Campaign group urges for reopening of playgrounds

The Association of Play Industries has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to set out when and how public playgrounds will be brought back into use following the coronavirus enforced lockdown.

With one in every eight 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? And, will public playgrounds be adequately funded going forward?

Public play provision has suffered years of chronic under-funding, with the number of playground closures going into freefall. A recent survey of more than 1,000 parents showed that 72 per cent 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 per cent of parents without a local playground said that having access would make their child play outside more.

The association also argues that the lockdown has ‘created a renewed appreciation of shared public spaces and their role in public health’, which should act as a precursor for better funding streams for the sector.

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

“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. 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.”