THE open spaces at Suffolk Park have been scrutinised by a group of skilled and experienced designers to see how they can be improved to benefit the community.
The group, Design Advisory Panel of the Northern Rivers, is made up local building and landscape architects, urban planners and designers, engineers and members of associated disciplines.
They are volunteering their time and skills to help improve design standards and encourage an awareness of what good design can contribute to the region - and they have taken on Suffolk Park as their first project.
"Well-planned and imaginatively designed open space is essential for villages and suburbs to function as effective, happy communities," panel president Ian Oelrichs said.
The panel responded to a request from the Suffolk Park Progress Association to evaluate several parks in the area, which led to 18 members of both groups workshopping the brief - discussing, sketching and debating what was needed and how best to bring about improvements.
The meeting concluded that although Suffolk had a good amount of open space, it lacked quality facilities, properly developed parks, sporting facilities and play areas and a village centre with character.
Any sense of unity within the community was damaged by the division caused by Broken Head Rd between "beachside" Suffolk and Baywood Chase and Byron Hills.
The group came up with several recommendations, including moves to:
Define the village centre and create a welcoming and vibrant sense of place.
Create a "whole" community by increasing the pedestrian and bike connections east to west and north to south.
Define the boundary of Suffolk Park and landscape and signpost its arrival points.
Create a network of parks and green spaces to service all the community.
Secure the land adjoining the existing oval to provide adequate space to create the central sporting precinct.
Working beside professionals had given the progress association "the courage to think big and to tackle some of the harder issues", said its president Karin Kolbe.
"We need to find ways to bridge Broken Head Rd, perhaps even literally," Ms Kolbe said.
The association would continue to research ideas on connecting residents to sport and community facilities and the commercial shopping area, she said.