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Policy S4 Play and informal recreation


  1. Boroughs should:
    1. undertake audits of existing play and informal recreation provision and opportunities, and assessments of need, considering the quantity, quality and accessibility of provision
    2. produce strategies on play and informal recreation facilities and opportunities, supported by Development Plan policies, to address identified needs.
  2. Development proposals for schemes that are likely to be used by children and young people should:
    1. increase opportunities for play and informal recreation and enable children and young people to be independently mobile
    2. for residential developments, incorporate good-quality, accessible play provision for all ages, of at least 10 square metres per child that:
      1. provides a stimulating environment
      2. can be accessed safely from the street by children and young people independently
      3. forms an integral part of the surrounding neighbourhood
      4. incorporates trees and/or other forms of greenery.
    3. incorporate accessible routes for children and young people to existing play provision, schools and youth centres, within the local area, that enable them to play and move around their local neighbourhood safely and independently
    4. for large-scale public realm developments, incorporate incidental play space to make the space more playable
    5. not result in the net loss of play provision, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no ongoing or future demand.

Safe and stimulating play is essential for children and young people’s mental and physical health. It is not just an activity confined to playgrounds and play areas, but is something that can be done in all aspects of a child’s life, in a wide variety of locations and environments. Accessing opportunities for play, and being able to be independently mobile within their neighbourhood, is important for children and young people’s wellbeing and development.

Many children and young people, however, find that there are limited opportunities for them to play in their local neighbourhood. This is often not because of a lack of formal play provision, but due to restrictive street design and layouts, poor links between spaces for play and recreation, and the threat of busy roads and traffic. Developments should encourage children and young people to move around freely through safe streets and footpath networks that connect to more formal play provision, green spaces and parks, and that follow the Healthy Streets Approach.

Where formal play provision is provided in new developments, it should be free, well-designed, accessible, inclusive and stimulating. It should integrate into the wider network of public open spaces and not be severed from the rest of a neighbourhood by physical barriers such as main roads. Play provision should be overlooked in some way to allow for a level of informal community supervision and generate a sense of safety and security. Integrating natural environments into play provision is encouraged, acknowledging the benefits to learning, and to help to support a green infrastructure network across the city.

There should be appropriate provision for different age groups, including older children and teenagers. Particular consideration should be given to consultation with children and young people in the design of new provision to understand their changing needs. The needs of parents and carers should also be considered in the design of these spaces. Appropriate arrangements for management and maintenance of play and communal facilities should be provided. Youth facilities for young people should also be incorporated where possible to ensure that young people have suitable spaces to meet and play and feel welcome and included in developments and the public realm.

Formal play provision should normally be made on-site and in accordance with Development Plans’ play policies for the area, using a benchmark of 10 square metres per child as a basis for assessing future requirements arising from a projected increase in the child population of the area. Supplementary Planning Guidance will provide additional detail on the application of this benchmark and other implementation issues. Where development is to be phased, there should be an early implementation of play space.

Off-site provision, including the creation of new facilities or improvements to existing provision, secured by an appropriate financial contribution, may be acceptable where it can be demonstrated that it addresses the needs of the development whilst continuing to meet the needs of existing residents. This is likely to be more appropriate for the provision of play facilities for older children, who can travel further to access it, but should still usually be within 400 metres of the development and be accessible via a safe route from children’s homes. Schools, school playing fields and other facilities can also provide an important contribution to play and informal recreation facilities and should be encouraged to allow community access to facilities out of hours.

Through the development of play strategies, boroughs should ensure the integration of play provision and child-friendly neighbourhoods into other borough strategies.