Open Space Strategies

Open Space Strategies set the strategic framework for the maintenance, protection and improvement of open spaces and the green infrastructure network in a council’s area. It is generally considered good practice for councils to prepare Open Space Strategies and keep them up-to-date. In addition, councils have been set a new statutory requirement under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 to prepare and publish Open Space Strategies. This infographic takes a snapshot of the current situation regarding Open Space Strategies across the 32 Scottish councils. As can be seen, while all but one council has some form of Strategy in place, 75% of these are over five years old.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

open space strategies infographic

Open Space Strategies

Strategies are a key tool which can be used to better understand the open space resource in an area. They provide information for developing objectives and interventions to maintain and improve the quality and accessibility of the open-space network, to prioritise activity, and to support funding investment.

Typically, the process of preparing a Strategy starts with an audit of the current provision of spaces. An audit will generally collate information about the type, functions, quality, accessibility and connectivity of individual open spaces, the wider green network, and green infrastructure. The next stage is to undertake an assessment of needs, not only to meet the current requirements, but also to take account of future changes which will impact on provision. The audit and assessment are subsequently used to develop the Strategy, which sets objectives, informs policies and identifies interventions where improvements are required. An Action Plan then sets out how and when the Strategy will be implemented and monitored.

Current situation

The infographic illustrates the progress of Open Space Strategies across the 32 Scottish councils as of 2020. A total of 72% of councils have an adopted Strategy – up from 59% in 2016 (the last time JONO Design reviewed the progress of Strategies).

However, back in 2016, 59% of council Strategies and audits were less than five years old. This figure has fallen dramatically: in 2020, only 25% of councils in Scotland have a document which they have published in the last five years. Meanwhile, Government policy states that Strategies should be kept up-to-date. More specifically, best practice guidance produced by Scottish Natural Heritage states that Action Plans should be reviewed annually, and the Strategies themselves reviewed every five years. The new requirement placed on councils by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 to prepare and publish Open Space Strategies should go some way to arrest the decline in activity.


To identify the existence of an Open Space Strategy, each of the 32 Scottish council websites was searched with the following terms: ‘open space strategy’; ‘greenspace strategy’; and ‘open space audit’. The search identified that 26 councils had published a document online. The name, stage and date of the documents identified by the search were noted.

Where the search identified simply a reference to a Strategy, but the actual Strategy was not available online, the name and date of the document were noted. This was the case on five council websites. These councils are denoted by a question mark on the infographic, as their Strategies could not be verified as having been published in the public domain. One council website did not have a Strategy online, nor could any reference to a document be found elsewhere. This council is denoted in light grey on the infographic.

It should be noted that the review did not consider what each of the council documents covered. There is a variety of different approaches, and while some Strategies are comprehensive, others are much more limited in their scope and content


32 Scottish council websites.

Scottish Natural Heritage (2013). ‘Wayfinder Guide’ to the preparation of Audits and Open Space Strategies.

Scottish Parliament (2019). Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.

This infographic appeared in JONO Design e-news. The e-news is published once every couple of months and each issue contains a specially designed infographic.

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