New research shows that playgrounds continue to close at an alarming rate despite the government’s claims that they are tackling childhood obesity and mental health problems.
In April 2017, the Association of Play Industries Nowhere to Play report first uncovered the state of playground decline in England, revealing the closure of hundreds of playgrounds. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the API has once again asked local authorities to disclose current and planned playground closures and found:
- 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.
API Chair, 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.
“The impact on the NHS of childhood obesity, poor fitness and mental health problems is sizeable. One of the root causes is that children are not playing outside as freely as they once did and this is partly because of the lack of local, high-quality and safe areas available for them to play in and socialise. A relatively small investment by government could have huge social and health benefits for years to come.
“Outdoor play is essential to children’s development. They need playgrounds to develop vital social skills and these community spaces have a central role in children’s physical and mental health. In the midst of an obesity epidemic and a mental health crisis we are calling on the government to make a significant and sustained investment in our playgrounds before it is too late.”