Open Space For Informal Recreation And Biodiversity



11.5.1  The value of sufficient open space is not to be underestimated. The organisation Fields in Trust has quantified the value of open spaces and has identified in its 2018 report: “Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces” that across the UK adequate provision of green space amounts to a saving to the NHS of £111 million per year.

11.5.2  Adding together the sites identified in the Open Space Assessment Report, and additional sites identified by the SWNP, Saffron Walden has 19.388ha of open space for informal recreation, i.e. 1.16ha per thousand people. This includes spaces classed as Amenity Greenspace, Parks and Gardens and Natural and Semi-Natural Greenspace.

11.5.3  Combining the recommendations for Amenity Greenspace, Parks and Gardens and Natural and Semi-Natural Greenspace, Saffron Walden should have 7.51ha per thousand people which equates to 126ha in total. Therefore, the deficit is estimated to be around 107ha.

11.5.4  Recent provision in Saffron Walden has suffered from two key problems. The first is that additional provision has been vastly insufficient to mitigate the additional demand created by development. The second is that where provision has been made, it has been delivered in piecemeal parcels, often individually so small as to be unusable.

11.5.6  New developments tend to provide Local Equipped Areas for Play (LEAPs), which are small playgrounds with slides and so on, suitable for young children.

11.5.7  New developments generally also designate Local Areas for Play (LAPs) which are public open space as separate to play areas. In reality however, these are typically small parcels of land which are ‘left over’ from the developer’s preferred layouts. Their small size makes them of little use for recreation, perhaps enough for very small children to play, but not enough for adults or older children to use for recreation. At best they could be left in a natural state and would serve a purpose of environmental benefit, however this would not then be a LAP.

11.5.8  A case in point is Tudor Park, recently completed on the East of Saffron Walden (UTT/1572/12). These pictures and figures illustrate the problems referred to in paragraph 11.5.7 above.

These “LAP” spaces measure approximately 18m² (on the left) and 27m² (on the right). This size of LAP is inadequate for the purposes of recreation and therefore should not count as amenity greenspace. This development of 130 houses might accommodate 312 people (at 2.4 people per dwelling). These spaces should have provided 2.37ha of open space. Instead there was just 0.0045Ha, and that was broken down into two sections so small as to be unusable.

11.5.9  The SWNP considers that the litmus test question for whether a site is suitable for consideration as an open space for informal recreation is “Can several people use it at once for activities such as flying a kite and throwing a ball for a dog?”. If the answer is no, then it is likely to be too small to be useful for and counted as recreational space, although it may serve as a small piece of land of environmental value if for example the grass inside the fence was left long.

11.5.10  Optimum layout for public open space is an important matter and should be planned in as an integral part of the development layout, rather than just using space not wanted for housing. Where one or two fields are being developed, for example, a sensible planning method would be to put all on-site open spaces together in one central location, to ensure a maximum amenity standard and therefore optimum use.

11.5.11  The layout of the Manor Oak development places the green space adjacent to the main road, which makes them dangerous and severely limits their use. This will not be permitted in future developments.

11.5.12  Modern housing developments have much smaller gardens than older developments did. This places additional pressure on public space to provide for recreation and the wider environment.  

11.5.13  Ownership and custodianship of open green spaces should primarily be taken on by the Town Council. Very small parcels of land on new developments which are of little public value should not be permitted. The Town Council has a policy of adopting green spaces wherever possible to avoid residents being obliged to pay service charges for their upkeep, subject to the space and land being appropriate for use and adequate contribution being made by the developer towards future upkeep. An adequate contribution is defined as being the value required for 20 years of maintenance.

11.5.14  In order to create a healthy environment for Saffron Walden, all new development must provide adequate outdoors space for informal recreation. Even by applying the standards in the UDC Open Space Assessment report, the current deficit will not be removed, however from this point forwards it will not worsen. In order to meet the new standards, each new development must provide 75.1m² per person of green open space for informal recreation [1].

11.5.15  All open spaces catalogued by the UDC Open Spaces Assessment Report should be considered as Local Green Space, because their inclusion in the report means that they will be considered and referred to in the future as the baseline level of provision from the date of the publication of the report. In addition to those spaces catalogued by the report, the SWNP has identified additional spaces within the parish which it wishes to designate as Local Green Space. Maps and a listing of Local Green Spaces arising from the UDC Open Spaces Assessment Report are detailed in Appendix 5 – Open Spaces Audit. Maps and a listing of Local Green Spaces arising from the SWNP research are detailed in the Appendix 6 – Local Green Space Allocations.

[1] 7.51ha per thousand of population = 75,100m² per thousand of population = 75.1m² per person


1.  All new residential developments must provide 7.61ha per 1,000 people for informal recreation.

2.  All new residential developments must provide a new play area. The design, creation and the location of play areas on developments will be agreed with the Town Council at reserved matters stage. They must be in locations central to the development, well-overlooked and built in durable materials.

3.  The amenity greenspace as provided for in the open space requirements must be in a single well-placed location and not divided into small pockets. The “Litmus Test” as described in paragraph 11.5.9 must be considered. It must also be usable; any area which is unusable, sloping or by a road should not be counted towards the greenspace requirements.

4.  A fenced and dedicated dog park in Saffron Walden would be welcomed.

5.  Community projects to create or regenerate outdoors community amenity space will be welcomed for consideration.

6.  Development land may not be divided into separate parcels so as to reduce the overall size of the development and reduce liability for provision for amenity space.

