Our recent book, Place-keeping: open space management in practice, takes a look at open space management techniques by focusing on a number of interrelated dimensions. These dimensions can be turned into questions about our green and open spaces: Who owns? Who pays? Who cares? Who manages?

To answer these questions, the book looks at a number of different case studies from around northern Europe, including Sheffield, Edinburgh, Aarhus in Denmark, Hamburg in Germany, Aalter in Belgium, Emmen in the Netherlands and Gothenburg in Sweden.

It’s a tricky business answering the questions above – it took us over 4 years and we’re still learning!

Typically, it just leads to another question! What do we mean by place?

And of course, this is not an easy question to answer! If we think about urban areas, places can be described as spaces with personal meaning for people. Places encompass a wide range of areas and sites including parks; civic squares; waterways; open/ green spaces in housing estates which may be in public, private and/ or community ownership and management. And of course, places will have different meanings and uses to different people. People of different age groups have different needs and requirements in a place.

Green and open spaces where we can rest, socialize and play

Green and open spaces where we can rest, socialize and play

But more than that – places don’t just create themselves or stay managed and maintained by magic. The individuals and groups who help manage green and open spaces are central to place-keeping. It is an active and continuous process to ensure green spaces are effectively maintained, involving elements of partnership working, decision-making, design and management, policy, funding and evaluation.

 When we were exploring management around Europe for the book, we kept returning to one fact, over and over again. So much of what makes good open space management happen is not about the physical place. It is more to do with a lot of non-physical aspects. Think about a favourite place of yours and try and answer these questions:

Who owns the place?

Who decides what is in the place? What information is needed to make such decisions?

Who is the place for?

Does the design of a place take its long-term management into account?

 Who manages the place?

What are the particular tasks involved? Grass mowing? Tree management? Planting? Harvesting? Litter-picking? Events?

Who does them and how often?

You may not have thought about such questions before but with the answers we can begin to understand how a place is looked after for the long term. And that is what Place-keeping is all about. 

Who decides what goes in the place?

Who decides what goes in the place?

Fig 5. who decides.JPG

If you are in Sheffield on 17th-18th June, come along to our free Place-keeping conference to find out more, and to hear from some fantastic speakers. Register here at: www.place-keeping.org/events/

You can also find details of the Place-keeping book here:


AuthorNicola Dempsey