Why open space?

Creating open space on previously developed land can provide genuine opportunities for improving the social, environmental and economic situation of an area.  Well conceived projects can help to make the most out of sites that may be otherwise subject to blight and high management costs and can generate significant knock on social, environmental and economic benefits. Open spaces are multi-functional, offering not just a single land use solution, but the opportunity to achieve social, environmental and economic added value.

This website has been developed to explain what, why and how benefits can be achieved for open space projects on previously developed land (PDL) in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It provides a tool to identify opportunities for promoting a successful transition to quality open space and explains the value in creating open space on PDL.

Use of existing resources, including land, should be carried out with prudence. New provisions for open space are frequently achieved through the planning system via new development, or where alternative remediation solutions are not technically or financially viable.

Some previously developed land cannot be subjected to normal development solutions, due for example to: its location; its short-term development value; its existing value for biodiversity; or possible contamination levels. In these, and similar, circumstances, creating an open space can offer the best value solution for the land owner, the environment and landscape, and for adjoining communities and businesses.

Creating open spaces can offer the opportunity to effectively manage sites, potentially at a lower cost by reducing requirements for, for example, fencing and security and helping to manage ecosystems on site to ensure that long term neglect doesn’t lead to creation of habitats that could constrain future development activity.

Previously developed land can generate concerns from a number of parties such as: for land owners – costly maintenance and security; and for neighbours – creating visual blight and affecting local property values. A further concern may be associated with potential contamination, where alternative land uses will not be possible without investment in remediation, often perceived to be a high cost solution, although this is not always the case.

On the other hand, PDL can develop real value for ecosystems where wildlife is attracted to neglected urban spaces and habitats. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has identified a national Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitat for previously developed land known as Open Mosaic Habitats that developers need to be mindful of when considering solutions for change.