These contain a number of similar arguments to those put forward by CABE. For example Land Com place emphasis on community participation in identifying open space requirements, on the need for interconnectivity between spaces and communication routes, especially walking and cycling paths and the complex use of space, for example for water sensitive urban design and wildlife corridors. Multi functionality, especially of sporting facilities is considered

important as is the need to locate open spaces close to compatible facilities such as indoor sports venues, schools and community buildings with a view to maximisation of joint use opportunities. Stress is also placed on the importance of high quality space design which takes natural topography and features into account as well as using local materials and designs which are sensitive to local character. The Land Com guidelines also suggest that diversity of space types and provision is valuable as is recognition that local needs vary and change over time. Adaptability of space needs to be incorporated into designs. Health and well-being merit a section in the guidelines, which covers issues relating to designs which promote activity for all age groups, respond to changing seasonal characteristics and enhance personal security and safety. However, the issue of how much space to provide is less well documented. A good practice example of a 6 hectare park including a range of facilities is shown but this is not related to any specific population or density figure. Several of the examples clearly relate to medium to high density development types but there is no discussion of varying open space levels according to varying density.

Advice on public space provision which is specific to TODs and higher development densities appears to be scarce in the health and physical activity

related literature. As discussed in Section 3.4, there is evidence that high rise living, particularly for residents on upper floors, is associated with lower levels of physical activity (Jackson, 2003), but this does not extend to any policy recommendations. suggests that: Western Australian development control policy (2006)

land extensive/low intensity elements of schools and other similar public uses, for example playing fields should not be dominant elements within walkable catchment of transit facilities (Planning Western Australia, 2006).

However, Calthorpe (1990), in a review of design considerations in TODs, argues that:

parks and plazas in TODs act as neighbourhood meeting places recreational activity centres child care facilities and lunchtime picnic spots. Because their function is primarily public activity they are most appropriately located central to residential or core areas.

Thus, the general approach seems to recommend larger areas of open space on the fringe of the TOD and smaller areas of intense activity space in central locations. Either hard surfacing or a combination of hard and soft treatment is Calthorpe s recommended design approach for central; area open space. No

recommendations for open space standards within TODS were sourced in the literature.



While there is a significant body of work exploring the value of mixing land uses, of locating facilities within easy walking distance of homes and providing safe and attractive opportunities for walking and cycling, there is a relative paucity of work exploring the relationship between urban form and active living particularly in respect of providing an evidence base. The purpose of this research review paper was to explore and review the literature which looks at the provision of open space

within the urban fabric. In particular this review paper sought to identify the evidence base in respect of evaluating the importance of open and public space in supporting active living through a review of the academic and policy evidence. This has been undertaken through an exhaustive review and discussion of both the international and Australian based academic and policy literatures. This

review has revealed a burgeoning academic and policy literature. As encouraging as this is, we note that much of the thinking on the provision of public open space and its relationship with and impact upon physical activity is premised on a common-sense approach rather than being founded on empirical evidence. The genesis of that evidence base is apparent. However, further research is required to fully reveal the intricacies of public open space provision and physical activity.

With the above in mind, we wish to advance a series of concluding comments. These comments are not considered to represent definitive end-points. Rather, we present them as salient observations drawn from the review and presented to stimulate further thought and discussion. Thus, the following comments represent a summary, not intended to end discussion, but rather to invite it by acting as points of departure.

The literature review presented here reveals that the evidence base for the provision of public open space and its benefits for promoting physical activity are primarily emerging from the health sciences literature, particularly the field of public health. While there appear to be significant research

intersections between the urban planning and public health literatures, further attention should be devoted to these issues within planning scholarship.

The linkages between these fields are apparent, but greater integration is not only desirable, it is essential.

Access to public open space, be it green or non-green, is a critical issue in promoting physical activity. However, the notion of access is complex.

Access may be thought of is a spatial sense and measured in both distance and time. More nuanced considerations of access must address a diverse range of social factors (socio-economics, gender, age, culture, disability for example) and how these intersect with spatial determinants.

The effective provision of public open space is not solely a public health issue, but equally an equity issue.

