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Equality and diversity

Equality screening outcome report: Belfast Open Spaces Strategy

Published in October 2021


Contents
Overview of the screening template
Section A Details about the policy or decision to be screened
1. Title or policy or decision to be screened
2. Brief description of policy or decision to be screened
3. Aims and objectives of policy or decision to be screened
4. Who will the policy or decision impact?
5. Are there linkages to other agencies or departments?
Section B Information on the consultation process
6. Outline consultation process planned or achieved
7. Available evidence
8. What is the likely impact on equality of opportunity for those affected by this policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories?
9. Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people in Section 75 equality categories?
10. To what extent is the policy likely to impact good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?
11. Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?
Section C Consideration of Disability Duties
12. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity for the council to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people?
13.  Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity to actively increase the participation by disabled people in public life?
14.  Provide details of data on the impact of the policy with multiple identities
15. Monitoring arrangements
Section D
Formal record of screening decision
Screening assessment completed
Screening decision approved
Footnotes


Overview of screening template

The council has a statutory duty to screen. This includes our strategies, plans, policies, legislative developments; and new ways of working such as the introduction, change or end of an existing service, grant funding arrangement or facility. This screening template is designed to help departments consider the likely equality impacts of their proposed decisions on different groups of customers, service users, staff and visitors.    

Before carrying out an equality screening exercise it is important that you have received the necessary training first. To find out about the training needed or any other queries on screening, contact the Equality and Diversity Officer Lorraine Dennis on extension 6027 or or Lisa McKee on extension 6310 by email equality@belfastcity.gov.uk

The accompanying screening guidance note provides straightforward advice on how to carry out equality screening exercises. Detailed information about the Section 75 equality duties and what they mean in practice is available on the Equality Commission’s website[1]

The screening template has four sections to complete. These are:

  • Section A  provides details about the policy or decision that is being screened
  • Section B gives information on the consultation process, supporting evidence gathered and has four key questions outlining the likely impacts on all equality groups
  • Section C has four key questions in relation to obligations under the Disability Discrimination Order  
  • Section D is the formal record of the screening decision

Section A

Details about the policy or decision to be screened

1. Title of policy or decision to be screened

Belfast Open Spaces Strategy (BOSS). We appointed an independent consultant AECOM to support and guide the development of the BOSS. 


2. Brief description of policy or decision to be screened

(Explain is this a new, revised or existing policy?  Are there financial, legislative or procurement implications?)

The Belfast Open Spaces Strategy (BOSS) is an update of our previous strategy for open spaces completed in 2005 – ‘Your City, Your Space’. The BOSS is a strategic document pitched at a city level, setting out the vision, strategic principles, opportunities and headline actions for open spaces in the city council area. For the purposes of the strategy, open spaces are defined as ‘land where the primary function is related to their community, amenity, recreation, play and sport value; whether in public or private ownership’. This includes parks, playing fields, play areas and civic space.  These open spaces may also have secondary biodiversity benefits and form part of a wider ‘green infrastructure’ network.  It represents an over-arching strategy that will guide more detailed typology strategies, area planning approaches and action plans over time.  The BOSS is not site specific, but it does set out some opportunities, examples and headline actions across a ranges of open space typologies at a high-level.

It is important to note that the council’s new Belfast Local Development Plan (LDP) requires an updated open spaces strategy as part of its evidence base.  Regional planning policies set out in the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) must be taken into account in the preparation of all LDPs. The SPPS outlines the requirement for council’s when developing an open spaces strategy, stating that ‘there will be a policy presumption against the loss of open space to competing land used in LDPs irrespective of its physical condition and appearance’.  In accordance with the SPSS, our policy approach in line with the emerging LDP is to protect all open spaces and to improve access to open spaces.   


3. Aims and objectives of the policy or decision to be screened

(What is the policy trying to achieve?)

The BOSS is a high-level document that includes an audit of open spaces, that is, an assessment of open space provision and park and play area accessibility which will be important for planning and investment decision making purposes. 

The BOSS is a high-level document that sets out the vision, strategic principles, opportunities and head line actions for existing and future open spaces across the city.  The BOSS vision is that by 2035:

 Belfast will have a well-connected, accessible network of high quality, sustainable open spaces recognised for the value and benefits they provide to everyone who live in, work in and visits our city.

