The Landscape Guide

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Public Open Space (POS): landscape planning and environmental impact design (EID)

Parks Policy

  1. Public parks were one of the great urban reforms of the nineteenth century, but many of them have fallen on hard times. They are under-used, under-funded, badly planned, badly designed and badly managed.
  2. The sections in Local Plans dealing with Parks and Public Open Space are unimaginative and out-moded. A higher level of imagination, based on local information, is required.
  3. At the present time, the great need is for diversification, so that the use and character of parks can be related to the desires of the communities which they serve.
  4. Parks can, for example, be diversified with regard to ownership, character, culture, ethnicity, religion, landform, planting and use.

The physical types of open space presently designed are astonishingly limited: the swimming beach, the roadside picnic area, the woodland with "nature trails", the grassed park dotted with trees and shrubbery, comprise the conventional range. (Lynch 1972)

Great civilisations allocate open space to public and non-productive uses. Historically, this has included gardens, temple compounds, ceremonial grounds, outdoor markets, social places, gymnasia for exercise and recreation, burial grounds, hunting and wildlife reserves. All this land is now classified by planners as 'public open space', because the land is accessible and unbuilt. It is a term which ignores the distinction between parks and greenways. Parks are for protection [Fig 4.1]. Greenways are for movement. The reasons for making 'public open space' are multifarious. Lynch, as quoted above, was right to protest that 'the physical types of open space presently designed are astonishingly limited'.

Public parks The park is dead. Long live the park.

Commons There always have been public rights in land and there always should be.

Municipal parks They were one of the great social inventions of the nineteenth century.

Squares and plazas Urban squares started as markets and many should continue to have a commercial role.

Public gardens  Cities need gardens and parks, not 'garks'

Village greens  Good planning is more important than good design

National parks in towns Some parks need more-than-local funding.

National parks in the country  Country areas of key importance to a nation should be given the protection of national park status.

Private pleasure grounds  Private enterprise is good at providing pleasure

Festival parks  Nations love festivals, especially when they are in parks, but the money will be squandered if an after-use is not planned before the festival-use.

Greenway function They should be 'green' in the environmental sense and 'ways' in many senses.

  • Greenway history and typology
  • Ceremonial avenues
  • Boulevards
  • Parkways
  • Park belts
  • Park systems
  • Green belt
  • Green trails
  • Environmental greenways

Greenway character In terms of character, greenways should have many colours.

Open space management  Greenways can supervene on other land uses, like happiness on the face of youth.

A green web Public open space should radiate public goods.


Chadwick, G.F. 1966. The park and the town. London:Architectural Press.

Cranz, G. 1982. The politics of park design: a history of urban parks in America. Cambridge Mass:MIT Press.

Davies, H. 1983. A walk around London's parks. London:Hamilton.

Greater London Development Plan. London:Greater London Council. Section 9.

Ramsey, A. 1990. Planning urban networks for walking. In Tolley, R., ed. The greening of urban transport: planning for walking and cycling in western cities. London:Belhaven Press.

Simo, M. 1981. John Claudius Loudon: on planning and design for the garden metropolis. Garden History. pp. 184-201.

Turner, T. 1992. Open space planning in London from standards per 1000 to green strategy. Town Planning Review 63 (4), 365-386.

Broken seats in a neglected corner of a
public park.