NSW Plans a ‘Shared Backyard’

New NSW government guidelines, imposed in the wake of the global pandemic, decree that parks and other open spaces should be established within 200m of high-density houses and 400m from schools and workplaces, in an effort to make greenery a priority in this region.

NSW Government Architect Abbie Galvin attributes the need for the premiere Greener Places policy to the combined effects of the deadly summer bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.

Galvin stated that the maintenance of standing green spaces was insufficient in terms of urban planning policy, as we must at this point completely regenerate the environment.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment debuted its drafted Greener Places policy Thursday, specifying guidelines for open spaces such as parks, sports fields, open corridors and rooftop gardens. The department will advise planning controls at every stage of urban development at all levels of state and local government.

The planning guidelines highlight the development of an interconnected network of accessible recreational areas, tree canopies, as well as native habitats and an overall sense of ecoconsciousness in urban and regional environments.

Metrics are specified to direct regional planners, like the creation of open spaces within 200m of residences in regions of more than 60 dwellings per hectare, and 400m from schools and places of business, with recreational land ranging more than 15m in width, and at least 150m for sports fields.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes stated that the policy would establish the benchmark for delivering high-quality public green spaces in NSW.

Stokes stated that as more citizens relocated to apartments, terraces and townhouses, parks, tree-lined streets and playgrounds will evolve into the ‘shared backyards’ that maintain the health and livability of these communities.

Stokes stated earlier that the large number of citizens exercising outdoors during the pandemic revealed the limits of historic urban design. And last month he declared the establishment of a $15 million fund to assist councils in the creation of public open spaces and cycleways.

He stated that in Sydney’s inner-west area, in which residents occupy 12 square metres per person, many of the methods of reshaping the city exterior would be linear in nature, through the use of old infrastructure routes like drainage canals, utility routes or riparian corridors.

A number of inner-city councils are seeking new methods of appropriating established spaces for public use, with Randwick City Council morphing car parks in Clovelly and Chifley into temporary park spaces for bike riding, scooters and sports games.

North Sydney Council is also investigating ways to clear the way for additional sporting fields and block off streets for games.

The Greater Sydney Commission is also promoting the planting of trees to provide coverage for 40 per cent of urban regions by 2056.

Galvin stated that the image of tree-lined avenues across Sydney was a major objective.

She also stresses that these guidelines are optional and intended to inspire innovative, visionary and ecoconscious urban design.

Professor Bill Randolph, the City Futures Research Centre director at the University of NSW, asserts that a government policy position regarding green spaces was long overdue. He sites an issue regarding the cost of open space, asserting that landowners who stand to benefit from up-zoning would accept the fact that additional costs would be associated with selling the land.