16 Nov 2018, Meredith Jones Russell
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local authorities carried out by the Association of Play Industries (API) has revealed that 133 playgrounds have closed in the last two years.
In April 2017, the API’s Nowhere to Play report found that 214 playgrounds were closed between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Recent updates to this data by local authorities, requested by the API, found that:
API chair Mark Hardy said, ‘A resource we all took for granted – safe, local and free space in which our children can play – is disappearing. Our latest research shows a very worrying picture indeed and, unless action is taken now, it seems we are in danger of losing playgrounds permanently. Let’s not forget that when a playground is neglected and closed it is often lost forever.
‘The impact on the NHS of childhood obesity, poor fitness and mental health problems is sizeable. One of the root causes is that children are not playing outside as freely as they once did, and this is partly because of the lack of local, high-quality and safe areas available for them to play in and socialise. A relatively small investment by government could have huge social and health benefits for years to come.
‘Outdoor play is essential to children’s development. In this screen obsessed and often time poor society, children need playgrounds to develop vital social skills more than ever, and as such these community spaces have a central role in children’s physical and mental health. In the midst of an obesity epidemic and a mental health crisis we are calling on the government to make a significant and sustained investment in our playgrounds before it is too late.’
Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, added, ‘This research comes at a time when we have the least physically active generation of children ever and when our focus should be on doing more to encourage and enable children to play out, not less. Play improves mental health and wellbeing, supports children’s physiological, cardiovascular and motor skills development, and helps them to maintain a healthy weight. It also fuels children’s imagination, creativity and expression.
‘We need to start thinking creatively about how to make play a greater part of childhood. I would like to see some of the proceeds of the sugar tax going towards promoting play and activity outside of school, including helping to make sure children have better access to playgrounds and parks. Play provision should also be strategically planned as part of each local authority’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and councils should be ensuring that adequate space for children to play is factored into new residential developments.’