There is no comprehensive justification for the open space standards which have historically been widely applied in Australia Quasi-public spaces, especially in new developments, present complex issues with regard to the equitable provision of public open space. Effective public open space should not, where possible, be designed for a single physical activity. Rather, effective public open space should cater for a diverse range of activities and uses.

Open space needs to be considered as fulfilling a range of functions, not just recreation and physical activity. For example it may have biodiversity value, flood mitigation value, carbon sequestration value. While the health benefits of moderate and vigorous physical activity are laudable, the benefits of activities in public open space classified in the literature as being passive should not be under-estimated.

The planning of new neighbourhood developments must adopt a more sophisticated notion of design to ensure that proximity is not reduced to linear distance (as the crow-flies), but rather reflects the actual journey an individual would have to make to access public open space (using a directness calculation). CPTED principles are said to enhance safety in public open space, thereby improving usage rates.

Walkability thresholds are recommended as being no further than 1km.


Using fixed percentage standards for open space provision my not be a practical approach in situations where a range of development densities are envisaged

It is possible to provide too much open space as well as too little. Too much space may negatively impact on the amenity of an area, be a focus for anti social behaviour and represent a sub optimal use of land with negative impacts on property values

Open space allocation is best arrived at through a detailed audit of existing provision in an area allied to a needs assessment of the local population. Whilst it is recognised that needs might change and therefore some flexibility is necessary over time, a blanket standards based approach is not the best mechanism.

A linked series of spaces in the form of a network should be a basic aim of planning for open space provision. This open space framework is best seen as a starting point for the structure of a new development

The detailed design of open space is a crucial issue and needs to be done carefully, in consultation with users and to a very high standard.

Flexibility and adaptability are important aspects of design strategy.

There is no evidence of prescriptive standards for open space provision in high density or transit oriented developments. However location and design guidelines for such developments are available. 6. Recommendations:

Many of the points noted above provide important guidance for designers and developers of open space. The following summary list sets out the basic components of good open space design to foster active living.


Open space provision is best viewed as a primary initial consideration in the design process. It can form the framework around which the rest of the layout can be formulated.

The nature, extent and location of open space is best determined in consultation with existing and future residents and should take into account the demographics of the local population.

A needs based assessment of open space requirements is generally preferable to a standards based approach.


councils choose to adopt a standards based approach to open

space provision, particularly when this consists of a fixed percentage of the development area, it is important that they recognise and are prepared to modify the resulting open space requirement in relation to the density of the development.

Designers should always aim to produce high quality spaces. Whilst development and maintenance costs are important considerations, reducing costs at the expense of the attractiveness, durability, quality of finish or suitability to use of space is not advisable.

A network of spaces is preferable to stand alone spaces. The connectivity of spaces is a crucial factor in fostering active living.

Accessibility to open space networks is crucial. Residences should be located no more than 10 minutes walk from open space networks. The functionality and attractiveness of the walk to open space networks is very important to fostering physical activity.

Users of open space need to feel safe regardless of sex or age. Designs should take account of CPTED principles to ensure security.


Open space designs should take account of the variety and intensity of potential uses. This is particularly important in higher density developments where space may be restricted. 7 Recommendations for Future Research:

Qualitative assessment of user opinions of space to provide an alternative to observational studies of user behaviour.

Analyse variation in policy frameworks between councils. potential for an integrated approach to policy on open space.


Examine application of developer contributions mechanism. How does it work in practice? Are there alternative models? How well will it work with more variation in the density of development?

Analyse notions of integrated design for open space. For example the use of rooftop space, semi private and restricted access space. How can we quantify/assess their contribution to the total urban development?

Analysis of open spaces that do not function well. eg Spaces that meet CPTED standard but are not regarded as successful. Could this

analysis assist in the generation of future policy standards and inform on the relative importance of different aspects of provision?

Can we define a South Australian set of design principles which distinguish urban spaces from the European tradition of green space?

Are there tensions and contradictions within the concept of multi functional space? Eg WSUD and child safety; biodiversity and public access?

Is it possible to define an appropriate level and type of open space provision for a transit oriented development?



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9. Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Adelaide Active Living Coalition for funding this project and Kirsty Kelly for her valuable work on the initial literature review.