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PLAY


The LLDC goal is to create public spaces that get children and families out of doors and active The North Park playground aims to


be a direct response to the concern that children are growing up increasingly detached from the natural world, with negative consequences for their well-be- ing and for their feelings for the planet (a view captured in the phrase ‘nature- deficit disorder’). There are good grounds for these


concerns. Sowing the Seeds, a policy re- port that I researched and wrote for the London Sustainable Development Com- mission (the Mayor of London’s advisers on sustainability) found dozens of studies to back up the claim that nature matters for children. It also presented new data from Natural England – showing that one in seven families in the capital had not visited a green space at all in the previous 12 months. This was a far higher proportion than


for England as a whole, suggesting that children in London are even more nature-deprived than those that live in other parts of the country.


CHALLENGING SAFE PLAY Playground safety has become a hot topic in recent years. The public per- ception – of play equipment that has become ever more sterile in the face of a relentless ‘health and safety’ culture – is at odds with the facts. It is true that through the 80s and 90s, a preoccupa- tion with safety led to endless recycling of tired, sterile, unimaginative ‘kit, fence and carpet’ or ‘KFC’ formula (the term was coined by academic Helen Woolley, and the allusion to fast food is deliber- ate). However, the pendulum has, in recent years, been swinging back in favour of challenge, adventure and even a hint of danger. The plans for both the North and


South Parks follow this encouraging trend. Designers are taking a robust, balanced approach, underpinned by the use of risk-benefit assessment (RBA), a technique that my collaborators Pro- fessor David Ball and Bernard Spiegal of PLAYLINK set out in the publication


Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation Guide. RBA crucially allows designers and


providers to take fully into account in their judgements the benefits of allow- ing children to take managed risks. It is a game-changing technique that gives providers solid ground for defending claims (the publication has the endorse- ment of the Health and Safety Executive) while opening up all kinds of possibilities for creative, bespoke offers. For instance, PLAYLINK has used RBA to support the in- stallation of tree swings in several public spaces, including Islington and Brighton.


PROVIDING A LEGACY Not surprisingly, when it comes to the Games legacy, all eyes are currently on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. But the park is just one piece of the legacy jigsaw. In terms of public play provision, another 10 significant play areas of dif- ferent types, along with a dozen or so doorstep play spaces, are all proposed in the Legacy Community Strategy. Given the timeframes, it will be a gen-


eration or more before we know if the goal of creating a genuinely child-friendly city quarter has been achieved. However, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – one of the first building blocks for this new community – is set to show beyond doubt that playful places can be adventurous, distinctive, lively and beautiful. While a minority of parents may need


to adjust their expectations, I am confi- dent that the vast majority of children, young people and everyone else who vis- its will respond with enthusiasm. l


The park design will allow families to explore the whole site, rather than one play area 64 Read Sports Management online sportsmanagement.co.uk/digital


Tim Gill is a writer, independent research- er and consultant, whose work focuses on childhood. www.rethinkingchildhood.com


Issue 3 2012 © cybertrek 2012


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