Despite a growing campaign to save Rosehill Park in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, it appears the popular playground is still under threat. The Association of Play Industries, whose Nowhere to Play report uncovered an alarming decline in playground provision across England, has supported the Save Rosehill Park campaign.
API Chair Mark Hardy says: “Our research shows the closure of playgrounds on a massive scale with more in the pipeline. Between 2014/15 and 2015/16 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds with plans to close a further 234.
“Shocking as these statistics are, they don’t tell the whole story of the communities affected. Local families suddenly find their children have nowhere to play and be active in a safe and convenient environment. In the midst of a crisis in childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles, this makes little sense."
Rosehill Park campaigner, Juliet Le Breuilly, says the community would be ‘devastated’ by the playground’s closure. “There’s huge strength of feeling about this,” says Juliet. Hundreds of children come here to play and see their friends and would be distraught if it closed. We have many children with special educational needs whose lives would be deeply affected.
“The Council are recommending to Cabinet that Rosehill Park be maintained until a new facility is provided by an independent provider. But the play space they refer to is a couple of miles away and designed to serve 700 new homes. This solution is deeply unsatisfactory and our fight goes on.
“This park is important to hundreds of children of all ages and their families,” adds Juliet. “It’s one of the reasons our children are so active; they would rather play here than sit at home on their screens. It’s a focal point after school, a meeting place for the estate residents and children from surrounding schools. It’s central to our community.”
The threat to close Rosehill Park comes at a pivotal point in the ongoing drive to protect playgrounds, parks and green spaces. New Fields in Trust research reveals, for the first time at national level, a direct and statistically significant link between public parks and green spaces and health and wellbeing.
And a new government-created advisory body – the Parks Action Group – has been set up to explore options to ensure that communities can benefit from parks and green spaces for generations to come.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity now to protect our parks, playgrounds and green spaces,” says Mark. “As research evidence mounts showing the crucial role these spaces play in our physical and mental health and community cohesion, we must act now to influence public policy and reverse this rapid decline.
“We are asking for a clear show of support from government for playgrounds by repeating our call for a £100 million investment to replace lost playgrounds and prevent any more devastating closures.”