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Public consultation launched into open space provision in Newark and Sherwood

A public consultation has been launched into open space provision in Newark and Sherwood.

The district council is consulting on its Open Space Strategy, which looks at six specific types of open space ­— parks and gardens, natural and semi-natural greenspace, amenity, greenspace, provision for children and young people, allotments and cemeteries and churchyards.

In assessing if there is enough open space in the district the council uses, as a starting point, the Fields In Trust national benchmark hectare figure per 1,000 people. The Fields In Trust benchmark was used because it is the only national independent charity recognised to champion the value of green spaces.

Sconce and Devon Park, Newark. (49849459)
Sconce and Devon Park, Newark. (49849459)

The Fields In Trust benchmark figure per 1,000 people is four hectares.

The amount of open space provision in the district as a whole is 9.12 hectares per 1,000 people, but this includes extensive areas such as Sherwood Forest, and the council relies on this heavily when promoting the district-wide figure in its press release.

While the district council has set a target of 11.85 hectares per 1,000 people, many areas of the district fall well below the Fields In Trust benchmark.

There are 79 open space sites identified in Newark equating to more than 95 hectares and 2.84 hectares per 1,000 population.

Twenty open space sites were identified in Balderton of 27.69 hectares (2.65 hectares per 1,000) Fernwood has 17 sites totalling 15.61 hectares (4.83) 36 sites in Ollerton and Boughton total 224.14ha (20.23) Southwell has 26 open spaces amounting to 18.71ha (2.53) Bilsthorpe has 71.68ha over ten sites (20.89).

Coddington has nine sites, totalling 4.32ha (2.22 per 1,000) Walesby has six amounting to 4.26ha (3.11) Farndon has 11 totalling 21.05ha (8.53) Sutton-on-Trent has six totalling 1.81ha (0.59) Collingham has 4.59ha over 13 sites (1.23) Lowdham 13 sites totalling 7.09ha (1.7) and Edwinstowe, including Sherwood Forest, has 13 sites covering137.37ha (25.91).

The Open Space Strategy identifies, through an independently-led audit, all the green spaces in the district, whether they are publicly owned or privately.

The council said that when assessing the amount and quality of open space there was no set national standard methodology, meaning local authorities carried out their open space strategies in slightly different ways.

It said, therefore, fully understanding what type of land sits within the six categories was open to interpretation, meaning it can be difficult to compare one set of data to another.

Outdoor sports pitches are not included in the strategy, and are contained in a separate Playing Pitch and Facilities Strategy.

This is also under review following updated guidance from Sport England, with public consultation to follow.

District council leader David Lloyd said, “Open spaces are important to us all. The latest ONS information showed that every resident in the Newark and Sherwood district live within a 15-minute walk of good, quality open space. This is important and we must protect this for our future generations and this independent audit will allow us to ensure that we maintain the right amount and quality of open space in our district now and in the future.

“While using the Fields In Trust benchmark is a good starting point for auditing what open spaces we have in the district, we have set a more aspirational target. I talk regularly to residents about our open spaces and understand just how important this is.”

The strategy not only breaks the audit down into different types of land but it also breaks it down to specific areas so those residents who are keen to see how Blidworth, Ollerton, Newark or Southwell perform on their own are able to do that.

“When we look at specific areas there will be surpluses in some types of space and deficits in others. You can’t compare an area in the outer Hebrides with a borough in London, nor can you compare an area of Sherwood Forest with an urban area such as Newark.

"However, the audit makes clear areas that we need to focus our attention on to improve the open spaces we have.

“I’d like to be clear about one point. When we talk about open space, this is not just about district council-owned land. When finalised, the strategy will guide anyone who owns land to consider the importance we, as a planning authority, place on open spaces when they are considering how they manage their own spaces. We make suggestions on what spaces could be, including how they could accommodate additional tree planting and contribute positively to the climate change agenda.”

"The strategy will also make clear what open space should accompany new developments promoted across the district, ensuring that we maintain the imperative for building new homes whilst also creating appropriate spaces and places for existing and future residents.

“We don’t want to take a step back from our commitment to our open spaces so rather than slipping back and just simply meeting the benchmark standard, we have set aspirational targets that will inform policy decisions in the future to ensure open spaces remain on the top of our agenda."

The independent consultants confirmed in their audit that this aspiration was the right approach for the Newark and Sherwood district.

When the consultation has closed and the strategy finalised, it will support planning policy to guide future decisions.

It will also help all landowners make the right decisions about what to do with their land, understanding that while developers will want to build homes it must not happen to the detriment of open spaces.

The report is available on the district council website at www.newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk/planreview and you can submit your comments via email to planningpolicy@newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk or via letter to Newark and Sherwood District Council, Planning Policy and Infrastructure, Castle House, Great North Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG24 1BY.

The consultation closes at 5pm on September 21.

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