Public open spaces are areas such as parks and recreational reserves, public gardens, nature reserves, civic areas and promenades where everyone has the right to visit without being excluded due to economic or social conditions. Open spaces are important as they provide places for people to meet, socialise, play and connect and access to these areas is associated with increased physical activity and improved mental health.
Small public open spaces often have limited facilities such as a single sporting field or a children’s playground which may discourage use by the broader community. Open spaces larger than 1.5 hectares can appeal to larger sections of the community because they are able to incorporate multiple full-sized playing fields for diverse organised sports and may contain amenities such as bike and walking tracks, as well as additional facilities such as shelters and toilets to support large social gatherings. Large parks and public open spaces can also preserve and promote biodiversity and are therefore extremely important from an environmental and conservation perspective.
Challenges in accessing open space can arise from conflicting ideas about how these spaces should be utilised and by whom. As such, factors including proximity, distance to services, isolation, social exclusion, anti-social behaviour and the management and design of open spaces can affect the use of open space by different individuals within society. With the growth of cities and the loss of private open spaces due to increased housing density, it is therefore critical that public open spaces be managed and maintained in order to support liveability in urban environments.
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals
Average distance to closest public open space
Percentage of dwellings within 400 m or less of public open space
Average distance to closest public open space larger than 1.5 hectares
Percentage of dwellings within 400 m of public open space larger than 1.5 hectares
Percentage of dwellings within 400 m or less distance of any local park (> 0.4 to. <= 1 ha)
Percentage of dwellings within 800 m of less distance of any neighbourhood park (>1 ha to <= 5 ha)
Percentage of dwellings within 400 m of less distance of a neighbourhood recreation park (> 0.5 ha)
Average distance to closest public open space with a nearby public toilet (within 100 m)
Three datasets were used in the GIS analysis: public open space, the pedestrian road network, and sample points. Pedestrian road network distances were calculated from each sample point to all areas of open space within 3200 metres. Pseudo-entry points were created along the perimeter of each area of open space at 50 metre intervals, where this perimeter was within 30 metres distance of an accessible path. Areas of open space, and those which may be considered publicly accessible, were identified using a detailed set of OpenStreetMap tags and morphological criterion. Publication of the full method is forthcoming.
Giles-Corti B, Foster S, Koohsari MJ, Francis J, Hooper P. (2015). The influence of urban design and planning on physical activity. In: Barton H, Thompson S, Burgess S, Grant M, editors. The Routledge handbook of planning for health and well-being: Shaping a sustainable and healthy future. Oxon, UK: Routledge
The Healthy Built Environments Program. Healthy built environments: A review of the literature. Fact sheets. Sydney, NSW: The Healthy Built Environments Program, City Futures Research Centre, The University of New South Wales (2012)
Villanueva K, Badland H, Hooper P, Koohsari MJ, Mavoa S, Davern M, Roberts R, Goldfield S, Giles-Corti B. (2015). Developing indicators of public open space to promote health and wellbeing in communities. Applied Geography. 57: 112-9