Opportunities and challenges

Prudent management of previously developed land (PDL) will, in many circumstances, have a hugely positive impact on land and the areas to which it is adjoined. Perceptions of blight and safety/security concerns can deter people from using and visiting an area, or from investing. A common perception is that it can be challenging to make the case for any investment in PDL not least investment in open space creation.  However, there is much evidence available to support the decision to create open green space, the purpose being to demonstrate that real value can be achieved.

The key messages provided here, about the economic, environmental and social benefits, are intended to equip a project champion to make a case to whomever is necessary including: land owners and developers, local authorities, funding organisations and local communities.

The types and functions of open space ensure the choice of solutions is extensive and flexible enough to meet the widest range of needs.  This can be, for example: simply creating an attractive landscape environment as part of a wider development project; or providing large parks in otherwise built up urban areas.

The functionality of open spaces however goes beyond the simple provision of space to offer additional benefits.  The value of open space is sometimes difficult to quantify, yet it is nonetheless recognisable. The benefits include, though are not limited to:

  • uplifting land and property values
  • providing ecosystems services such as improving well-being of people with views to open spaces and creating cool space in otherwise built up urban environments
  • helping to manage effective and low cost remediation of contaminated soils
  • providing flood management solutions 
  • creating places for wildlife to thrive 
  • providing safe places for people to rest and meet.

We aim to inform the reader of the wealth of opportunities associated with creating open space on previously developed land. It is targeted at an extensive audience from development and property professionals seeking to secure best value from land holdings, to local authorities, community groups and charities seeking to achieve social, economic and environmental change and improvement. The Guide has been developed to ensure that the advice provided can be applied consistently across the UK, including information on relevant policy and legislation and on relevant organisations active in dealing with previously developed land and open space projects.

Economic benefits: improving on site and adjoining land values; creating a use out of otherwise low value land; chance to generate income; enhancing maintenance and security solutions for problem sites; providing temporary uses for land until alternative investment solutions become viable; attracting alternative funding options; promoting economic regeneration;

Social benefits: promoting health and well-being; providing space for exercise and play, education, art and cultural activities as well as food growing; and promoting community cohesion and pride in the place making value of spaces;

Environmental benefits: landscape creation; habitat creation; enhancing wildlife corridors; and helping to manage carbon emissions and to manage the effects of climate change, including providing space for surface water management; micro-climate management (for example providing cool spaces in built up urban areas); and carbon sequestration.

Climate Change benefits: climate change mitigation and adaptation; resilience; carbon sequestration; biofuels; reduction of urban temperature

Health benefits: recovery from stress; reduction of obesity; improved recovery times; physical benefits; reduced pressure on health services.





Land value uplift of site and adjoining land Reducing risk to health from contaminated land Promoting biodiversity Promoting well being
Viable use for land not in use Creating opportunities for sport and recreation Enhancing appearance and character of areas Managing stress and mental health
Enhancing perceptions of areas improving potential for investment Helping to reduce stress levels and improving motivation and productivity Helping to manage the impacts of climate change and supporting carbon management Improving patient recovery times
Providing a temporary use for a site (subject to creating an exit strategy) Creating opportunities for social interaction Air quality management Promoting active lifestyles
Improving community relationships and consequently reducing risks of objections to future development proposals Supporting cultural activities and diversity Surface water management and creating space for flood management Creating opportunities for growing food
Responding to planning requirements for creating open space Fostering community engagement and ownership of local environments Ground stability management Promoting positive behaviour amongst children
Attracting inward investment to a wider area and improving corporate responsibility reputation Creating calm spaces in busy urban environments Creating opportunities to produce zero carbon biomass fuels Helping to manage micro-climate to help elderly and people with breathing difficulties to cope with hot weather
Creating job and training opportunities associated with land management and maintenance Promoting learning about the environment, landscape, and health and well-being Reducing risk to ecosystems from contaminated land