Nowhere to Play: obesity warning as playground closures go into freefall


In 2016 the Association of Play Industries (API) carried out research into the state of England’s playgrounds and discovered an alarming decline in play provision. 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.

Using Freedom of Information Act requests the API have recently asked those same local authorities for updates on their playground provision and the picture is one of continued decline.

Key Findings

  • By 2020/21 there will have been a decrease in spend on play facilities of 44% since 2017/18.
  • In 2016/17 local authorities closed 63 playgrounds and in 2017/18 a further 70 playgrounds have been closed.
  • Since 2014 local authorities have closed a total of 347 playgrounds across England.
  • There will be a decrease in spend on playgrounds of over £13m each year on average across England.
  • Local authorities estimate a decrease in their spending on playgrounds of £25m by 2021.

Play is fundamental to children and necessary for their healthy development. We need a clear show of support for play and activity from the government by investing in playgrounds to halt the decline.  In many cases once a playground is closed it is lost forever. In the battle against childhood obesity and increasingly high rates of poor mental health, local play provision can improve a child’s activity level and help tackle these and other issues.  The closure of public playgrounds is counterproductive as it takes away vital opportunities to be active.

API Mark Hardy, says: ” Something we all took for granted – safe, local and free spaces in which to 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.  Let’s not forget that when a playground is neglected and closed it is often lost forever.”