Policy OSL4 Public Open Space in New Residential Development
Council 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:
A normal expectation will be at least 10% of the total site area or 15% where the site is 10 hectares or more;
Provision at a rate less than the above requirements may be acceptable where the residential development:
is located within a town centre; or
is close to and would benefit from direct and unobstructed access to areas of existing public open space; or
provides accommodation for special groups, such as the elderly or people with disabilities.
For residential developments of 100 units of more, or for development sites of five hectares or more, an equipped children's play area will be required as an integral part of the development, unless otherwise specified through key site requirements on sites zoned in the Local Policies Plan. Until the adoption of the Local Policies Plan, an exception to this requirement will be considered 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 meet the General Policy criteria, accord with other provisions of the LDP and 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; and
it provides easy and safe access for the residents of the dwellings that it is designed to serve.
Management and Maintenance
Planning permission will not be granted until the developer has satisfied Council 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.
Justification and Amplification
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, wellbeing and quality of life, particularly that of children. It can also assist biodiversity and facilitate sustainable drainage.
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, linked to a wider green network 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.
It is important, 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. The LDP will help meet these aims by requiring provision of play spaces and where appropriate new fixed or equipped children’s play areas within new housing developments in accordance with this policy. Alternatively, a developer contribution may be sought for new or upgraded facilities in the locality.
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. This will be assessed on a case by case basis by Council, taking account of any wider strategy for outdoor recreation facilities.
In assessing the amount of public open space provision needed in a particular 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 be taken into account.
In cases where private communal gardens are proposed as an integral part of apartment or specialised housing developments, separate provision of public open space will not be required.
Appropriate planning conditions will also be attached 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.
In all cases developers will be responsible for the laying out and landscaping of public open space required under this policy.
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 Section 76 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. Where this is the case, the Planning Agreement will need to be completed before planning permission is granted. A guidance framework on planning agreements and developer contributions will be developed by Council in the future.
Management and Maintenance in Perpetuity
It is important that adequate management and maintenance arrangements are in place for open space and recreation facilities associated with new development. Arrangements acceptable to the Council include:
a legal agreement transferring ownership of and responsibility for the open space to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council; or
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
a legal agreement transferring ownership of and responsibility for the open space to a properly constituted residents’ association with associated management arrangements.
Where developers are considering transferring ownership of and responsibility for the open space to Council, they should consult with Council at an early stage in the design process and take into consideration Council’s ‘Out to Play Strategy’. To be considered for adoption, the minimum size of useable play/recreation space should be of 1,400sqm (e.g. 70m x 20m) or more and for structured play spaces an area of not less than 600sqm will be needed.
Where the proposal is for a properly constituted residents’ association to take responsibility for the open space management, 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 Council’s satisfaction what alternative measures will take effect in the event that the residents’ management arrangements were to break down.
If an applicant/developer wishes to follow an alternative approach to those outlined in the policy, it will have to be demonstrated how such an approach can meet Council’s policy requirement for the open space to be managed and maintained in perpetuity.
Full information on which of the above approaches an applicant intends to follow must be provided and then agreed with Council before full planning permission (or approval of reserved matters) is granted. Any necessary legal agreements between the developer and Council or other third parties needs to be 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 Council.