I welcome the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions as part of the Open Space and Recreation strategy public consultation.
The current 2011 strategy states that
An open space strategy enables a local authority to adopt an organised approach towards analysing open space supply and planning for meeting future requirements. It provides a means for aligning the policies and functions of a range of council departments that have responsibilities for open space. It also provides a platform for liaison with public agencies, private interests and community groups. The strategy contributes to the development framework, aiming to identify opportunities to maintain and enhance environmental qualities, provide a range of recreation and leisure areas, and link and create wildlife habitats.
This is a positive statement of intent and one that highlights the important of this strategy for both community engagement and forward planning in our communities.
A key gap that should be addressed in the new strategy is the inclusion of climate change and biodiversity loss as a key pillar. Our previous strategy specifically excluded these. It states:
The scope of this Open Space Strategy is limited to the recreational and amenity function of open space and excludes other functions of open space relating to biodiversity and climate change.
Given the role of the strategy as an informative and coordinating mechanism, and given the enormity of the climate and biodiversity crisis we face, a new strategy for 2020 should be expansive in terms of an overall vision and strategy. Such a vision and strategy should aim for synergies and joined up thinking about all types of open spaces and how they link & protect our green infrastructure & ecological networks, support climate & biodiversity goals and promote community resilience and well-being in the broadest sense.
- That the strategy specifically aims to support climate and biodiversity goals
- That all Open Spaces are viewed and developed in a way that recognises their important role in supporting nature recovery, biodiversity and ecological connectivity through corridors
- Provide easily understandable and accessible maps and information on our green infrastructure and open spaces as well as recreation facilities
- Create more areas of natural and nature rich open space.
Youth & Children facilities
As called for during KCC’s consultation meetings, local community engagement on this strategy and by young people themselves, the strategy would be strengthened by having a consultation channel specifically targeted to capturing the voice of young people. Ideally these channels and potential questionnaire could be co-developed with young people.
The importance of resources and facilities targeted at young people, particularly at this time cannot be overstated. In Celbridge as in other parts of the county, there are absolutely no spaces specifically meeting the needs of young people – where they can meet, do sport, hang out and socialise.
In addition, Celbridge has not had a Area Profile, Needs Assessment and Service Requirement done to identify the needs of young people. We therefore have a complete gap across a huge range services and facilities for young people. This strategy can positively address the need for places for young people where they feel welcome and promote a sense of belonging and pride as well as providing a channel for their voice in creating those spaces.
The development of this strategy is not just about delivery but in the opportunity it also offers for the empowerment of young people in achieving outcomes based on their needs. This can enhance their sense of political efficacy and build trust and understanding of their local government.
- A specific objective of the new strategy should be that all consultation on open spaces & recreation, and all county development plan and local area plans should require targeted consultation specifically with young people.
- Our Open Spaces should be safe places for all ages and abilities to exercise, meet or relax in a way that they feel welcome and included.
- That youth facilities are prioritised for development
Our 2011 strategy highlights the importance of our county’s waterways and the value that they bring to communities. With the current government focus on developing Greenways and Blueways there is enormous potential for unlocking waterways to contribute to beautiful parks and amenities for communities. The new strategy should strengthen the commitment to development a network of public spaces along the Liffey, and deliver on the objectives of the Liffey Valley Strategy for Kildare.
- Specifically the strategy should have an objective to deliver the Liffey Valley Strategy.
- Ensure that all operations support the protection and increase in our water quality.
- A plan for housing and other developments to provide more enriched open spaces to promote biodiversity, children’s play and community interaction. This plan to consider buffers of undisturbed natural vegetation at an appropriate distance on either side of a stream.
- Water Quality of streams/rivers in our Open Spaces is included in assessments as pollution is a key factor is assessing their quality and safety.
Open Spaces for meeting
Given our climate and environmental crisis as well as the new significance Open Spaces & Recreation have assumed during the Covid pandemic, there is a huge opportunity to see our open spaces also in terms of enhancing community connections and communication.
Often there are few places for people to meet in our parks. It would be ideal to think of parks not only as a place for walking trails and enjoyment of nature but also as places to meet suitable for all age groups. It is common to find insufficient seats and those that are not necessarily placed with a view to family or group gatherings for picnics etc.
We can enable our Open spaces to provide increased opportunities for social interaction, exercise and enjoyment as well as a place to enjoy entertainment and organised activities.
- That Open Spaces will be developed in
a way that promotes community and social meeting and interaction around planned
or unplanned events.
- To increase venues for music, drama and arts performances in our outdoor spaces.
Our public parks are often only accessible by car. Access by bike and enabling children to easily and safely travel to and within playgrounds and parks is not common and should be prioritised. It is very welcome to see the NTA’s submission call for cycle tracks through open spaces in accordance with the Cycle Network Plan.
It would be informative to map the accessibility of public spaces via different transport modes. This can assist with public consultation around transport strategies being developed also, highlighting the specific need for safe and multi-modal access to open spaces in a way that avoids reliance on the car.
In addition, the strategy should have a particular section focused on accessibility of people with a disability in public spaces. Our open spaces should be welcoming and inclusive by design.
Proposed recommendations to consider are that:
- All primary parks spaces should be
accessible by cycling and walking by children
- Green open space and recreation facilities should be accessible by a child within a safe 10 minute walk maximum
- All recreation areas for young people should have play equipment that is accessible by those with a disability.
