What is Open Space?

At the recent Additional Development Management Sub-Committee of the Planning Committee (29th June 2018), where the future of the closed Meadowbank site was discussed for seven (!) hours, the concept of ‘Open Space’ was invoked by councillors, planning officers and members of the public. Some speakers thought the current site constitutes ‘Open Space’, while other claimed it wasn’t because it is not accessible by the public. Why is this important, even if Meadowbank is clearly outwith the LCCC’s area?

The answer is that Open Space is protected by the Local Development Plan in Policy Env 18 (Open Space Protection):

Proposals involving the loss of open space will not be permitted unless it is demonstrated that:

  1. there will be no significant impact on the quality or character of the local environment
    and
  2. the open space is a small part of a larger area or of limited amenity or leisure value and there is a significant over-provision of open space serving the immediate area
    and
  3. the loss would not be detrimental to the wider network including its continuity or biodiversity value
    and either
  4. there will be a local benefit in allowing the development in terms of either alternative equivalent provision being made or improvement to an existing public park or other open space
    or
  5. the development is for a community purpose and the benefits to the local community outweigh the loss.

In other words, existing Open Space has quite strong protection under this policy and can only be sacrificed for development if the first three conditions (a-c) are met and either (d) or (e).

So is Meadowbank Open Space or not?

There is a clear-cut answer in Planning Advice Note: PAN 65 Planning and Open Space:

The term ‘open space’ covers greenspace consisting of any vegetated land or structure, water, path or geological feature within and on the edges of settlements, and civic space consisting of squares, market places and other paved or hard landscaped areas with a civic function. Some spaces may combine green and civic space elements, but one type or other will usually predominate.

All spaces, regardless of ownership and accessibility (i.e. public and private spaces) contribute to the amenity and character of an area and can be taken into account by councils when undertaking their open space audits and strategies.

The intention behind this definition is that Open Space is not only valuable because it can be accessed, but – just as importantly in a densely populated city – that it provides ‘breathing space’, and its usefulness and amenity can arise simply from the opportunity for city-dwellers to rest their weary eyes on a natural feature or the horizon.

And this is very relevant to people living and working in the Leith Central Community Council area, which includes the most densely populated area in Scotland (census 2011).

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