Public open space is a form of green infrastructure that enhances the character of the Eastern City District's neighbourhoods, supports healthy and active lifestyles and brings communities together. As the District grows, providing 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 and cycling trails will maximise their use.
The key considerations for planning open space within the Eastern City District are quality, quantity 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 have been investigating 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 to increase the quantity of open space. Planning for urban renewal needs to consider opportunities to deliver new, improved and accessible open spaces, including space for active sport and recreation, that meets the needs of the growing community.
High density development (over 60 dwellings per hectare) should be located within 200 metres of open space and all dwellings should be within 400 metres of open space.
People in urban neighbourhoods should be able to walk to local open space. In high density neighbourhoods, public open space is used like a shared backyard, providing a green communal living space. Open space in high density neighbourhoods needs to be durable, multi-purpose and accessible to a variety of users. High density neighbourhoods also need to have high quality open space within close proximity.
In local and strategic centres, local open space is important to provide places for people to relax, meet and socialise. It 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 opportunities to provide new open space.
The Eastern City District's network of open spaces includes unique and iconic landscapes, harbours, beaches, wetlands, coastal walks, waterfront promenades, rivers, parks and playgrounds. Combined, they provide opportunities for healthy lifestyles and create significant economic benefit. Nature-based recreation also helps connect communities to the natural landscape.
The largest areas of open space in the District are around La Perouse and Malabar, Centennial Park and Moore Park, and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain. Other highly valued open spaces include the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk, the Botany wetlands and the long corridor of open space and cycle paths along the foreshore of Botany Bay and the Cooks River. Almost 98 per cent of the District's residents live within 400 metres of open space (refer to Figure 22)35.
The District's major sports and recreation facilities include Royal Randwick Racecourse, the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Stadium, Leichhardt Oval and Concord Oval and large golf courses, especially in the eastern and south-eastern neighbourhoods and in the local government areas of Canada Bay, Strathfield and Burwood.
Figure 22: Eastern City District access to open space
Active open space is in high demand across the District, with limited opportunity to provide additional capacity alongside 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.
Links to and between open space assets tend to favour major scenic areas. In the east, links along the coastline, and to a lesser extent along the Harbour, are well established. In the west, links east-west along the Parramatta River have progressively been improved, as have those along the Cooks River and Botany Bay foreshores. Connections from the residential areas to these and other major assets would boost access to valuable open space resources. Demand for nature-based recreation will need to be managed to minimise impacts on biodiversity.
The future of some larger spaces used for activities such as golf may be 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.
The District's golf courses may offer an opportunity to contribute to additional open space. Consolidating existing courses to support international grade facilities, while delivering additional public open space for active sport and recreation, walking and cycling will require further investigation and effective collaboration. Protecting waterways and biodiversity on consolidated and repurposed golf courses is also important.
Open space within school grounds is a potential asset that could be shared by the wider community outside of school hours. Other opportunities to create greater recreational capacity across the District include non-traditional methods such as rooftop gardens and recreational areas; shared use of open spaces currently inaccessible due to private use or being enclosed and innovative approaches to planning for and using small/pocket parks.
The Government Architect NSW is developing an open space toolkit, a resource for councils to use for open space planning.