Supporting local councils to reopen playgrounds safely

3 July 2020

On 26th June, the Government published guidance on managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms.

Notes on the Government guidance:

  • This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide. In the event of any conflict between any applicable legislation (including the health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.
  • This guidance does not pre-empt any forthcoming changes to this legislation. It is designed to provide the owners and operators of playgrounds and outdoor gyms with practical advice to help them prepare, so that when it is deemed safe for playgrounds and outdoor gyms to reopen by amendment to the regulations, they are able to do so in a way that is safe and minimises COVID-19 transmission risk.
  • Owners and operators will need to think about the risks faced and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising that it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.
  • Owners and operators must ensure that the risk assessment for the playground or outdoor gym addresses the risks of COVID-19, using this guidance to inform decisions and control measures. A risk assessment is not about creating excessive paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control risk.
  • It is recognised that adherence to social distancing between individuals and households can be particularly difficult in a playground setting. This will mean that other ways of minimising transmission risk should also be considered and communicated to the parents, guardians and carers, who should remain aware of the residual risk.
  • The government has produced a range of guidance to help people stay safe and reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19. This can be found on the coronavirus support and guidance page.

Following representations from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and SLCC we were pleased to be invited to meet with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and other stakeholders involved in play area management and inspection. These positive discussions have provided us with greater insights to understand and advise on the recent guidance. In particular, NALC and SLCC welcome the Association of Play Industries (API) guidance that provides practical steps for playground operators. It refers to Government guidance and interprets it in a way that is appropriate for local (parish and town) councils to consider opening their play areas from 4th July onwards. For example signage to use alongside the API guidance, click here to view signage showing the 7 best practice steps to ensuring play area safety.

NALC and SLCC will continue to work with Government to help ensure guidance on play areas and other facilities is developed in way that best supports local councils and reflects the needs of their communities alongside the staffing and funding capacity of those councils.

The safe reopening of playgrounds in England is recognised as being essential to the health and well-being of children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who may have no access to outside space. SLCC Chief Executive Rob Smith said, ‘All evidence suggests that there are significant rewards physically, emotionally and socially through play and the well-being of their community is always at the forefront of local (town and parish) councils. A great many members have raised concerns that the current government guidelines on reopening playgrounds present significant challenges to their councils in terms of their practicality and the resources required. We are working on your behalf with the Association of Play Industries (API) and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to ensure the MHCLG develop guidance that is both practical and safe for users and operators.’

In response to our members concerns over the Government guidelines, together with NALC, we have put together a short survey in which we aim to gather important data to present to MHCLG in our ongoing discussions for the introduction of safe and practical measures for both users and operators. Your feedback is essential in strengthening our discussions and your help with this important matter is greatly appreciated.

The short survey consisting of 8 questions will be open until Friday 10th July and the findings will be presented to MCHLG in the coming weeks.

Click here to take the survey.

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