Dr Middle was the lead researcher and author of a study into the supply of active playing fields in the new suburbs of Perth - primarily those in the outer metropolitan area.  

Below is a quick summary of the research. I've provided more information in the Education & Learning section of this website. Click here to go to that page.

The final report, released in November 2012, was titled "Active Open Space (playing fields) in a growing Perth-Peel - Implications of Bush Forever, Water Sensitive Urban Design and Liveable Neighbourhoods for Active Sporting Recreation". The study was funded by the WA Department of Sport and Recreation, and undertaken through Curtin University's Centre for Sport and Recreation Research.

The study was initiated because the local governments in the outer metropolitan area had a view that side the introduction of Bush Forever, Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) and Liveable Neighbourhoods (LN), the supply of active playing fields had reduced significantly. This study was set up to find out if this perception is indeed a reality – i.e. is the perception that insufficient active reserves are being provided in the newer suburbs of Perth for the purpose of accommodating organised sport correct?

A total of 139 suburbs were studied where each piece of public open space (POS) and regional open space (ROS) was mapped, its exact size calculated, and its uses determined. For the purposes of this study suburbs were categorised as follows:

  • Those that were built pre-1960s – called Old-inner;
  • Those built post 1960's and before the above policy constraints came into force – called 10% POS:
  • Those that were Bush Forever and WSUD constrained – called Bush Forever and WSUD constrained; and
  • Those designed under LN but were not Bush Forever and WSUD constrained – called LN constrained.

The 139 suburbs were made up as follows:

  • 27 Old-inner suburbs;
  • 59 10% POS suburbs;
  • 34 Bush Forever and WSUD constrained suburbs;
  • 11 LN constrained suburbs; and
  • 8 that were mixed in that they were developed across two different eras and were subject to different policy constraints.

As well as each piece of open space (OS) being mapped, a new classification system was developed where, instead of categorising each piece of OS based on the predominant use, each piece of OS had a detailed map drawn showing the use ‘zones’ present. The zones refer to areas of:

  • Passive recreation, 
  • Active recreation, 
  • Permanent stormwater,
  • Passive/temporary wet,
  • Nature conservation
  • Mixed conservation/stormwater. 

The figure below is an example of that mapping.

The study found that in all of the new suburbs there is a reduced supply of active OS by just over 50% compared to the old-inner and 10% POS suburbs. The Figure below is a comparison the average percentage of active open space by suburb type:

Figure 8:  Average percentage of active open space by suburb category 

Figure 8:  Average percentage of active open space by suburb category 


This has lead to an existing shortfall of active OS in Perth’s fringe suburbs, estimated to be 51.6 ha, which equates to 29 ovals (i.e. of a size able to accommodate AFL in winter and often cricket in summer). The study went on to estimate what thew shortfall would likely be by 2031 if there was no policy change: the total notional shortfall was estimated to be 160.7 ha, which equates to 94 ovals. 

The study also proposed two indicative active open space planning Guidelines - i.e. these were estimates of what constitutes an adequate supply of active space. The estimates (indicative Guidelines) were:
•    1.4% of the suburb should be set aside for active open space, or
•    6.5 m2 of active open space per resident.

Here is a direct quote of the key conclusion of the study:

"It can be concluded with a high degree of certainty that the new suburbs in each of the fringe growth sub-regions of Perth already have a shortage of active playing fields. It is very clear that the unintended consequence of implementation of LN, Bush Forever and WSUD has been a reduced supply of active playing fields in the new suburbs of Perth. Unlike in previous times, this shortfall has not been offset by the provision of playing fields in ROS. Without a significant change in the implementation of these policies, this shortage will only get worse. Further, this shortage is creating active open space poor suburbs where residents will have to travel long distances to play organised sport."