Hundreds of children’s playgrounds have been closed by local authorities across England thanks to “unprecedented budget constraints” introduced by the Conservative government.
— API Chair (@API_ChairUK) April 13, 2017
Research undertaken by the API has uncovered the extent to which local authorities across the country have been closing children’s playgrounds.
This new research revealed that between 2014/15 and 2015/16 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds, and when asked about future plans they admitted their aim to close a further 234.
API Chairman Mark Hardy said:
“Free play and activity is not a given for many, many children. Let’s not forget that we live in a country where space is at a premium and lots of children do not have gardens or outside space in which to move.
“Children’s access to play space is not equal; it’s the deprived areas that are hit the hardest by cuts in public play provision and the ones that will suffer the most.”
37 per cent of local council funding has been cut since the implementation of austerity, meaning some 500,000 council jobs have been lost.
These closures come at a time when childhood obesity and well being are high on the Government’s agenda.
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”.
Helen Griffiths, chief executive of the Fields in Trust, which campaigns to preserve open spaces, said: “Play is the first step children take towards physical literacy and an active lifestyle and therefore investing in play spaces and securing their future should be a priority in combating the negative health impacts of a sedentary population.”
Dr Amanda Gummer, the founder of the healthy play advice service Fundamentally Children, added: “Any reduction of play facilities in communities is short-sighted and detrimental to the development of future generations.
“Playing outside increases activity, helping in the fight against obesity; promotes social interaction, helping in the fight against mental illness and social isolation; reduces stress and makes the neighbourhood safer for everyone.”
Is this really where austerity begins? I keep hearing Cat Stevens in my head: “Where do the children play?”