New residential development and mixed use development that creates a need for public open space is expected to either provide or contribute towards provision and enhancement of new or existing public open spaces. We have an adopted policy in the Core Strategy Policy CS24, which sets out the requirements and expectations on the amount, quality and high-level approach to maintenance and management of public open space.
Larger development, nearly always at least 10 or more homes, may be required to provide new open spaces on the site to meet the requirement for public open space.
When we approve new development that provides new areas of public open space our adopted and emerging polices also require that appropriate management and maintenance regimes are put in place.
This ensures that the initial space created is of a suitable quality and continues to be kept that way for future years.
In the past the majority of newly created areas of public open space, would have been passed to the council or in some circumstances the town and parish councils to manage and maintain. To reduce the immediate financial burden on the council arising from the maintenance of these new areas a requirement for financial contributions to support the management of the space, often for a period of 15 years, was sought. Beyond this time, the costs of maintenance then fell to be absorbed by the council through council tax receipts.
However, in more recent years as developers and landowners are not obliged to pass land over to the council they have sought instead to pass the maintenance and management of newly created open spaces to private management companies, trusts and/or bodies created by developers. There are often lower ‘up-front’ costs for developers in taking this route.
There has still been a requirement for a plan of maintenance to be agreed by the council as part of new development, but in such cases, once the development is built and approved the ongoing running of the new open space becomes the responsibility of the private management company. One of the benefits of such arrangements s that private management companies may agree to maintain open space at a higher standard than is possible for council maintain one space, e.g. have a more frequent mowing cycle for grassed areas of more intensive areas of planting etc.
The adopted local plan and supporting guidance in the form of the recently adopted Community Infrastructure SPD, set out clear requirements and guidelines as to what will be expected as part of a suitable management and maintenance regime
Some of the communities that have been using and interacting with newly created open spaces, that are handed to private management companies have been disappointed with the quality of maintenance and management they have experienced, and the cost of management fees. There is a sense of unfairness since residents have to pay both council tax which covers the up-keep of council maintained open space, and management fees for any privately maintained open space.
This can lead to problems with new development not providing the type and quality of infrastructure needed or envisaged for the new and existing surrounding communities. This may leave some residents dissatisfied with the financial burden of paying management fees for an open space.
New Local Plan – Approach to maintenance and management
There will continue to be an expectation that new development either contributes towards or provides public open space. And that development which is of a size and type to directly provide new areas of public open space, makes a financial contribution to a suitable management and maintenance regime.
The emerging GI and Environment policy (to update and eventually replace CS2) set out in this phase 2 document, confirms the strategic principle that appropriate level of maintenance and management will need to be put in place.
In future stages of our new Local Plan’s preparation, we will be updating our adopted Open Space policy (CS24).
However, going forward the council will be looking to set a principle in an updated CS24 policy that there would be a strong preference for, and expectation that, new open spaces created as part of development would be offered in the first instance for adoption by either South Gloucestershire Council or the local Town and Parish Council, when they are designed and implemented to a suitable standard. The use of Private Management companies would only be agreed in exceptional circumstances, which the developer would need to justify at the time.
As part of the future policy requirement there would be a requirement for:
- the developer to design and implement the POS scheme to adoptable standards (design and specification agreed by the Council)
- the public open space to be transferred to the Council or by agreement, to a Parish Council once it is in an adoptable condition, after an agreed initial period of maintenance
- upon adoption or transfer (whichever is the soonest), a maintenance contribution will be required to cover the first 15 years of maintaining the POS
The design and plans for implementing the new area of Public Open Space to an adoptable standard and the level of maintenance contribution will all form part of the planning permission process and need to be agreed prior to development starting.
The council has set initial guidelines for the approach and agreements that need to be in place prior to adopting a newly created area of public open space. in the recently adopted CiL SPD Supplementary planning documents.
Where in limited circumstances it is not possible for the council or Town and Parish council to adopt a newly created area of public open space, the requirements and approaches set out in the CiL SPD will act as the starting point for creating a suitable regime of management and maintenance for developers, management companies and trusts.