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In just two years, over 200 children’s playgrounds have been closed by local authorities across England, according to new research.
A study carried out by the Association of Play Industries (API) has revealed that between 2014/15 and 2015/16 local councils closed 214 children’s playgrounds, and when asked about future plans they admitted their aim to close a further 234.
Mark Hardy, chairman of the API said: “With increasing childhood obesity and the health benefits of activity and play well known, now is not the time for community playgrounds to be closing. This action goes against the Government’s clear intention to get children more active and needs to be stopped as quickly as possible. Our survey revealed a 37 per cent cut in Government funding to local authorities.”
API’s report ‘Nowhere to Play’, shows £100m is needed to reverse the decline and increase the number of playgrounds available to children across the country.
“We are realistic in realising in this period of austerity that direct Government support may simply not be available and therefore urge Government to support reinstatement of funding from the Big Lottery.
“We know that money is tight for councils across the country, but we can’t just stand by and watch as children's playgrounds close. We are calling on the Government to halt this decline and invest in the next wave of playgrounds to ensure our children have access to free play and activity,” added Mr Hardy.
Wayne Grills, chief executive of The British Association of Landscape Industries called the loss of playgrounds up and down the country “unforgivable” and warned: “As we witness the likely degradation of our cherished parks and public spaces through lack of investment, so, too, will we see a generation of young people and adults with mental and physical health problems exacerbated by lack of access to outdoor play and physical activity. We should look at a different model where outdoor ‘play’ and exercise for all ages is somehow integrated so that a trip to the local playground involves the entire family, from children to grandparents”.
In response to the report, Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association said: “Councils are committed to promoting healthy lifestyles among young people and recognise that access to playgrounds and sports facilities are an important part of that.
“They want to do everything they can keep our parks and playgrounds intact but are doing this in the face of unprecedented budget constraints. Given ongoing funding reductions, many councils continue to have to make difficult decisions about which services are scaled back or stopped altogether.
“Decisions like this are never taken lightly and councils are exploring new ways to fund and maintain these facilities. Many are also working with their communities to help maintain them, or through crowdfunding for new equipment.”
API made requests under the Freedom of Information Act which revealed that in 2014/15 there were 112 closures and in 2015/16 there were 102 closures. The request also asked for future plans to close playgrounds and revealed that in 2016/17 there were 80 playgrounds earmarked for closure, in 2017/18 there are 103 and 2018/19 there are 51.
Figures for 2017/18 and 2018/19 do not include information from over a third of councils questioned as they had yet to make plans for this time.
The report ‘Nowhere to Play’ can be viewed at http://www.api-play.org/news/nowhere2play-campaign