Connecting public spaces and communities with recreational grids

NSW Department of Environment, Industry and Planning

Public spaces in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Region: Opportunities for a Recreation Grid

“Public spaces are all places publicly owned or of public use, accessible and enjoyable by all for free and without a profit motive.”

In 2020, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment commissioned Cred Consulting to investigate and analyse access to public open spaces throughout the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Region, and identify opportunities to improve access to them through the creation of a Recreational Grid.

How we did it

Achieving two of the Premier’s Priorities – “Greening our City” and “Greener Public Spaces” – were the key strategic drivers underpinning the development of this Plan – Public Spaces in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Region: Opportunities for a Recreational Grid.

The Plan was also driven by a number of international, state, regional and local plans including United Nations Global Public Spaces Toolkit, The Government Architect’s Greener Places Guide, The Draft NSW Public Spaces Charter, The Sydney Green Grid Plan. These strategies acknowledge the significant value and diversity of public space to enhance health and wellbeing through improved recreational participation and active living.

This Plan was highly-innovative in its approach to best-practice planning and implementation, including applying the UN definition of public space (including public open spaces and public facilities and public streets).

Cred’s methodology included:

  • auditing and mapping of all existing and planned public spaces throughout the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Region
  • auditing the tree canopy in all areas of the Region and providing analysis of canopy in urban areas
  • assessment of the walking catchment within 800m of existing and planned public spaces throughout the Region, and identifying gaps
  • identifying opportunities to inform a review of the Illawarra- Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2015 and the creation of a Recreational Grid – forming part of a Blue and Green Grid for the Region.


[Illawarra Shoalhaven urban area proximity to public space-01-01]: Graphical representation of urban areas in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven region within 800m walking distance from a public space. (Source: Cred Consulting]

The outcome

The Recreational Grid aims to improve health, wellbeing and recreational outcomes for the region, through increased tree canopy and improved links to public open spaces, public recreational facilities and public cultural places. It informs the review of the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Regional Plan, and in particular to Goal 3 ‘A Region with communities that are strong, healthy and well-connected’.

Cred’s research has started a conversation around “what is a recreational grid” and used data sets of information sourced through the four councils, GIS and Python to paint the picture of “what we have now” and provide a baseline of information that can inform all future public space planning by all four Councils, and for the region.