Step 1: Site and early vision

The first step in a project is to identify a site, come up with an idea for open space provision and consider how to approach establishing an open space project. Securing an Ordnance Survey Map and licence at this stage would be helpful. The following critical factors are recommended as the first elements to consider (note, it may not be possible to answer all of these questions from the outset, however as projects develop, more information will come available and these questions should be reviewed on an ongoing basis).

Preliminary appraisal:

  1. Where is the site, what are its boundaries, what size is it?
  2. What condition is the site currently in?
  3. Are there other open spaces nearby?
  4. Is there existing information available about the site’s history and its current condition?
  5. Is there policy in the Local Plan that supports the creation of open space?

Consider what your knowledge gaps are, for example:

  • ground conditions, contamination and stability
  • ecological value and potential
  • planning history
  • landscape character, value and potential.

Identify valuable landscape components

These should include accessibility, and services including electricity, gas and telecommunications.

Local constraints

Identify any skills gaps in your team

  • Who lives and works in the vicinity of the site?
  • Establish constraints that may act as deterrents and cause you to consider withdrawing from the project, for example unacceptable exposure to liabilities.

Note: In most cases, to create an open space on PDL, it will be necessary to secure planning permission. The diagram presented in the planning section below, highlights the necessary steps.

Map your potential stakeholders

  • Who owns the site?
  • Who are the neighbours?
  • Who is the planning authority?
  • What other parties could have an interest in the transformation of this site?
  • Can the Local Authority get involved as a stakeholder?
  • Are there existing community groups?
  • Might there be developers interested in a joint venture on the site?
  • Consider who might be best involved at the early stages and who it might be best to involve as a project progresses to the project development stage.

Consider opportunities

At the earliest stage, if you are going to be approaching potential interested parties to get involved in a partnership, it is essential to have some ideas about a scheme’s potential. At the earliest stages, it is not advisable to have a single definite idea. Instead having a vision on potential opportunities will provide an excellent basis for later discussions.

Be clear in approaching partners early on that you are engaging with them at the earliest possible stage and for this reason, exact proposals are not yet ready. Instead, you are keen to involve them in the process and carefully manage expectations and aspirations, in particular where local community groups are involved.

It would be worth while making interested parties aware that certain high cost opportunities may prove difficult to achieve, such as outdoor swimming pools. However, that said, don’t be too constrained, be open to ideas and opportunities, in particular taking a lead from other examples such as the case studies included in this Guide.

Consider potential funding opportunities as well, but don’t be constrained by what the opportunities might be. In other words, in considering opportunities, the expectation that funding may not be available should not mean an idea is dismissed outright at this early stage.

By the end of this process you should know the following:


The site and early vision


Site location


Other open spaces


Site boundaries


Site size


Ownership (current and historical)


Ordnance Survey Map


Potential partners and future stakeholders


Is planning permission required?


Potential funding opportunities


Knowledge and skills gaps