Public open space contributes to community health and wellbeing

Yarra Open Space Strategy Technical Report

Lack of open space in Yarra

Research by RMIT shows how the amount of open space per person varies significantly across Yarra. Collingwood, Fitzroy and Cremorne are highlighted as having the least open space per person.

Variation in open space per person. Image credit: RMIT.

Yarra’s Open Space Strategy

Council has an Open Space Strategy:

Image credit: City of Yarra

The strategy defines open space in a manner that excludes streets:

The term ancillary open space is used to differentiate parts of the public realm that are not included in the definition of public open space. This includes streetscapes, urban spaces between buildings, school and educational facility grounds, along with community facility grounds, for example, neighbourhood houses.

Open Space Strategy 2020

Considering that Council doesn’t have an overarching Public Realm Strategy, this is a failure of management. This is especially disappointing because in some areas of Yarra our local streets are the only practical way to increase open space, considering our funding constraints.

Failure to close gaps

Council’s 2006 Open Space strategy correctly identified that some areas in Yarra were severely lacking in open space. Sadly, over the 13-year course of the strategy, 2006 to 2019, Council failed to close the gaps. The 2020 strategy includes an almost identical gap analysis, and proposes multiple new areas of open space, yet offers no plausible way for Council to be able to afford the high costs for land acquisition.

Image credits: City of Yarra.

Failure to rank LAPM precincts

A failure of both the 2006 and 2020 strategies is the lack of a clear priority for funding. Council manages expenditure via the Local Area Place Making (LAPM) process. The Open Space strategy should integrate with this process, clearly ranking all 21 LAPM areas in terms of priority for funding. Instead, the strategy lumps multiple LAPM areas together into “precincts” thus hiding the lack of open space in some LAPM areas by using averages.

Solutions

Council should:

  • transform streets into ‘linear public open space’ with more trees, wider footpaths and pocket parks;
  • clearly rank LAPM areas in terms of priority to acquire land for new public open space; and
  • recognise the revenue opportunity of pricing on-street parking at market rates, to fund the acquisition of land for new public open space.

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