Quality statement 3: Public open spaces

Quality statement

Local authorities involve community and voluntary groups in designing and managing public open spaces.

Rationale

Local authorities play a vital role in protecting, maintaining and improving local spaces and they can create new areas of open space to improve access for everyone. They should work in partnership with local community and voluntary groups to ensure that the public open space is appropriate for those that use it. Benefits may include improved mental as well as physical health with potential benefits to the ecosystem. Enhancing public open spaces in their accessibility and improving their quality and appeal may also encourage more people to be active without the need for direct, costly interventions.

Quality measures

Structure

a) Evidence that local authorities involve local community and voluntary groups to make decisions on the design and management of public open spaces.

Data source: Local data collection, for example, Health Impact Assessments, management plans, consultation reports, council meeting minutes and public open space user surveys.

b) Evidence that local authorities encourage local community and voluntary groups to help to maintain public open spaces by reporting any problems affecting accessibility and use.

Data source: Local data collection, for example, council meeting minutes and public open space user surveys.

Outcomes

a) Number of local community and voluntary groups who feel that they have been involved by local authorities with their views accounted for.

Data source: Local data collection, for example, Health Impact Assessments, management plans, engagement reports and council meeting minutes.

b) Percentage of people using outdoor space for exercise/health reasons.

Data source: National data is included in Public Health Outcomes Framework for England 2016 to 2019 indicators 1.16 Utilisation of outdoor space for exercise/health reasons and 2.13 Proportion of physically active and inactive adults.

What the quality statement means for different audiences

Local authorities (such as public open space management team) work together with local community and voluntary groups to make decisions on the design and management of public open spaces to encourage physical activity.

Local community and voluntary groups ensure that they make decisions on the design and management of public open spaces to encourage physical activity. They should also contribute their local knowledge to open space management plans and proposals during engagement stages and may also help to carry out user surveys on these spaces. They should also help the local authority to maintain these spaces by reporting any problems affecting their use and accessibility, for example, by public transport, on foot and by bike.

Local authorities should work together with local community and voluntary groups share their knowledge of how existing spaces function and recognise the value of better public open spaces in their community. They should encourage and support the views and needs of the local people and the use and maintenance of these public open spaces to access public open spaces for physical activity by public transport, on foot and by bike.

Source guidance

Definition of terms used in this quality statement

Public open spaces

These include blue, green and grey spaces:

  • Blue spaces – such as sea, rivers, lakes and canals.

  • Green spaces – such as urban parks, open green areas, woods and forests, coastland and countryside, and paths and routes connecting them.

  • Grey spaces – areas of developed land such as urban squares and pedestrian areas.

[NICE's guideline on physical activity and the environment, glossary]

Equality and diversity considerations

Promoting physical activity is key to addressing health inequalities as physical inactivity levels are higher in lower income groups. Some low income communities in the UK, including many black and minority ethnic communities, have less access to open green spaces than other groups, and the spaces available tend to be of poorer quality. People who don't have the use of a car may find green and blue spaces more difficult to access, particularly if there are no regular public transport services.

Local authorities, local community members and volunteers should focus on the least active communities (limited mobility, low income communities and black and minority ethnic communities) to encourage them to use their local public open spaces for free with enhanced, safe facilities and access.

The views and needs of people with limited mobility who may be adversely affected by the design and maintenance of public open spaces must also be addressed.