A suite of seven strategic principles (SP) have been identified, providing the roadmap to achieving the vision.  Belfast’s open spaces will:

  • SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces
  • SP2: Improve connectivity
  • SP3: Improve health and well-being
  • SP4: Support place-making and enhance the built environment
  • SP5: Increase resilience to climate change
  • SP6: Protect and enhance the natural environment
  • SP7: Be celebrated and support learning

A range of opportunities and headline actions have also been identified that are currently underway or planned over the next five years, which are aligned to the strategic principles above.  The delivery of the headline action plan will rely on existing budgets or sourcing external and partner funding over the life of the strategy.  We will continue to work closely with our partners and stakeholders to help deliver the strategy. 

The strategy will provide the basis for protecting, developing and improving open spaces, help inform the LDP, as well as developer contributions, open space investment decisions and area based plans and approaches.    


4. Who will the policy or decision impact?

Consider the internal and external impacts (both actual or potential) and explain.

People Actual or potential impact
Staff Yes
Service users Yes 
Other public sector organisations Yes
Voluntary, community groups and trade unions Yes
Others, please specify
 
Not applicable

5. Are there linkages to other agencies or departments?

The BOSS was developed and will be delivered with a range of partners and stakeholders. Regional policy linkages include the Regional Development Strategy, the Programme for Government (PfG) and the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) and local policy linkages includes the LDP, Belfast Agenda, Green and Blue Infrastructure Plan (GBIP), typology based strategies and plans, that is Growing Communities Strategy and the Playground Improvement Plan and emerging area planning approaches and neighbourhood place-shaping.  


Section B

Information on the consultation process, supporting evidence gathered and has four key questions outlining the likely impacts for equality and good relations

6.  Outline consultation process planned or achieved

This pre-consultation has been achieved:

External

  • In 2017, a ‘Strategy Advisory Group’ was established, made up of  representatives from a range of agencies and organisations across Belfast, to help shape the development of the strategy
  • A series of workshops took place (total of four) with the ‘Strategy Advisory Group’ to help inform strategy development at key milestones throughout the process
  • The out workings of the workshops were reviewed and agreed by all participants 
  • The draft BOSS was presented to the consultative forum on 27 February 2018
  • The draft BOSS was presented to the ‘Strategy Advisory Group’ for final comment and feedback on 5 December 2018

Internal

An internal ‘Strategy Oversight Group’ was set up in 2017 made up of interdepartmental council representatives to provide oversight and guidance. Two meetings were convened with this group and joint workshops (total of four) took place with the external ‘Strategy Advisory Group’.

An internal operational management group was also established (made up of city park managers, parks quality manager and community outreach managers and officers). This group participated in a workshop and also completed a questionnaire. The workshop and questionnaire was structured in order to gather important qualitative operational information:

  • Review and verify open spaces baseline information
  • Identify open space issues, and
  • Recommend future open space opportunities and improvements.

The draft BOSS was presented to the Strategic Planning and Resources and the People and Communities Committee in March 2019 and was subsequently noted at the Planning Committee soon after. 

Consultation

Given the linkages with the Green and Blue Infrastructure Plan (GBIP), it was felt that a joint public consultation exercise would be beneficial to maximise responses. The consultation questionnaire was designed to allow respondents to comment on either document or both. The consultation process took place from 17 June until 20 September 2019. During the consultation period, we received 96 responses:

  • 67 responses on Citizen Space
  • 16 hard copy questionnaire responses
  • 13 general written submissions

There were 68 responses from individuals, with 28 from groups and organisations.

During the public consultation period, officers also attended six events across Befast to raise awareness of the consultation and to get feedback from a wide range of users.

The events were:

  • Summer Rose Fair - Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park
  • Sounds from Bank Square
  • Summer Fun Day - Mount Eagles
  • A World Of Rhythms - C S Lewis Square
  • Summer Fun Day - Waterworks
  • Pride - Village at Custom House Square

Consultation was also undertaken with the Youth Forum and a group from Age Friendly Belfast. At all events, people were asked to fill in a brief postcard questionnaire:

  • on what comes to mind when thinking of green and blue infrastructure in Belfast
  • how can we make these spaces better.

A total of 337 postcards were completed.

