Planning Portal

PPS 8: Open Space, Sport and Outdoor Recreation
Policy OS 2

Policy OS 2 Public Open Space in New Residential Development
The Department will only permit proposals for new residential development of 25 or more units, or on sites of one hectare or more, where public open space is provided as an integral part of the development. In smaller residential schemes the need to provide public open space will be considered on its individual merits.
An exception to the requirement of providing public open space will be permitted in the case of apartment developments or specialised housing where a reasonable level of private communal open space is being provided. An exception will also be considered in cases where residential development is designed to integrate with and make use of adjoining public open space.
Where the provision of public open space is required under this policy, the precise amount, location, type and design of such provision will be negotiated with applicants taking account of the specific characteristics of the development, the site and its context and having regard to the following:
  1. A normal expectation will be at least 10% of the total site area;
  2. For residential development of 300 units or more, or for development sites of 15 hectares or more, a normal expectation will be around 15% of the total site area; and
  3. Provision at a rate less than 10% of the total site area may be acceptable where the residential development:
    • is located within a town or city centre; or
    • is close to and would benefit from ease of access to areas of existing public open space; or
    • provides accommodation for special groups, such as the elderly or people with disabilities; or
    • incorporates the ‘Home Zone’ concept.
For residential development of 100 units or more, or for development sites of 5 hectares or more, an equipped children’s play area will be required as anintegral part of the development. The Department will consider an exception to this requirement where an equipped children’s play area exists within reasonable walking distance (generally around 400 metres) of the majority of the units within the development scheme.
Public open space required by this policy will be expected to conform to all the following criteria:
  • it is designed in a comprehensive and linked way as an integral part of the development;
  • it is of demonstrable recreational or amenity value;
  • it is designed, wherever possible, to be multi-functional;
  • it provides easy and safe access for the residents of the dwellings that it is designed to serve;
  • its design, location and appearance takes into account the amenity of nearby residents and the needs of people with disabilities; and
  • it retains important landscape and heritage features and incorporates and protects these in an appropriate fashion.
Planning permission will not be granted until the developer has satisfied the Department that suitable arrangements will be put in place for the future management and maintenance in perpetuity of areas of public open space required under this policy. Arrangements acceptable to the Department include:
  1. a legal agreement transferring ownership of and responsibility for the open space to the local district council; or
  2. a legal agreement transferring ownership of and responsibility for the open space to a charitable trust registered by the Charity Commission or a management company supported by such a trust; or
  3. a legal agreement transferring ownership of and responsibility for the open space to a properly constituted residents’ association with associated management arrangements.
In all cases developers will be responsible for the laying out and landscaping of public open space required under this policy.

Justification and Amplification

5.11 Providing public open space as an integral part of a housing scheme contributes to the creation of a sustainable and quality residential environment. It has both recreational and social value, and helps to establish a sense of identity. The ‘greening’ of an area can also contribute to people’s health, well-being and quality of life, particularly that of children, and can help promote biodiversity.
5.12 Through the Quality Initiative 1, it is the Department’s stated objective to secure a high quality of design, layout and landscaping in new housing developments. It is considered essential, therefore, that areas of pleasant, attractive and landscaped public open space, including children’s play spaces, are provided as an integral element of new residential development.
5.13 Public open space can be provided in a variety of forms ranging from village greens, kickabout areas and small parks through to equipped play areas and sport pitches. In addition, the creation or retention of woodland areas or other natural or semi-natural areas of open space can provide valuable habitats for wildlife and promote biodiversity. Through careful design, multi-functional areas combining activities and uses can often be successfully created. To provide for maximum surveillance areas of open space are best located where they are overlooked by the fronts of nearby dwellings.
5.14 A particularly important consideration in determining the layout of new housing developments is the provision of safe opportunities for children’s play. The main place where young children play is adjacent or near to their homes as generally they are constrained in terms of the distance they are allowed to venture from their house for supervision and safety reasons. It is important, therefore, that children’s play areas and facilities are located within a reasonable walking distance of where they live. However, they should not be located so close to dwellings as to cause noise or nuisance problems for residents.
5.15 In large developments, there may be a need to provide more formal outdoor recreation facilities, such as playing pitches, to meet the needs generated by the development. In such cases, the Department will consult closely with the recreation department of local district councils.
5.16 In calculating the precise amount of public open space provision needed in an individual development proposal, only space of demonstrable recreational or amenity value i.e. ‘useable’ open space, will generally be counted. Accordingly, verges and visibility splays, which form part of the adopted highway, will not normally count towards the open space provision.
5.17 Apartment developments and specialised housing will also require adequate provision of open space to meet the needs of future residents and to help integrate the development and promote a more attractive environment. In cases where private communal gardens are proposed as an integral part of the development, the Department will not require separate provision of public open space.

Management and Maintenance in Perpetuity

5.18 The provisions made for the management and maintenance of public open space required under this policy are a key material consideration in the determination of planning applications. The Department will not adopt such open space areas. The onus, therefore, will rest on developers to ensure that such land will be made available and subsequently retained, managed and maintained in perpetuity as public open space.
5.19 There are three approaches that the Department is satisfied provide reasonable assurance that such open space can be managed and maintained in perpetuity. These are :
  1. A legal agreement transferring ownership and responsibility for the open space to the local district council. Applicants are therefore advised to consult councils about their adoption policies at an early stage in the design process.
  2. A legal agreement transferring ownership and responsibility for the open space to a charitable trust registered by the Charity Commission, such as The Woodland Trust or the Greenbelt Foundation, or a management company supported by such a trust.
  3. A legal agreement transferring ownership and responsibility for the open space to a properly constituted residents’ association with associated management arrangements. In this case, the ownership of the open space is divided equally among incoming residents who then employ a management company on their behalf to maintain the open space. The developer will be responsible for setting up a resident’s association, putting in place the initial management regime and ensuring this matter is clearly set out in the sale agreement. Any developer intending to follow this approach will also be required to demonstrate to the Department’s satisfaction what alternative measures will take effect in the event that the residents’ management arrangements were to break down.
5.20 If an applicant wishes to follow an alternative approach to those outlined above, it will have to be demonstrated how such an approach can meet the Department’s policy requirement for the open space to be managed and maintained in perpetuity.
5.21 To ensure that planning applications are dealt with expediently and therefore avoid delays, the Department will expect full information on which of the above approaches that an applicant intends to follow to be provided as part of their application. This matter will need to be agreed in writing with the Department before full planning permission (or approval of reserved matters) is granted and any necessary legal agreements between the developer and third parties put in place before the development commences. A condition will be attached to planning permission tying the management and maintenance of the open space to the approach agreed with the Department.
5.22 The Department will also attach appropriate planning conditions to address the following matters:
  • the laying out and landscaping of the open space;
  • the timing of its implementation; and
  • the permanent retention of the open space.
5.23 It should be noted that there may be occasions where the provision of open space in association with residential development can only be facilitated by the applicant entering into a Planning Agreement under Article 40 of the Planning (NI) Order 1991. Where this is the case, the Planning Agreement will need to be completed before planning permission is granted.
1 This encompasses the Ministerial Statement made by Malcolm Moss MP in January 1996 and Planning Policy Statements - PPS 1 General Principles (DoE, 2001), as well and PPS 7 Quality Residential Environments (DoE, 2001), as well as the guidance contained in the publication - Creating Places (DoE and DRD, 2000) and Development Control Advice Note 8 - Housing in Existing Urban Areas (DoE, 2002).
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