Public play areas provide a range of learning opportunities through different types of play and have a vital role in not just the physical wellbeing but also the mental and spiritual wellbeing of young people and the community. Even though playgrounds are the most popular spaces for outdoor play, closely followed by green spaces, they are hugely under-funded and are disappearing fast.
The pandemic and subsequent periods of lockdown brought into sharp focus the importance of play areas and the key role which town, parish and community councils have as play providers. Helen Ball FSLCC, Town Clerk to Shrewsbury Town Council and SLCC Director, recognised the challenges which local councils faced on reopening and safe maintenance of play areas and has been working with key stakeholders, including Association of Play Industries (API) and National Association of Local Councils (NALC) on providing guidelines for the safe management of playgrounds and outdoor gyms.
Earlier this year, Helen represented SLCC at the Playground Stakeholder Roundtable, chaired by Louise Barr, Deputy Director COVID Response (COVID secure places, regulations, compliance and enforcement) at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and members of the Public Spaces Team. The meeting looked at the experiences of play providers throughout lockdown and at preparation for the next steps in the government’s exit strategy. Some of the points raised by representatives included the increase usage of outdoor spaces and the resulting rise in maintenance costs, confusion with insurance companies on risk and users failing to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
There will be a follow-up meeting which will focus on forward planning and SLCC want to ensure that the views of our members are heard.
Together with API, SLCC has produced a short survey to gather your feedback which will then be taken to MHCLG. The survey, which is open to members across England and Wales, will take approximately five minutes to complete and we would encourage all members to which this applies to take part. The survey will be open until Friday 3 September and members will be kept up to date with results of the survey and all subsequent developments.