Chris Leslie, MP for Nottingham East, will call for research into the state of UK play provision in a debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday.
Chairman of the Association of Play Industries, Mark Hardy, says: “API research uncovered a steep decline in playgrounds across England. Our report – Nowhere To Play – found that 448 playgrounds are closed or closing. With no dedicated funding for playgrounds from central government or third-sector grants, play provision falls to local authorities whose budgets are squeezed.
“We’re delighted that Mr Leslie will call upon the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to commission a thorough report into the state of play facilities and open spaces throughout the UK.”
Chris Leslie, MP, says: “With rising levels of childhood obesity and a deepening crisis in children’s mental health, research is urgently needed into the correlation between these issues and the deprivation experienced in some areas where free play opportunities are lacking.
“It’s now time to drive forward a renaissance in children’s play across the country so that the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor play are opened up to children from all backgrounds.
“I will be asking the government for a clear show of support for play and the benefits it brings to children, families and communities. A relatively modest investment in playground provision now will help reverse the downward trend.
“The worsening childhood obesity crisis means that the provision of spaces for children to play and get active has to take priority. Children with a playground within 1km of their home are five times more likely to be of a healthy weight.
“For many children living in deprived areas – who are more than twice as likely to be obese than those in more affluent areas – playgrounds are often their only chance to play outdoors.
“We would expect to find a higher incidence of childhood obesity in deprived areas where free play opportunities are limited. Research into the prevalence of obesity and other health issues in certain geographic areas could examine these correlations and ultimately guide decision-making.
“Play is fundamental to children’s wellbeing. If play is restricted there are likely to be profound effects upon their physical and mental health, both now and in the future. Although not a silver bullet, a well-maintained community play area fosters social cohesion, inspires children to get active and can transform a community.”
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A Freedom of Information Act request to all councils, carried out by the Association of Play Industries, revealed the following number of playground closures:
The request also asked for future plans to close playgrounds and revealed the following number of playgrounds earmarked for closure:
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 Association of Play Industries (API) www.api-play.org is the lead trade body within the play sector and campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition for play. Its members are leading manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of both outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing. Founded in 1984, the API currently has 65 members.
Follow us on Twitter: @apiplay #Nowhere2play
The API operates under the umbrella of the Federation of Sports and Play Associations (FSPA), the national trade body responsible for representing 13 Associations in the UK’s sport and play industries. www.sportsandplay.com