A community led strategy for open space and recreation

Willoughby City Council

Willoughby Public Spaces and Recreation Strategy, and Placemaking Toolkit

Cred worked closely with Willoughby City Council to develop the Willoughby Public Spaces Recreation Strategy which creatively responds to multiple challenges including Council experiencing ‘peak open space,’ signifying limited opportunities to deliver new public spaces due to constrained land availability; population growth; and shifting community recreational preferences. The Strategy is supported by a Placemaking Toolkit to enhance public spaces for recreation.

This new Strategy goes beyond conventional supply and demand approaches and identifies the implementation of a placemaking lens to get the most out of what we have already, and to deliver new and improved public space outcomes through growth. This placemaking approach is underpinned by active community involvement and shared responsibility for public space design, activation and management and will allow us to be more flexible and adaptable in our recreational offerings, as well as test and validate ideas promptly to ensure they suit our community’s needs.

Historically, Council has developed public space masterplans that can take years to materialise. Engagement with the community highlighted the need for a planning paradigm that delivers projects in an iterative and collaborative manner. Collectively, a placemaking approach was developed!

The Strategy shifts the paradigm of planning from top-down to community-led, actively welcoming the community to co-create, activate, and manage public spaces. Shifting from ‘open’ to ‘public’ spaces recognises the vital role our town centres and streets play in meeting recreation needs. It sets a bold vision to make maximise public spaces in Willoughby City to offer a variety of recreational experiences, through collaborative efforts. For instance, it identifies creative ways to enhance recreation, such as transforming suitable streets, rooftops, and walls of Council buildings into recreation spaces thus providing new spaces and connecting existing ones, and reinventing leftover spaces as social spaces.

How we did it

The key issues were defined through a detailed audit of existing public spaces, evaluations of 15 key spaces using the NSW Great Public Spaces Evaluation Tool, a demographics assessment to understand current and future community needs, and extensive engagement with the community, including public spaces pop ups, youth centre drop-in sessions and an online sporting groups forum.

The outcome

We developed a placemaking plan to support the Strategy’s delivery. It outlines the planning process that Council could follow during project implementation, ensuring every project aligns with the placemaking philosophy, greatly improving the value of the change initiative. The toolkit is now in use by Council staff and the community.

Staff are now co-designing public spaces with the community, a fundamental shift from longer term master planning, leading to surprising outcomes as the community articulate their desires for simpler designs, with greater activation opportunities, co-managed with Council.

Funds will be allocated for a number of placemaking projects annually, allowing collaboration with the community to select sites, co-design and implement solutions together.

You can view the Willoughby Public Spaces and Recreation Strategy here.

You can view the summary of engagement outcomes here.

Cred’s community engagement prowess really enabled this project to be successful”

Willoughby City Council