Adventure playgrounds deemed 'too risky' to insure

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Concerns have been raised over the future of adventure playgrounds after a leading insurer took the decision to withdraw cover from some playgrounds that it said present 'too great' a risk.

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Felix Road Adventure Playground, Bristol PHOTO Facebook

Charities concerned with play, as well as the London Mayor and the Children's Commissioner, said the decision by insurer Zurich could deter other insurers from covering adventure playgrounds, reducing the number of outdoor play spaces for children.

Zurich underwriters told Glamis playground in Tower Hamlets, Hornimans adventure playground in Kensington and Chelsea and the Felix Road adventure playground in Bristol that it would not renew their policies as it sees the playgrounds as presenting a ‘high-risk of serious and potentially life-changing injury’

This is despite both Glamis and Hornimans adventure playgrounds saying they have not made any claims on their insurance in 15 and 30 years respectively.

Charities Play England and London Play, who are due to meet with Zurich, are worried that other insurers could follow suit.

The London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield have raised similar concerns.

In a letter to Zurich, the Mayor of London refers to, ‘the possible removal of insurance cover from some adventure playgrounds and the wider implications that this could have across London’s neighbourhoods and communities’.

However, Zurich said it is not withdrawing insurance from all ‘adventure parks’.

A Zurich Municipal spokesperson confirmed, ‘Reports that we are withdrawing from the market are inaccurate. We are not saying no to insuring adventure parks and continue to cover them. We are also not the only insurer of adventure parks, and cover can be bought from a number of other providers too. Child safety has to be the priority here and we think the risks in just three of those parks are too great, so until those risks are managed and reduced by the parks’ operators we won’t provide liability insurance for them.

‘These three adventure parks are out of the total of 17 which we currently insure, and not at all like regular children’s playgrounds in local parks. We continue to insure thousands of local playgrounds. These particular adventure parks present what we see as high risk of serious and potentially life-changing injury, which is why we want to work with the operators to help manage these risks.”

Following the move by Zurich, London Play surveyed 33 adventure playgrounds to find out if there is any basis to the insurers’ fears that they pose an ‘unacceptable level of risk.  According to the charity, the results shows that adventure playgrounds are successful in maintaining the highest health and safety standards.

The survey found that 88 per cent of those who responded have not made an insurance claim in the last three year and 64 per cent have never made a claim.

In a statement, the charities said ‘it is vital that the true message gets out – that the risk of insuring adventure playgrounds is low. It is the risk to children of not insuring them which is unacceptable’.

The UK has around 140 adventure playgrounds with 80 in London alone.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said, ‘Too many children are living a ‘battery hen’ existence, spending more and more time sitting in front of screens and less time outside playing. I want to see more playgrounds across the country, not fewer. The Government and local authorities should step in and work together with the insurers so that these vitally important spaces for childhood activity, creativity and adventure can be protected.’

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