Property companies should be required to consult the community on how public open space at private developments is managed, a government-backed consultancy study recommends. The suggestion is included in guidelines for public open spaces drafted by the consultants and submitted to the Legislative Council yesterday. The study was commissioned by the Development Bureau last year to address the concerns that some developers had limited the public's use of open space inside their developments. The team proposes that developers set up a mechanism such as a management body to absorb the views of district councils and gather other community feedback about how the space is managed. The community could be consulted on what types of activities - protests and petition-gathering for instance - should be permitted in the area. Officials and consultants did not say directly whether protests or petitioning should be allowed. But they stressed that activities that did not limit 'reasonable' enjoyment of open space by the public should be permitted. The use of public open space at private developments became a topic of debate in 2008 after Wharf (Holdings) was criticised for its management of Times Square in Causeway Bay. The developer was reaping profit by leasing part of the piazza, which is public space according to the agreement with the government. The guidelines do not rule out commercial activities in public open space. Open-air cafes and food service for instance could increase an area's vibrancy, they said. However, space designated for profit-making activities should be limited to 10 per cent of the area. A fee reflecting the market value of such commercial use should also be paid to the government. Developers are also advised to follow specific recommendations on the minimum amount of greenery and seating. One example quoted in the proposal is a new mall in Tsim Sha Tsui called K11. The consultants said the design was 'less preferable' because of a canopy above the large public space that blocked sunlight. The guidelines will be applicable to all future public open space through land lease conditions starting in June. Legco will review the guidelines and issue comments, and professional bodies will also be consulted. 'For existing open space, we can only encourage the management companies to follow the guidelines as they are not bound by any lease condition relating to the guidelines,' a Development Bureau spokeswoman said. The government would avoid asking developers to provide public open space in the future, except in cases where it would benefit the public such as promenades connecting to private developments, revitalisation projects carried out by the Urban Renewal Authority and parts of the city that fell short of open space, the spokeswoman said. Owners of existing public open space who wanted to privatise the areas would have to gain support from the district council and demonstrate there was alternative open space of equal quality, the spokeswoman said. Developers that had received bonus gross floor areas would not be allowed to privatise the open space. Chu Hoi-dick, an activist concerned about the use of public open space, said he was disappointed as the new guidelines could not be enforced for existing sites. Chu said he was sceptical about the suggestion to allow commercial activities in public spaces. 'We already have enough places for consumers. It is outdated to think that open-air dining is the best way to make a place vibrant.'