Availability of Public, Near-residential Green Spaces 2020


Densely built-up urban space is characterised by high structural exploitation of land and a low proportion of open space. In the inner city and in the densely built-up outskirts, only few open spaces are available for recreational purposes in green surroundings. The large near-urban recreational areas are located on the outskirts of town or further outside the city, and many recreation-seekers have to cover longer distances to reach them.

Especially within the densely built-up areas, public green spaces offer regeneration and physical/emotional adjustment, a place for leisure activities and sports. They thus assume an important role for the recreation of the people (cf. BMUB 2017, p. 15: “Green and open spaces must fulfil a wide range of overlapping uses and cope with different use intensities”).

Varying requirements with regard to attainability, size, equipment and design, in accordance with the different recreational needs should be met.

For instance, the maximum acceptable length of time for reaching a green space on foot is 15 minutes. Good attainability of a green space is an important criterion for open-space leisure for less mobile sections of the population, such as senior citizens or children. Furthermore, the accessibility of green spaces on foot is intended indirectly to reduce motorised traffic.

This analysis predominantly considers the recreational qualities of near-residential green spaces, which is reflected in the evaluation of the “availability of green space”. At the same time, however, we may assume that green spaces provide further secondary benefits over and above their recreational qualities. The availability of near-residential green space therefore also plays an important role in balancing the climate, creating a pleasant residential atmosphere and experiencing urban biodiversity.

The demands of recreation seekers on the size of a green space and the multiplicity of its equipment and design increase with the length of time spent there. Thus, larger parks with an abundant array of use possibilities are much frequented on weekends. For instance, groups with children prefer non-regulated park areas, such as open green spaces, while senior citizens tend to prefer more orderly, generously equipped areas.

Regarding the existing situation, a distinction is made between near-residential and near-development green spaces, which are assigned to an open space category depending on area size.

The type near-residential open space is associated with the immediate residential area, its intake area being limited to 500 m. It can be reached in a short time (approx. 5-10 min. by foot), and with slight effort, and serves predominantly for short-term and after-work recreation. Because of its proximity to housing, this type of open space has a particular significance for less mobile sections of the population, such as children, senior citizens and handicapped persons. Near-residential green spaces are also of high value for employed persons, who can use their free time for a short stay outdoors. As a rule, green spaces of small size (as little as 0.5 ha) suffice for the demands of short-term and after-work recreation.

The type near-development open space, which includes all green spaces of over 10 ha, is also designed to serve the need for half-day and all-day recreation. Higher demands are associated with it, both in terms of size and of equipment diversity. Near-development green spaces of more than 50 ha in addition assume the function of superior-quality open spaces with multi-borough significance for the recreation of the Berlin population (e.g. the Großer Tiergarten, Volkspark Wuhlheide). The intake area of near-development open spaces ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 m, depending on the size of the facility. Fundamentally, a near-development open space should always also fulfil the function of a near-residential open space (cf. Tab. 1 for the breakdown).

In Berlin, the analysis of the availability of open spaces to the population is based on the following standard values:

  • near-residential open space: 6 m² per inhabitant (m²/inh.),
  • near-development open space: 7 m²/inh.
Tab. 1: Breakdown of the Berlin open and green spaces

Tab. 1: Breakdown of the Berlin open and green spaces

In ascertaining the availability of near-residential public green spaces, those facilities were considered usable which meet the respective minimum requirements with regard to area size, area shape, accessibility and noise/air pollution (cf. Methodology).

The degree of availability (in m²/inh.) in a residential area is calculated on the basis of spatially-defined intake areas, and derived from the size of the facility in relation to the number of inhabitants in the intake area. Residential areas outside the defined intake areas are considered as basically non-provided.

The construction structure of the residential buildings constitutes a further criterion for the evaluation of open space availability (cf. Methodology). If deficits exist in the availability of public green spaces, it can be assumed that private/ semi-public open space will compensate in part for the need for public areas. In fact, the availability of open spaces in single-family-dwelling developments with private yards is better than in densely-inhabited pre-WWII apartments. In block developments of the Wilhelminian period, there is very little possibility for a sojourn in private open space, since that is limited to the courtyard. The building structure is thus an indicator for the available share for private open space and/or need for public open space. Only a combination of the calculated degree of availability and the existing building structure provides a differentiated picture of the actual situation.

The quality of the equipment of a green space was not considered in the availability analysis. The number of users and the type of user groups the facility can satisfy, mainly depends on the equipment. In areas with poor availability of green space, increased pressure is generated upon available facilities, which often involves major impairment of the quality of the public space, and limitation upon the usefulness of such green spaces.