  • A report outlining the initial consultation findings on the draft BOSS was brought to the November 2019 meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.
  • The findings of the public consultation and the proposed changes to the draft strategy were brought to the March 2020 meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee – the proposed changes were agreed by the committee.
  • The final version of the strategy was presented to the June 2021 meeting of the People and Communities Committee for noting (the delay in finalising the document was due to COVID-19 pressures)

7. Available evidence

What evidence or information (both qualitative and quantitative) have you gathered to inform this policy?  Set out all evidence to help inform your screening assessment. It is important to record information gathered from a variety of sources such as:

  • monitoring information
  • complaints
  • research surveys
  • consultation exercises from other public authorities

Evidence gathered

A range of evidence and information was used in the screening of the strategy, including:

  • Information obtained from the pre-consultation exercises outlined in the previous question.  
  • Information gleaned from desk top research as part of strategy development.
  • Secondary data gleaned from feedback stemming from responses to the extensive public consultation on the first stage of the LDP (the Preferred Options Paper).
  • Research papers stemming from the emerging Local Development Plan have been reviewed including a wide range of topics relevant to the BOSS for example natural heritage and open space.
Section 75 category Details of evidence, information and engagement
Religious belief

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.

Political opinion

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.

Racial group

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.

Age

Access to green space and nature is important for people of all ages.  Evidence suggests that children and young people have less than a connection with nature than previous generations, which results in reduced physical and mental well-being such as Nature Deficit Disorder. 

Within the consultation responses, there was a suggestion that the council ‘must fully investigate and assess the equality impact of decisions to use urban land for purposes other than meeting the urgent housing needs of homeless children and families and those in housing stress’. -  It should be noted that the BOSS is a high-level strategy and does consider land use planning so it is not appropriate to consider this response within this screening.

Marital status

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.

Sexual orientation

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.

Men and women generally

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.

Disability

Several studies have shown a positive association between access to natural environments and increased rates of physical activity for all ages. Physical activity can help reduce obesity, improve mental health and overall health and well-being. A workshop with parks and outreach operational managers highlighted that improving access to, within and between our open spaces is paramount and that we need to make sure that our open spaces are inclusive to all. 

Within the consultation responses it was suggested: 
"As conditions such as dementia are prevalent in our population, could it be considered to incorporate design and maintenance of open spaces to encourage use of these areas by those with such conditions and their carers."

Detailed plans will be developed to deliver the high-level actions within the strategy and this suggestion will be considered within this process. 

‘The completion of an additional health equity assessment of the BOSS would also be useful for ensuring that the plan will not widen the gap in health inequalities but reduce them instead. This would ensure that the BOSS aligns with the Belfast Agenda’ target to reduce health inequalities by a third by 2035.  Such an assessment would help the council to determine whether the GBIP is likely to benefit middle and higher income groups more than lower income groups.’

Given the high-level nature of the BOSS, it is not considered necessary to undertake a health equity assessment at this point.  Detailed plans will be developed to deliver the high-level actions within the strategy and consideration will be given as to whether it may be appropriate to undertake health equity assessment of these. 

Dependants

The pre-consultation, public consultation and research carried out did not produce any evidence relating to this category.


8. What is the likely impact (indicate if the policy impact is positive or negative) on equality of opportunity for those affected by this policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories? What is the level of impact?

Section 75 category Likely impact Level of impact
Religious belief The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those with different religious beliefs.  Under SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity, and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning, there are opportunities to increase accessibility to parks and open spaces across the city for people within this category.   Minor
Political opinion 

The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those with different political opinions.  Under SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity, and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning, there are opportunities to increase accessibility to parks and open spaces across the city for people within this category.  

Minor
Racial group 

The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those from different racial groups.  Under SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity, and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning, there are opportunities to increase accessibility to parks and open spaces across the city for people within this category.  

Minor

Age

The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those from different age groups. Any new and improved open spaces provided as result of the strategy will provide better opportunities for people of all ages to access them. We will continue to provide and actively promote a diverse programme of events, activities and festivals for everyone.

As part of the actions within the BOSS we will encourage children and families to get outdoors more often to explore nature in our green spaces. We will continue to work with the education sector to encourage use of our parks and open spaces as outdoor classrooms to deliver elements of the educational curriculum, that is, making learning fun for everyone. We will also continue to encourage users to engage in passive recreation by providing appropriate facilities, for example shelters and seating areas, which are also important for use by older people. 

Minor
Marital status

The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those with different marital status.