- All open space design and development should promote safety in terms of lighting and passive surveillance
Housing & planning
We need to incorporate outdoor space design to mitigate the effects of high temperature and flooding, promote social meeting and interaction, and connection with nature and wildlife into our planning permissions for new developments.
Currently some estates are designed in ways that prevent meeting, make playing difficult and are not ideally suited to promoting positive social and recreational uses of open spaces for well-being. Also, open spaces are often limited to homogenous mown lawns.
In addition, the recreational needs of young children are not adequately catered for in new developments in terms of nature rich areas, off-street and safe natural play areas.
It would be helpful, in advance of the development of the county development plan, and as part of transport strategies, that we examine how far a child has to travel to access open green space and in addition how safe that journey is.
Proposed objectives to consider
- Aims to increase the amount of Green
Space in urban areas to assist with increased temperatures as a result of
climate change and support our climate action targets.
- Recommend that open space allocation
for new developments is increased
- A goal of at least 3% of the site for
housing and other developments in residential areas to be recommended for tree
- Support assessment of length and safety of child journeys and access to public parks and playgrounds as part of transport strategies and LAPs.
Few parks provide access to rest room facilities. Park cafes would enhance the ability to remain in parks as well as providing positive meeting spaces and experiences for all ages.
The strategy should include a focus on education. This can include biodiversity and community signage, community gardens. Outreach with talks and projects with schools can also enhance young people’s experience, understanding and protection of our natural environment.
With respect to the use of open spaces and parks for exercise, it should be noted that areas of Kildare have specific geographies that at times lead to higher levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10. PM 2.5 has a particularly negatively impact human health yet open spaces and in particular parks are assumed to be clean healthy environments. For areas with trends of higher air pollution it is suggested that air quality is monitored at those sites as part of the assessment of the quality of open space for the strategy.
Celbridge specific issues
Our current strategy (2011) provides a needs assessment by area according to the analysis of Settlement Compliance with Quantitative Open Space standards (p.74). It should be a key target of the new strategy that these needs are addressed.
Celbridge in particular, not only has insufficient open space but the areas it does have is available are difficult to access from some parts of the town, for example, the Hazelhatch side of the bridge.
With regard to the 1986 policy, the following objective not being achieved in many towns and villages across Kildare, specifically Celbridge.
To provide a co-ordinated and graded system of parks, open spaces and outdoor recreation areas within settlements so that the population can participate in a wide range of active and passive recreational pursuits within easy reach of their homes and places of work
The recent Public Realm survey, which received 1934 submissions, highlighted the needs of the community for additional recreational spaces for young people.
Responses highlight the experience of feeling over-developed in terms of housing without relief from traffic and appropriate increases in public open space and facilities for new populations. The town has recently had seen planning permission granted for two additional Strategic Housing Developments (SHDs) which will increase pressure on the town and community further.
The views highlighted in the public realm consultation should be considered as part of the assessment of public space for this new strategy.
Proposed actions for Celbridge
- The development of open space & recreation
facilities are prioritised for young people in Celbridge in the context of an
ambitious vision and overarching values around promoting inclusion, community cohesion
and climate action.
- That sufficient open space and
recreation facilities are developed to meet the need of its rapidly growing
- That an open space with recreation
facilities is developed for easy access by residents for whom current spaces
and facilities are too far away or difficult to access
- That the development of open spaces
and recreation facilities are co-produced with the Celbridge community with a
specific focus on the voice of young people.
- That Kildare Council lands in
Castletown Woods are restored including the pond
- That a Masterplan is produced for
- That the strategy incorporates recognition of and partnership with the ambitious, effective and mobilised community effort by Tidy Towns and their leadership of the Community Biodiversity Action Plan, as well as schools, residents associations and other groups in their work on nature recovery and diversity in Celbridge and across the county.
Delivery of the strategy
The 1986 policy sets out the need to ‘encourage the recruitment of appropriate staff’. Our new strategy will require appropriate resourcing to be delivered. Our capacity to deliver over the lifetime of the previous plan has been curtailed by the size of the Parks team for the county.
Monitoring and evaluation should be included in the strategy. For this key targets and timelines should be set.
In addition a budget should be assigned. With respect to the budget for maintenance, weed-control and grass-cutting, this should reflect Kildare County Council’s new approaches to maintaining our open spaces and public areas in pursuit of biodiversity recovery.
- Set targets for achieving key
objectives of the strategy
- Monitor progress and evaluate against
these targets for fair and equitable development based on need.
- Maintain the strategy as a living
document that improves and adapts with ambition to changing circumstances over
- The estimate budget for maintenance
costs reflects the new approach to phasing out glyphosate across the county,
less frequent grass cutting regimes and include an estimate for grass-lifting
with the aim of promoting nature recovery and diversity.
- The budget to reflect national policy on increased tree-planting.
Our current 2011 plan aimed to ‘to provide an opportunity for all sectors of Kildare’s population, and visitors to the, county to avail of good quality recreational, sports and open space facilities, suitable to their needs. While there was very positive progress since the last strategy this key objective has not been met at a county level and is not met for Celbridge.
There are, however, are a number of sites that have been identified in Celbridge for development for open space & recreation which is welcome. We look forward to progressing action on these within the framework of our new strategy.
Thank you for your time in considering the points raised in this submission. I look forward to your feedback and to a visionary, ambitious and inclusive strategy for Kildare.