Addressing social issues in rural communities by planning for lively places and green spaces
The increase in social challenges especially with regards to safety and security experienced in rural communities, as well as the lack of efficient lively places and public green spaces, is predominantly increasing in importance for government and planning policies. This problem is substantiated by the large number of deaths (especially the deaths of children) drowning in rivers flowing through or nearby rural communities because of the lack of any other safe, public facilities and well-managed and maintained green spaces. The research question therefore focuses on whether the planning of lively places and green spaces in rural communities can address some of these social issues, and contribute to the strengthening of communities and creation of lively public places. Government is struggling to deal with social issues (especially that of safety and security) within rural communities and a number of strategies were discussed and drawn up. (For example, the Rural Safety Summit which took place on 10 October 1998 aimed at achieving consensus regarding issues of rural insecurity; as well as crime prevention strategies as defined by the SAPS White Paper on Safety and Security (1998).) However, very little (if any) in-depth research on the possibility of upgrading public spaces into lively green places as a solution, has been done. This study can serve as a link between literature and practical rural issues, as well as contribute to green space and lively place development, incorporating international approaches and pilot studies, and illustrating best practices in terms of lively place and green space development, linking it to the local rural reality. In creating public and lively green places for rural communities, issues of safety, inequality, sociability and community coherence are addressed. Through the correct corresponding planning initiatives consequently drawn up, overall quality of life of those living in rural communities can be improved, decreasing the social challenges experienced.