Public open space is a form of green infrastructure that enhances the character of the North District's neighbourhoods, supports healthy and active lifestyles, and brings communities together. As the District grows, providing for and developing innovative ways to optimise open space areas for recreation, sport and social activity, as well as establishing physical links that support social networks and create a sense of community, will become increasingly important. Delivering connected walking, cycling and horse riding trails will maximise their use.
The key considerations for planning open space are quality, quantity and distribution. The Greater Sydney Green Grid will help improve access and distribution. There will be relatively few opportunities to increase the quantity of public open space, and therefore greater emphasis will be needed on improving the quality and distribution of open space, including sporting facilities.
Councils already identify innovative solutions for the shortfall in active open space, including making better use of existing sportsgrounds, converting existing open space into sports fields, and partnering with schools to share spaces outside school hours.
Urban renewal also creates opportunities for increasing the quantity of open space. Planning for urban renewal needs to consider opportunities to deliver new, improved and accessible open spaces, including space for active sport and recreation, that meet the needs of the growing community. High density development (over 60 dwellings per hectare) should be located within 200 metres of open space and all dwellings should be within 400 metres of open space.
People in urban neighbourhoods should be able to walk to local open space. In high density neighbourhoods, public open space is used like a shared backyard, providing a green communal living space. Open space in high density neighbourhoods needs to be durable, multipurpose and accessible to a wide variety of users. High density neighbourhoods also need to have high quality open space within close proximity.
In local and strategic centres, Planned Precincts and Growth Areas, local open space is important to provide places for workers to relax and for people to meet and socialise. It also provides for tree and vegetation planting in the centre. Place-based planning can identify opportunities to improve the quality, management and use of existing open space, and to provide new open space.
While 52 per cent of the District is open space, most of this is protected national parks and reserves along the Hawkesbury River and its tributaries, such as the Ku-ring-gai National Park and the Berowra Valley National Park28. Nature-based recreation can help connect communities to the natural landscape. Demand for nature-based recreation will need to be managed to minimise impacts on biodiversity.
Existing open space within the District is shown on Figure 22.
Access to open space for the majority of residents in the District is within 400 metres. For residents of high density development, improving access to local open space together with its quality will be essential.
When the future of any larger spaces used for activities such as golf courses is uncertain, due to declining membership and attendance figures any land or facilities in public ownership should be retained as open space and transitioned to shared open space and facilities, including for organised sports. For land in private ownership, there may be opportunities for part of the land to be repurposed or set aside for open or shared spaces.
Figure 22: North District access to open space
Active open space is in high demand across the District, with limited opportunity to provide additional capacity in response to population growth. Utilisation rates are high, with some sporting clubs unable to access fields as needed, and providers such as local councils finding it difficult to fund upkeep and maintenance. A trend towards greater participation in sport by women and people aged over 35 is beginning to appear, as well as a trend towards indoor sports, and sports requiring less space such as futsal, changing patterns of demand for sports fields and facilities.
The Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils' (NSROC) Regional Sportsground Management Strategy (2011) aims to improve coordination of sportsground management across the region and is in the process of being reviewed. Future open space planning relies on collaboration and innovative re-use of shared spaces in response to the rising demand for active open space.
Open space within school grounds is a potential asset that could be shared by the wider community outside of school hours.
The Government Architect NSW is developing an open space toolkit, a resource for councils to use for open space planning.