Last month, the Association of Play Industries (API) launched its Equal Play campaign based on new research which showed that access to public play spaces in the UK is unfair and unequal. A Freedom of Information survey revealed that some UK regions have almost five times the free-to-access play provision of others.

Given the enormous variation in play provision across the UK, the API has since been inundated with requests for more localised data. In response to these queries, we are today sharing the first of four maps outlining the state of play in each of the four nations, starting with Scotland. 


API Chair Mark Hardy, says:

Our UK-wide map revealed that, on average, children in Scotland enjoy the best free-to-access play provision in the UK, with almost five times fewer children per playground than the worst area in the UK, the West Midlands.

“However, averaging out statistics across large regions inevitably means sacrificing some of the crucial local data. A deeper dive reveals that although children in Scotland appear well-served overall, this is not the case for all Scottish children.  Analysing the data local authority by local authority we see that, within Scotland, access to public play spaces is as much of a ‘postcode lottery’ as anywhere else in the UK, with some areas well-served and others severely lacking.


“The variation is so extreme that areas range from 575 children per playground to just 63.  Whilst the First Minister of Scotland’s £60m fund to renew every play park in Scotland is hugely welcome, this data clearly shows that much more needs to be done to provide equal play opportunities for all.


“We are asking Westminster for ring-fenced funding for play, to enable local authorities to provide every child in the UK with a safe, local and high-quality playground nearby. Play provision in Scotland is extremely patchy and so we are lobbying the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to provide all local authorities with access to a national funding stream for public playgrounds.


“The Government’s Levelling Up agenda must include children’s access to outdoor play in all the four nations. Play is fundamental for childhood development and millions of children are being disadvantaged by this postcode lottery.”

Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive of Play Scotland says:

“Scotland’s Play Strategy vision is for every child to experience life-enhancing play opportunities, every day. It’s clear from the API heat map that there is a wide variation in formal playground provision across Scotland. We know that play is a social justice issue and the inequalities around access to play have been compounded by the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on children’s mental health and wellbeing.


“Local authorities fulfil a critical role in providing quality opportunities for children’s play, including formal play sites. A new Play Sufficiency Duty and the role out of the Play Park Renewal Fund (underpinned by National Play Principles) means that the voice of children, families and communities is at the heart of plans for play. Resourcing these plans must be a top priority.”


Background Information:
The Association of Play Industries (API) carried out FOI requests in 2017 and 2018 that highlighted an alarming decline in the number of playgrounds and in the amount spent by Local Authorities on play provision: Nowhere To Play Campaign

An updated API FOI survey was commissioned to find out how many play areas exist and what Local Authorities’ plans are for 2020 and 2021. The results show that the number of play areas is no longer reducing and that the decline seems to have ‘bottomed out’.  However, the data clearly shows that it is a postcode lottery as to the number and quality of play areas children have access to in their local area.

A 2019 API survey of over 1100 parents showed that the vast majority of parents say that playgrounds are vital in getting children outdoors and active again.  9 out of 10 parents who were not close to a playground said that having access would make their child play outside more. Play Must Stay Campaign

In 2019, the API released A Movement for Movement showing, for the first time, a strong link between recreational screen time and children’s inactivity.

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 information contact Mary on e: [email protected]  m: 07999 550452