7.  The amenity greenspace already catalogued in the Uttlesford District Council Open Space Strategy is designated as Local Green Space. Additional Local Green Space identified by the SWNP is designated in the Appendix 6 – Local Green Space Allocations. All Local Green space shall be protected from development.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 2,3,4,5


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11.5.16  As Saffron Walden expands it becomes harder to access public rights of way across open space. While new consented development requires the preservation of rights of way, there is a huge difference in the amenity provided by a footpath through a housing development compared to a footpath at the side of a field. The picture below shows in green the footpaths radiating out through the open fields from Saffron Walden, and the greyed-out sections show areas consented for development (but not yet available mapped).

11.5.17  The public rights of way within Saffron Walden and especially around the built-up areas of the town are an important asset. They provide a free-to-access escape from traffic and thus provide health and wellbeing benefits. The SWNP aims to retain these public rights of way. In retaining these rights of way, the SWNP recognises that it is not only the existence of the right of way, but also the setting, which provides the enjoyment, which must be safeguarded.

11.5.18   Where a development proposal is in a location on or near to any public right of way, careful consideration will be required for what impact the proposal may have on it and whether there is an opportunity to enhance the public right of way.

Map showing public rights of way around the town of Saffron Walden


Map showing public rights of way around Little Walden



11.5.19  The HarCamLow Way is an especially important trail stretching 141 miles which provides opportunity for walking, cycling and horse riding. It is described by the Long Distance Walkers Association as “A figure-of-eight walk, mainly on tracks and green lanes passing many places of historic interest, crossing low hills, woods and arable land via Standon and Manuden to meet the cross-over point at Newport. It continues through Saffron Walden and over the low Bartlow Hills to Horseheath and the Fleam Dyke, to enter Cambridge, the return route passing through Melbourn and Chrishall to Newport, continuing via Debden, Thaxted, Takeley and Hatfield Forest.” [1]

11.5.20  Where the HarCamLow Way adjoins Saffron Walden to the north east of the town, it passes around arable fields and travels along the brow of a hill at highest point on that side of town. Without travelling far along the path away from the built-up area, it is possible to enjoy views stretching clearly over the whole of Saffron Walden and to the countryside beyond as is illustrated in the photos below.


11.5.21  Where the HarCamLow Way adjoins Saffron Walden to the West it passes along a public right of way through Audley End Park and then turns south along a route also known as Beechy Ride. All sections of the route, whether to the north east or south west of the town are very well used by local walkers and cyclists. Saffron Walden’s location as a point on this route also has potential as an additional generator of tourism. Any development along or adjacent to the route would be severely detrimental to the amenity value of the route.


1.  Development proposals that would obstruct or would result in a detrimental impact upon the enjoyment of a public right of way will not normally be allowed. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • proposals for the creation of new dwellings;
  • new buildings for commercial uses;
  • for the change of use where the proposed use would materially increase the activity on site; or

where the proposed use would result in an impact through size, noise, odour, light or other pollution

where this would have the potential to diminish the accessibility or connectivity or tranquillity or the enjoyment of views and clean air that are intrinsic to the right of way.

2.  Development that will be clearly visible from a public right of way should consider the appearance of the proposal from the right of way and incorporate green landscaping to reduce any visual impacts.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 2,3,4,5


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11.5.22  The SWNP has a catalogued map of all areas of land within the Parish which are of environmental value. Most of them are in private ownership and in relatively remote locations, being adjacent to fields and not always with public footpaths through them or near to them. It is unlikely that these sites would ever be a consideration for development in the near future, although future generations may appreciate the fact that they are referenced in this plan. A map and table are in Appendix 8.

11.5.23  In 2018 the Government published a 25 Year Environment Plan to protect and enhance the environment and landscape. As an element of this, The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs is considering introducing legislation for conservation covenants. Conservation covenants will be agreements made between a landowner and a responsible body requiring either party to do or not do something on land. They will be made for the public good, and for the purpose of conserving, protecting, restoring or enhancing: (1) the natural environment, including flora, fauna or geological features of the land; (2) the natural resources of the land; (3) cultural, historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic features of the land; or (4) the surroundings, setting or landscape of any land which has any of these features. The conservation covenant may contain provision for public access to the land concerned. Conservation covenants once in place become material considerations for planners, and the SWNP supports their creation in any relevant area in Saffron Walden parish.

11.5.24  Saffron Walden as a whole has no publicly accessible woodland. Both the environment and the population would benefit from the creation of woodland which is freely available for the public to visit. The Woodland Trust has conducted research into the benefits of publicly accessible woodland, and recommends:

  • That no person should live more than 500m from at least one area of accessible woodland of no less than 2ha in size; and
  • That there should also be at least one area of accessible woodland of no less than 20ha within 4km (8km round trip) of people’s homes. [1]

[1] Woodland Trust’s Woodland Access Standard: Published in Residential developments and Trees A guide for planners and developers January 2019


1.   Sites of value to the natural environment which are close to the town of Saffron Walden and which are of benefit to the community are listed in Appendix 8 and are designated as Local Green Space. These sites are protected from development.

2.  The creation of a publicly accessible woodland adjacent or very close to the town of Saffron Walden would be supported.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 2,3,4,5


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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.


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