Healthy Spaces & Places Healthy Spaces & Places

Design Principles

Parks and Open Space

Parks and Open Spaces
Good quality open space can contribute
to improved mental health.

Source: TPG Town Planning & Urban Design

Parks and open space refers to land that has been reserved for the purpose of sport and recreation, preservation of natural environments, provision of green space and/or urban stormwater management.

Parks and open space vary in size, form and the range of functions that they perform. Public open space is usually categorised into a hierarchy including neighbourhood, district and regional open space and may perform either a passive or active recreation role.

The provision of suitable parks and open space can contribute to people meeting Australian physical activity recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for children and adolescents each day and 30 minutes of moderate intensity recreation activity on most days of the week for adults. 

How to Achieve

  • Providing good quality open space that: protects and enhances the environmental, cultural and heritage values of an area
  • Ensure parks and open space are safe, well maintained and actively managed
  • Pleasant and welcoming spaces, through landscaping, park furniture (seats, drinking fountains) and lighting
  • Accessibility by ensuring that open space is:
    • distributed throughout an area providing equitable access to all users
    • easily accessible via public transport where appropriate
    • easily accessible via the walking and cycling network
    • connected with the broader open space network
  • Usability by ensuring that open space is:
    • of a sufficient size and shape to cater for the intended use of the site
    • adaptable and maximises the range of possible uses available ensuring equitable opportunities for all users
    • shared with a number of user groups, e.g. School ovals form a part of the open space network and are available out of school hours for community use, allowing for the efficient use of land.
Rule of thumb
Design the open space network as an integral part of the urban structure and offer a variety of safe and attractive spaces that are well distributed throughout a neighbourhood and that are accessible, connected and cater to the sporting and recreation needs of the community


  • Public open space that is an afterthought in the urban structure.  It should not be the left over or undevelopable land in a subdivision as this can lead to the provision of unattractive and unusable areas of open space in an unsuitable location that the community will be reluctant to use
  • Concentrating on the quantity of open space. It is more important to consider the quality, community value and use of the open space and its contribution to creating green spaces in the urban environment
Click here for more detailed information on design and planning for Parks and Open Space.

Download Full Text
Parks and Open Space.pdf


Fact Sheet on Healthy Public Open Space

Healthy by Design - Open Space

Health, Place & Nature: How Outdoor Environments influence Health & Well-being

Living Well Together: How Companion Animals can help Strengthen Social Fabric

People, Pets & Planning

Your Development - Design for Open Space

Related Design Principles

Supporting Infrastructure

Safety and Surveillance

Development Types
Neighbourhood Parks

Regional Recreational Facility


Last updated on 10th March, 2010

Sponsors This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.