The Importance Of Play

Play and the children of waterside

Dangers Of Secluded Areas For Play

The a many under 5’s who live in the Waterside Ward. They are lucky to have access to Saltworks Park, however when they are old enough to take their first steps of independence, they will want to go to the park with their friends. Sadly for them, the only local park is surrounded by isolated marshland, isolated fields, deep fishing ponds and the M56. It is obscured from the road by tall hedges. Many parents have reservations about aspects of children’s safety here and are starting to have those early conversations about stranger danger. Planning policy guidance states that:

“In identifying where to locate new areas of open space, sports and recreational facilities, local authorities should….. carefully consider security and personal safety, especially for children.”
Source: Department for Communities and Local Government – Planning Policy Guidance 17

Furthermore, on most days the park is strewn with litter and broken glass. Parents often tidy litter as their children play and sometimes have to pick shards of glass out of the loose safety surfacing. The park also features graffiti of an adult nature.

County Lines

Weaver Vale School, which is located next to Saltworks park also have their concerns over the safety of young children. They are working with the police to reduce the risk of harm. Parents have been warned that local children as young as 11 have become victims of county lines.

“The organised crime groups exploit children, vulnerable adults and disabled people through coercion, intimidation and violence in order to move and store their drugs and money.”
Source: Weaver Vale School Newsletter

Members of our community reported evidence that young people have been targeted with knife violence whilst at play.

Fields In Trust Accessibility standards

Waterside’s Past LEAP Provision

The Waterside Ward used to have 3 locally equipped areas for play. As you can see from the map, all homes were within the 400m catchment distance of a play area. Many children had a choice of locations to play close to their homes.

Accessibility Benchmark Standards

Fields In Trust have set accessibility benchmark standards for children’s playing spaces. The recommendation is that a LEAPs (locally equipped areas for play) should be a maximum walking distance of 400m or 240m straight line distance.

“The Benchmark Standards for children and young people’s play and informal recreation have been developed in accordance with central government planning guidance throughout the four nations of the United Kingdom, to address the issues of quantity, quality and accessibility. The objective of the Benchmark Standards is to ensure that play and informal recreation provision meets the needs of the existing population and needs arising from new development.”
Source: Fields In Trust – Planning and Design for Outdoor Sport and Play

Play areas intended for younger children have a much shorter catchment distance than spaces intended for older children. This is because of the different distances that parents allow children of different ages to ‘range’ unaccompanied from their home.

Saltworks: The Only Park For Waterside

Waterside’s Current LEAP Provision

More houses were built, and now the Waterside Ward now only has 1 locally equipped area for play. As you can see from the map, many of the homes are further than the 400m catchment distance.

“Both the A56 main road through Frodsham and the railway can act as a barrier for those living to the North side.”
Source: A Play Strategy For Frodsham 2012

Play areas should be accessible without having to cross main roads, railways or waterways as a matter of safety.

Saltworks: A Heart Of Our Community

Despite it’s limitations, Saltworks is a cornerstone of the Waterside community. Many children frequent the park after school with their parents, especially in the summer months; while many older children can be seen at the skate park and enjoying the football pitches.

LEAP 400m Accessibility Benchmark

Those who have to walk further than 400m to a play area are less likely to access them with the regularity required for child development and mental well-being.

“Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Time spent playing in parks, woods and fields has shrunk dramatically due to lack of green spaces, digital technology and parents’ fears”
Source: The Guardian

There are a number of reasons that why the 400m catchment distance is important. There reasons include:

  • The regularity play areas can be accessed.
  • Parents are less fearful if their children are able to play unsupervised close to home. This can be the difference between children being allowed out and forced to stay at home.
  • Familiarity with the local community and it’s people.
  • Crossing busy main roads to reach play areas can pose a variety of safety hazards to both children and teenagers.
  • The biggest inequalities in play provision often are burdened on poorer areas. The poorest members of our society are the least likely to be able to access resources out of their own locality and get great benefit from doorstep provision.
  • Carers of SEN (special educational needs) children often struggle to travel longer distances.

LAPs: Local Areas For Play

LAP 100m Accessibility Benchmark

Local areas for play (LAPs) should ideally be 100m from the doorstep. These are essentially a piece of grass, a doorstep area to play.

The British Medical Journal published a research project investigating the relation between health and social capital. They found that:

“A theme that arose in all forms of data from one of the schools was the way in which “no ball games” signs that are on patches of communal grass led to a strong sense of exclusion.”
Source: British Medical Journal

While the Waterside ward has a number of local areas for play, they could be more inviting. Many will have to walk further than the recommended 100m. This photograph is an image from a Waterside LAP. It does not promote a sense of children being welcome or wanted by the wider community.

Enabling Environments

An enabling environment is a rich and varied space where risks are minimised and well managed. Children are protected from harm and abuse, feel welcomed and valued.

“Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land should not be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space or the buildings and land to be surplus to requirements… Where recreational land and facilities are of poor quality or under- used, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating an absence of need in the area. Local authorities should seek opportunities to improve the value of existing facilities. Usage might be improved by better management or by capital investment to secure improvements.”
Source: Department for Communities and Local Government – Planning Policy Guidance 17

When comparing the provision of both LEAPs and LAPs in Waterside, the area under performs in both categories when compared to benchmark standards. The community has a real need for greater provision of play.

The true cost of play deprivation

Outdoor Play Matters

Outdoor play is crucial as it helps children to:

  • Get the vitamin D their bodies need from the sun.
  • Be active for a minimum of 1 hour a day.
  • Learn how to problem solve.
  • Learn to take controlled risks.
  • Socialise with others.
  • Appreciate nature.
Source: Harvard Health Publishing

Play Deprivation

When children are not able to access good levels of outdoor play they are at risk of play deprivation. Play deprivation causes:

  • Poorer ability in motor tasks
  • Lower levels of physical ability
  • Poorer ability to deal with stress or trauma
  • Poorer ability to assess and manage risk
  • Poorer social skills
“Well designed and located outdoor play and youth facilities can help provide positive opportunities for young people to meet in appropriate safe places; and help reduce anti-social behaviour.”
Source: Cheshire West & Chester – Play Strategy

The local police recognise that there is considerably less anti social behaviour on youth club nights. By creating a welcoming and inspiring environment for our children we are providing them with the tools they need to develop, grow and become inspired, contented, and law abiding members of society.

CW&C Place Plan

The district council recognises the importance of green spaces within our communities and has made a pledge to support them.

“We will ensure that natural environments and green spaces are accessible, functional and provide maximum benefit
to the local community in terms of both recreation and biodiversity.”
Source: Cheshire West & Chester – Place Plan

The design of a new play area promotes the opportunity to entwine play and the natural environment. This creates learning opportunities for children while supporting wildlife.

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