Playgrounds closures ‘threaten children’s health’ –

The findings have prompted alarm among child welfare groups, who say that leaving children with fewer opportunities for outdoor physical play will not only aggravate obesity rates but also do nothing to combat growing levels of stress in younger children.

Helen Griffiths, chief executive of the Fields in Trust, which campaigns to preserve open spaces, said: “Play is the first step children take towards physical literacy and an active lifestyle and therefore investing in play spaces and securing their future should be a priority in combating the negative health impacts of a sedentary population.”

Dr Amanda Gummer, the founder of the healthy play advice service Fundamentally Children, added: “Any reduction of play facilities in communities is short-sighted and detrimental to the development of future generations.  

“Playing outside increases activity, helping in the fight against obesity; promotes social interaction, helping in the fight against mental illness and social isolation; reduces stress and makes the neighbourhood safer for everyone.”

The API, which represents play equipment manufacturers and installers, today calls for Government to invest £100m in playgrounds and play spaces  across the country to tackle the decline.

It says the money would pay for an additional 1,600 playgrounds experts ay are vital to the health of the nation’s children.

There are also calls for the Big Lottery Fund to increase the amount it spends on children’s play spaces.

Julian Knight, MP for Solihull and former member of the Communities and Local Government select committee, said: “This report highlights a deeply concerning trend away from children’s playgrounds.

“At a time when we are all trying to combat childhood obesity and promote exercise we need to encourage children’s play. It would be most helpful if the likes of the Big Lottery Fund could look again at projects which promote children’s play.”

The report draws attention to figures showing a 5 per cent rise in the number of obese children aged 2 to 10 between 1995 and 2003, along with research which found that children with a playground within two thirds of a mile of their home are five times more likely to be a healthy weight than those who don’t live near one.

“Whilst the Government is right to encourage activity in schools, it should not forget the benefit of free play spaces that encourage children to be active outside of school hours,” states the Nowhere to Play report.

Local authorities said they have been forced to make “difficult decisions”

about which services to cut or scale back in the face of continued cuts to their budgets.

Lord Porter, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils want to do everything they can keep our parks and playgrounds intact but are doing this in the face of unprecedented budget constraints.

“Decisions like this are never taken lightly and councils are exploring new ways to fund and maintain these facilities.”


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