Wednesday 1st August 2018 is Play Day; a national day dedicated to highlighting the importance of play in children’s lives, celebrated by both small-scale community events and large organised events in parks and open spaces across the country.
Play is a vital part of children’s development that improves their health and quality of life. Research has shown that access to good play provision can provide numerous benefits including:
- increased self-esteem and confidence;
- improved mental and physical health;
- greater imagination and creativity;
- developing social skills; and
- learning about the wider environment.
Research from Savlon and Play England, however, reveals that whilst 72% of parents experienced adventures outdoors as children, the same is not true for today’s generation with only 40% playing outside rather than indoors. In fact, safety is a key concern with 54% of parents only happy for their children to play outside if other children are too.
National policy and guidance continues to emphasise the need for play space in new developments. The draft new London Plan, published in 2017, for example, has a specific play policy requiring development proposals to increase opportunities for play and informal recreation and also requiring residential developments to incorporate good-quality, accessible play provision for all ages. Many local authorities are also requiring play consideration through local open space and play strategies, an enlightened approach that may become the benchmark for new developments. A good example of this in action is the Broadland project in Norwich, which looked at designing car free and play safe streets.
Developers are also increasingly producing strategies that go beyond the delivery of traditional sustainability documents at the planning stages to focus on health and wellbeing, sustainable communities and long-term client value. Greengage worked with client Metropolitan in keeping community at the heart of decision making for the regeneration of the development at Clapham Park. Landscape design was carefully considered to encourage connectivity and flexibility for a variety of uses including exercise, play space and nature trails, which can all be used to encourage active play. Research has shown that active play provides greater benefit as children can quickly become bored with fixed equipment, and therefore play features encouraging imaginative play are increasingly being incorporated into new developments.
As well as providing health and wellbeing benefits, outdoor play space can also add value to property, with studies showing that for urban developments, proximity to open space can add up to 20% to a property’s value.
Incorporating outdoor play space within a development can have extended social impacts, such as health, wellbeing and community benefits. Measuring these benefits through Socio-Economic or Social Return on Investment analysis can show wider positive social outcomes of development, helping to gain public interest and support whilst supporting planning applications. You can see some examples of Greengage’s work on this in our projects in Cambridge and Brentford.