Minor
Sexual orientation The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those of different sexual orientation.  Minor
Men and women generally  The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including men and women generally.  Minor
Disability

The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those with a disability.

SP1 seeks to provide welcoming shared spaces and identifies two headline actions to identify specific opportunities within neighbourhoods to enhance and improve access to existing open spaces and to use the planning process to ensure open spaces are well-designed while applying suitable and consistent design principles for all.

Two of the headline actions identified within SP3 Improve health and wellbeing of the BOSS is to:

  • Develop an ongoing programme of activity focused on using open spaces to improve health and wellbeing, prioritizing efforts in areas of health deprivation with the lowest open space accessibility. 
  • Continue to work with the health and activity sector to develop programmes of our open spaces for at-risk groups. 

Minor

 Dependants The BOSS is expected to impact positively across the entire population, including those with dependents. However as part of the actions within the BOSS we will encourage children and families to get outdoors more often to explore nature in our green spaces. We will continue to work with the education sector to encourage use of our parks and open spaces as outdoor classrooms to deliver elements of the educational curriculum, that is, making learning fun for everyone. Minor

9. Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people within the Section 75 equalities categories?

Section 75 category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide reasons
Religious belief Whilst it is our belief that there is equality opportunity for a person of any religious belief to access open spaces, there is potential to better promote equality of opportunity for people within this category.  The strategic principles are: SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning.

This is not applicable

Political opinion  Whilst it is our belief that there is equality opportunity for a person of any political opinion to access open spaces, there is potential to better promote equality of opportunity for people within this category. The strategic principles are: SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning.

This is not applicable

Racial group  Whilst it is our belief that there is equality opportunity for a person of any racial group to access open spaces, there is potential to better promote equality of opportunity for people within this category. The strategic principles are: SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning.

This is not applicable

Age Yes, go to answer for age category in question 8.

This is not applicable

Marital status This is not applicable

No, it is our belief that there are no opportunities to better promote. Equality of opportunity is the same for a person of any of marital status to access open spaces. 

Sexual orientation This is not applicable

No, it is our belief under the new strategy, that there are no opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for a person of any sexual orientation to access open spaces. 

Men and women generally  This is not applicable

No, it is our belief under the new strategy, the equality of opportunity is the same for men and women generally.

Disability


Yes. The BOSS outlines the importance of the benefits of open spaces, including promoting their value as a resource for improving people’s health and well-being, particularly active and passive recreational activities.  A key strategic principle of the BOSS is promoting the use of open spaces to improve health and wellbeing in our local communities. 

Headline actions include:

  • the development of an ongoing programme of activity focused on using open spaces to improve health and wellbeing, prioritising effort in areas of health deprivation;
  • in partnership with the health and activity sector to develop programmes in our open spaces for at-risk groups;
  • continue to encourage active recreation in our open spaces via walking groups, guided tours, nature trails, growing food and outdoor gyms; and  
  • continue to encourage passive recreation by providing appropriate facilities, for example shelters and seating areas.

See also answer for disability category in question 8

This is not applicable

 Dependants Yes, go to answer for dependants category in question 8.

This is not applicable


10. To what extent is the policy likely to impact (positive or negatively) on good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group? What is the level of impact? 

Good relations category Likely impact Level of impact
Religious belief

Positive impact.
Three strategic principles outlined within the BOSS offer the potential to have a positive impact on good relations between people of different religious beliefs, political opinion and racial groups.  The strategic principles are: SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve connectivity and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning.

SP1 is about providing high-quality open spaces that are inviting and safe for everyone to use.  Open spaces will be used to encourage community cohesion and social interaction.   Some of the opportunities identified include building stronger communities, by providing conciliatory and socially inclusive opportunities for people and groups to interact and meet new people. We will also continue to build relationships across communities to increase confidence using and developing shared open spaces and services. Some headline actions identified include: supporting the development of a sustainable approach to the management and promotion of shared spaces and facilitating stronger community involvement in the management and enhancement of our open spaces. 

SP2 is about improving access and connections to existing open spaces.  Other opportunities identified include working in partnership to support the removal of peace lines, to release land for open space development and improve access to existing parks and play areas, therefore creating more connected neighbourhoods. Some headline actions identified under SP2 include working in partnership to help remove or improve access through peace lines and continue to work in partnership to support the creation of greenways across the open space network.

