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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Navigating open space strategies

John O’Neil, Senior Planner at the Greater London Authority, gives an overview of how GiGL could help boroughs to meet their obligation to produce an open space strategy

The Mayor’s London Plan sets the strategic context for open space planning throughout London, based on protecting and promoting the network of open spaces. The London Plan recognises the valuable contribution that open spaces play in providing a good quality environment that makes London an attractive place to live, work and visit.

The London Plan states that, in order to better understand the provision of open spaces, the demands and needs placed on them and to identify ways of protecting, creating and enhancing them through better management, boroughs should produce an ‘open space strategy’.

The Mayor has published best practice guidance to assist boroughs in developing and delivering their open space strategies. The guidance sets the London context for such strategies, promoting a consistent approach that will facilitate the evaluation and sharing of information.

It sets out practical guidelines on the methodology and content of an open space strategy, and a range of tools including advice on how to assess the quantity and quality of open spaces and on how to identify the needs of local communities and other users of open spaces.

It also suggests ways of promoting open space improvements including the use of planning obligations and ways to effectively engage local communities and establish collaborative partnerships, as well as sources of funding.

Open space strategies should be based on up to date and comprehensive information. Data in GIS form provide the means to assess and analyse the quality, facilities, and current uses of open spaces, and the needs of local people and other users. But often, the information collected by boroughs is not maintained, is difficult to access or is fragmented across different departments.

This is where GiGL’s assistance could be invaluable in improving the management and maintenance of the data. By acting as the data manager, receiving and collating updates from different service areas across the borough, GiGL can create a single comprehensive dataset. That dataset can then be made available across the whole borough, ensuring that every department sees the complete picture, facilitating effective monitoring and review of open space strategies, and providing data for other uses in the planning and management of open spaces. GiGL can also make that information available to others on behalf of the borough.

GiGL’s open space data holdings The Mayor’s best practice guidance states that, as a minimum, the following information should be gathered during an audit for all open spaces, and that this information should be held and maintained in GIS format:

  • Site name and ID
  • Points of access
  • Site categorisation using the ‘public open space hierarchy’ – a benchmark for provision of open space across London that highlights areas where there is a shortfall
  • Site categorisation using PPG17 typology and local subdivision, including parks and gardens, green corridors, outdoor sports facilities and allotments
  • Size in hectares
  • Facilities and features, including bowling greens, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools and basketball hoops
  • Ownership and management
  • Condition/quality
  • Functions of the site
  • Present level of use
  • Access and facilities for disabled people

GiGL holds these data for all boroughs covered by the Greater London Authority’s open space and habitat survey, as well as information on each site’s planning status. All sites over 0.25 hectares are surveyed and their boundaries mapped in GIS. The accompanying facilities and land-use information are collected in the field and collated on GiGL’s open space dataset. This is the beginning of a regional dataset that can be used by the London boroughs and by the GLA.

What happens next is up to GiGL’s partners. These borough-wide datasets provide a snapshot in time of information about the borough’s open spaces – a baseline from which to measure improvements and losses. Different officers within the boroughs have responsibilities for some or all aspects of open space data generation, from reporting increases in sports facilities to reporting the creation of new cycle paths. All it will take is the commitment of the boroughs to take this forward.

If you are interested in talking to someone at GiGL about your open space data, contact Mandy Rudd.

The London Plan and best practice guidance for open space strategies are available via the GLA website

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