New benchmark guidelines for the design of spaces for outdoor sport and play have been published by Fields In Trust; ‘Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play: Beyond the Six Acre Standard’, will be a crucial tool for local planning authorities, developers, planners, urban designers and landscape architects in the design of outdoor sport, play and informal open space. It is provided as an interactive PDF at the Fields in Trust website
This guidance has been produced to reflect a new planning policy landscape. Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (2012), the introduction of The Localism Act (2011) and the phased introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy all combine to change how local planning operates. This updated guidance clearly identifies benchmarks within the current policy framework.
As part of its work, Fields in Trust has supported practitioners since the 1930s on open space provision and design – The “Six Acre Standard”. The new 2015 guidance backed up by research retains the same headline rates of provision, but draws out new recommendations for accessibility, for flexible application of standards and the minimum dimensions of formal outdoor space. This revision of the guidelines introduces benchmarking for informal open space – places for recreation, not involving organised sport and play – and includes parks and gardens, and natural and semi-natural habitats. The guidance also no longer differentiates between urban and rural areas.
Writing in the foreword of the document The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government says “I welcome this updated guide which councils and neighbourhood planning groups may find helpful when they consider planning for open space”.
The current version of the guidance relates to England only. Changing planning arrangements and national sports governance in the devolved nations require specific policy responses. Work is underway on separate guidance for Wales and Scotland, which will be published early next year.
Speaking at the House of Lords launch of the new guidance Paul Garber, Former Group Planning Director George Wimpey / Taylor Wimpey and chair of the Fields in Trust Land and Planning Committee said “Adopting this guidance will help planners and designers ensure that the provision of outdoor sport, play and informal open space is of sufficient size to enable effective public use, in an accessible location close to local communities. It is important that outdoor space has a design quality which will maintain its longevity and to encourage continued use”.
Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths said: “We want everyone in the UK – young or old, able or disabled and wherever they live – to have access to free, local outdoor space for sport and play. As we celebrate our 90th year it remains as important as ever that we continue to secure recreational spaces in perpetuity and provide planning guidance to help ensure communities have sufficient opportunity to engage in sport, play and physical activity. Our parks, playing fields and other green spaces help to create a real sense of place and space as well as contributing to the health and wellbeing of local residents.”