The lead body representing the UK play industry has written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to set out when and how public playgrounds will be brought back into use.  Chair of the Association of Play Industries (API), Mark Hardy, says:

“Mr Johnson has declared a ‘much more interventionist’ approach to obesity in the fight against Coronavirus and yet they have remained silent on playgrounds which have an essential role in tackling the obesity crisis.”

Up and down the UK parents want to know when their children can play outside in their local playgrounds again.  Other European nations have addressed the issue as they ease their lockdowns. With 1 in 8 UK households without a garden, the API is asking the Government to answer the following as a matter of urgency:

  • When can children play in playgrounds again?
  • Will public playgrounds be adequately funded going forward?


Children’s need for play has been airbrushed out of the lockdown roadmap.

“Children’s outdoor play is essential for their normal development,” says Mark.  “Children have been in lockdown for months, many with limited or no outside space. It is astonishing that the UK Government has made no mention of re-opening public playgrounds, despite their emphasis on opening up other arguably less important outdoor activities.” 

Public play provision has suffered years of chronic under-funding, with the number of playground closures going into freefall.  A recent survey of 1100 parents showed that 72% of parents of children with health issues such as obesity said that the lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s problems and 90% of parents without a local playground said that having access would make their child play outside more.

“We are giving the Government notice now of the catastrophic impact on children’s health unless there is targeted support for our small but vital industry.  There is increasing evidence that Local Authority budgets for public playgrounds will be slashed even further, with devastating, irreversible consequences and significant job losses in the sector,” adds Mark.  “The industry needs to be fit for purpose post-pandemic but so far it has slipped through the gaps of specific government support by not falling under entertainment, sports or retail.”

A recent survey of API members shows that:

  • Members’ sales since the start of lockdown are down over 70% versus 2019
  • Over 95% of members predict a significant fall in revenue for the remainder of the year

“The lockdown has created a renewed appreciation of shared public spaces and their role in public health,” says Mark.  “With evidence that obesity exacerbates Covid-19 symptoms, the need to address the already burgeoning inactivity epidemic becomes even more urgent.”

The Association of Play Industries is calling on the Government to:

1. Provide a new funding stream specifically for public outdoor play and activity provision*
2. Provide guidelines for when and how playgrounds will be brought back into use


*Our research estimates £100m is needed to offset the decline already seen in recent years.



Notes to Editors

The Association of Play Industries (API)  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 represents 85% of the play industry.

The API operates under the umbrella of the Federation of Sports and Play Associations (FSPA), the national trade body responsible for representing Sports and Play Associations in the UK’s sport and play industries.

Media Contact

Mary Lubrano, Head of Communications.  For further comment contact Mary on e: [email protected]  m: 07999 550452