Straight after our previous post where we expressed our cynicism about any consultations/surveys initiated by a local authority, here comes one from Basildon Council which if you value your local kids play area, you really need to respond to: In the news: Council launches public consultation on borough’s play areas. The council currently manage 143 play areas. Which means many parents and carers can find one within a relatively short distance of where they live. The council want to eliminate 57 of these. This means that some areas will be left without a play area that’s easy to access.
As you can see from the image below, when the new town was laid out, one priority for the architects was the provision of accessible play space within each estate. As the new town was designed to house people moving out of the cramped streets of London, giving kids somewhere to play and mix with each other was seen as part of the better life that was on offer. The fact that a number of these play areas have suffered from neglect and the ravages of anti-social behaviour over the years shouldn’t mean that the original vision of the new town planners ends up being consigned to the dustbin of history. If there are issues with anti-social behaviour impacting a play area, then a sensible strategy would be to develop a community led strategy to deal with that rather than get rid of the play area.
During the first lockdown back in the spring, we pointed out the damaging impact on the physical and mental development of kids of the shutting down of play areas. An issue that some parents and carers felt strongly enough about to prompt them to take a bit of direct action in removing the tape and other barriers so their kids could use the play areas. In an age where more of us are living with our eyes glued to a screen, getting outdoors to mix with other people and get some physical exercise is vital for our health. That’s even more important for kids who not only need play areas for exercise but also to mix with other kids. It’s this mixing in a play area that plays a vital role in helping them develop the social skills they’ll need to get through life. Social skills such as co-operation, learning to wait their turn to use a piece of play equipment, showing empathy if another kid gets hurt…the list goes on…
Regardless of how Basildon Council try to dress this one up, cutting the number of play areas will leave a number of kids in the area without easy or safe access to one. If you value the role a play area plays in your neighbourhood, you need to get involved in this consultation to put pressure on the council to not cut the number of play areas and instead, play their part in coming up with a creative, resident led solution that will keep them going.