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SUNDAY FEATURE - First ever National Playground Survey for England reveals main councils provide one Play Area for every 692 children under 16

10th July 2011 | United Kingdom | Children's Play
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Fair Play for Children, which campaigns for the Child's Right to Play, has undertaken a Survey of 326 Principal Councils in England seeking information on the number of children's playgrounds provided by them.

Using Freedom of Information, so far 300 of the 326 Councils have responded, 13 are pending and 13 have failed to respond after several attempts.

The results show that there are 16134 playgrounds in England serving an estimated 11.2 million children aged under 16 years. Of these, Councils have reported that 4983 have been constructed or revamped in the past decade.

Additionally, they report some 2261 were to have been funded under initiatives by the last Labour Government but that 279 of these were axed because of cuts by this Coalition Government but 73 were rescued using other funding.

The total acreage of these play areas is estimated at 14,833 acres. That is about 752 children per acre of play area.

Fair Play also asked these Principal Councils about play areas run by parish councils in their boundaries. The replies show that they know of some 5265 further play areas, acreage unknown. Fair Play has contacted the National Association of Local Councils, who represent the parish councils of the country, and they are working with Fair Play to encourage parish councils to complete a survey about their provision.

Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for Children: "We were surprised not to find previous similar surveys. So far as we know, this is the first-ever such survey of play areas for children for England. There are 11.2 million children under 16 years estimated to live in the UK and this shows that the provision of play areas is relatively sparse compared to numbers, 1 for every 692 children.

"For a comparison, it's instructive, perhaps, to note that 3.5 million golfers in this country enjoy access to facilities whose acreage is equal to that of the Isle of Wight - about 191,360 acres or 18 golfers per acrea of golf course. Windsor Great Park covers around 10,000 acres.

"It is abundantly clear from this that children's outdoor play needs are not being met by current playground provision or acreage. Playing fields, which do not mainly provide for children's outdoor play, cover some 10,000 acres across the UK."

Fair Play for Children has released this information as the first part of its study of outdoor play opportunities and access for children. Further aspects will be reported in the next 12 months.

Mr Cosgrove said that Fair Play for Children was deeply concerned about a number of issues relating to Government approaches to children's play:

* It appears to have abandoned the national strategy approach of the previous government, without consulation of parents, communities, knowledgeable organisations and individuals, and, as ever, children themselves;

* The Localism agenda may risk pushing children and their play into the margins where local government kept this in previous decades;

* There is no measure being taken of whether children and their play needs are suffering disproportionately under the cuts being effected by local councils.

"The Government cannot have it both ways, to say they know the importance of play in children's development and health, and yet not know the effects of their policies nationwide. Words about childhood obesity and concern for lifestyles cut little ice when it is clear there is a national crisis affecting our children's basic ability to be able to get out and play."

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