SP7 is about ensuring that our open spaces remain well-used and valued by local communities.  As part of this we will continue to provide a diverse programme of events, festivals and activities.  We will continue to promote our open spaces as hubs for citywide and local events to as many people as possible.  

Minor
Political opinion 
Racial group

11.  Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?  

Good relations category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide details
Religious belief It is our belief that several of the proposed headline actions will provide opportunities to better promote good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion and racial groups. These include actions under SP1: Provide welcoming shared spaces, SP2: Improve Connectivity and SP7: Be celebrated and support learning. See answer for good relations category in question 10.

 

This is not applicable
Political opinion  This is not applicable
Racial group  This is not applicable

Section C

Belfast City Council also has legislative obligations to meet under the Disability Discrimination Order. Questions 12 and 13 relate to these areas.

Consideration of Disability Duties

12. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity for the council to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people?

Explain your assessment in full

 Within the strategy under SP3: Improve health and wellbeing, there are opportunities for the council to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people.


13. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity to actively increase the participation by disabled people in public life?

Explain your assessment in full

Within the strategy under SP3: Improve health and wellbeing, there are opportunities for the council to actively increase the participation of disabled people in public life.


14. Multiple identities

Provide details of data on the impact of the policy with multiple identities

We have collected no data in the development or consultation process of the strategy on the impact of the strategy on multiple identities. Detailed plans will be developed to deliver the high-level actions within the strategy and data on the impact of these on multiple identities may be collected and if so will be used in any screenings of future delivery plans. 

Specify relevant Section 75 categories concerned.


15. Monitoring arrangements

Section 75 places a requirement the council to have equality monitoring arrangements in place:

  • to assess the impact of policies and services
  • to help identify barriers to fair participation
  • to better promote equality of opportunity
Outline what data you will collect in the future to monitor the impact of this policy or decision on equality, good relations and disability duties.
Equality Good Relations Disability Duties

A Neighbourhood Service Manager will be responsible for the internal implementation of the BOSS and working externally with partners and stakeholders. The BOSS will help inform planning decisions made by the council, which will feed into annual monitoring and reporting carried out by the planning department. There is a commitment within the draft strategy to review it in 2024. 


Section D

Formal record of screening decision

Title of proposed policy or decision being screened

Belfast Open Spaces Strategy 

I can confirm that the proposed policy or decision has been screened for:

  • equality of opportunity and good relations
  • disability duties

On the basis of the answers to the screening questions, I recommend that this policy or decision is:

On the basis of the answers to the screening questions, I recommend that this policy or decision is
Screened in 
It is necessary to conduct an equality impact assessment
Not applicable

Screened out
It is not necessary to conduct an equality impact assessment (no impacts)

Yes
Provide a brief note to explain how this decision was reached.

Screened out - Mitigating actions (minor impacts)

  • Provide a brief note to explain how this decision was reached
  • Explain what mitigating actions or policy changes will now be introduced.

The screening has indicated that the strategy has the potential to have a positive minor impact on all section 75 categories and this impact will be beneficial across the entire population.

It should be noted that the strategy identifies a range of opportunities and headline actions aligned to the seven strategic principles. These actions are currently underway or planned for the council’s open space network across the city in the next five years.  Over the coming months officers from the CNS Department will work collaboratively with colleagues across the council to develop more focused thematic and geographically based (north, south, east, west and city wide) open space delivery plans. These will include a review of progress to date on the headline actions currently in the BOSS and the development of smart outcomes-based proposals for future actions.  Actions within the delivery plans will be subject to equality screening as appropriate.


Screening assessment completed by

Name:     Claire Sullivan

Date: 15 July 2021

Department : City and Neighbourhood Services Department


Screening decision approved by

Name: Ryan Black

Date: 22 July 2021

Department:   City and Neighbourhood Services Department

Please save the Word final version of the completed screening form and email to the Equality and Diversity Officer: equality@belfastcity.gov.uk  A link to this screening form will be provided to the council's Section 75 consultees.

For more information about equality screening, contact:

Lorraine Dennis or Lisa McKee
Equality and Diversity Unit
Belfast City Council
Belfast City Hall
Belfast
BT1 5GS
Telephone:  028 9027 0511
Email: equality@belfastcity.gov.uk

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Footnotes

[1] Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (link opens in new window)

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