London Sport has helped a mother claim back her local park, involving local residents and young people in the designs for new, inclusive public space.

SPORT England’s Active Lives Survey, which replaces the Active People Survey, measures sport and activity across England. Across all three sets of the survey’s results, Barking and Dagenham in East London has sat bottom of the table in London for the percentage of active individuals. Barking and Dagenham also registers some

of the highest figures for childhood obesity. Dagenham’s Valence ward demonstrates significantly higher levels of childhood obesity than is seen nationally: 12.8 per cent in reception and 23.4 per cent in year six are obese. The area also has significantly higher rates of admissions for all causes and for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease when compared to national averages. Valence Park sits on the edge of a

comparatively high area of inactivity, even for

Barking and Dagenham. Three years ago, the park’s facilities were in a pitiful state. Old and uninspiring, the playground had fallen victim to vandalism and any broken equipment was removed by the council, but not replaced due to a lack of funds. The popular basketball court was also falling to pieces. Lisa Adams, a local resident and mother, was

dissatisfied with the park’s facilities. Speaking to neighbours and parents, she recognised that people can’t always afford to travel to a better park and she decided it was important to improve the facilities at Valence. The process started in June 2016, when by

engaging with the local MP, councillors and local charity Community Resources, Adams felt the backing to mobilise the community to do something about it. In a survey of park users, she identified that 82 per cent thought that the current basketball court needed to be refurbished. As part of that consultation, Adams talked

to the teenagers using the park. They said they would like a new basketball court but didn’t believe things would change. Adams felt that before the young children’s play equipment was replaced, the basketball court had to be improved to demonstrate to the local young people that their ideas have worth and they are listened to.

community engagement The project came to the attention of London Sport via the director of Community Resources Avril McIntyre. London Sport agreed to support

“A few months earlier, I’d pulled together the

Urban Sports Group; a collective of organisations, commercial, young lifestyle and mass-participation national governing bodies of sport and third-sector policy or campaign groups to look at how we might better adapt our city landscape for sport, and our sport for city landscapes,” he says. “It occurred to me that at the heart of Lisa

and Avril’s vision was a space where the Valence community of all generations could 17

the project and was excited by the engagement it had attracted to date. A play company had already drawn up

specifications for a standard teenage-cage, but London Sport’s relationship manager Matt Roebuck felt the park needed something more ambitious.

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