Foreword by Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London VI

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Tier 2 – Playground classification

6.39 The second tier will classify the playground situated at the location. In calculating the number of items of equipment, a multi-play should be calculated by the number of major elements contained, eg slide, clatter bridge, fireman’s pole = three.

• Space – There is no specific equipment or design for children’s play.

• Doorstep/toddler – This is designed for small children and is very close to housing. It may or may not have one or two items of equipment (this approximates to a ‘LAP’ in the National Playing Fields Association’s Six Acre Standard descriptions – see page 51).

• Small equipped – This has a few play items (three to five) generally for younger children (this approximates to a ‘LEAP’ in the Six Acre Standard but with a smaller amount of equipment). It is near to housing.

• Large equipped – A reasonable variety of play items (four to eight) generally for children up to the ages of ten or 11 (this also approximates to a ‘LEAP’). It is near to housing.

• Neighbourhood – A good variety of play items for children of all ages (including young teenagers). It will probably have ball games or skateboard areas, or spaces that encourage activities for this older age group (this approximates to a ‘NEAP’). It serves an area of housing.

• Attraction – The purpose of this area is primarily to serve family, or similar groups, as a visit location; visitors will exceed the number of people reaching the playground on foot. The amount of equipment will usually be substantial. Above a dozen items it should be called ‘large’; between eight and twelve items it is ‘medium’ and below this it is ‘small’. Children are unlikely to attend unaccompanied.

• Adventure playground – A playground with playworkers offering a range of challenging play opportunities and co-creative environments; these may include using tools, lighting fires, planting gardens, digging etc. It will have substantial outdoor space for these activities and will have indoor space for arts and craft activities.

• Play centre/after-school club – This has playworkers and indoor space for a range of play, arts and crafts activities. Outdoor space may sometimes be limited.

• Wheeled sports area – An area for use with skateboards, bikes etc. It will have mounds and/or ramps.

• Other – Not covered by any of the above.

Audit of existing provision

6.40 In order to make an assessment of play spaces, it will be necessary to undertake site visits, unless sufficient up-to-date information is available from existing studies. Assessments of play space may have been included in surveys as part of an OSS, or as a review by recreation or housing departments.

6.41 If site visits are done, a standard form is invaluable in ensuring
that a consistent approach is used to assess all the sites that are
visited. A recommended approach is to organise the assessment under broad headings.

Issues to address in the audit

6.42 The audit needs to provide the data necessary to answer a range of questions on the quantity, quality and accessibility of play spaces for children. It is therefore important to consider what questions need to be answered before undertaking any major data collection exercise, particularly site audits. The questions asked through the audit will be informed by the aims and objectives set for the study.

i. Quantity

6.43 Assessing the quantity of play space can include the total provision as well as amounts of different types of play space. There are a number of measures of the quantity of open space. This would be descriptive and may relate to the National Playing Fields Association’s (NPFA) descriptions in its Six Acre Standard (see paragraph 6.77). It should also assess functionality. For example, a large area of playing fields may have a proportion near housing, which is used for play. Comments could be made about its suitability for purpose, for example its size may not be ideal for family homes within a reasonable catchment. Other facilities available at larger parks, such as accessible toilets, cafés, sports facilities etc, should also be briefly detailed, including:

• total area and area of different types of provision based on typology (ref to PPG 17 open space guidance – recorded and mapped)

• distribution – travel distance to play provision

• area per population/area per child population.

6.44 Factors restricting access, such as roads, railways, watercourses, isolated or secluded routes and social divisions associated with location, all need to be included in assessments of catchment areas. Barriers such as the main road network and railways should overlay the catchment areas of the publicly accessible facilities. Where the catchment areas cross the barriers, the catchment area should end. This will reduce the catchment area and indicate where a deficiency area exists. This process can be refined for different types of provision. In addition, action plans can seek to overcome these barriers through the creation of child-friendly traffic calming, crossings and signage, or by identifying opportunities for new facilities that serve areas without the need to cross significant barriers.

GLA public open space hierarchy

Type Approximate Indicative Indicative size catchment area catchment area (refined to take into account barriers
size catchment area catchment area

(refined to take into

account barriers

to access)

Regional Over 400ha 8km

Metropolitan 60–400ha 3.2km

District 20–60ha 1.2km

Local parks 2–20ha 400m 280m

Small local parks 0.4–2ha 400m 280m

Pocket parks Less than 0.4ha 400m 280m

Linear open spaces Variable Where feasible

ii. Quality (including equality and inclusiveness)

‘We must look to reclaim for children and young people a part of their childhood that is in real danger of being lost. Too many play facilities are run-down, in the wrong place, or simply too dull to keep children’s interest.’

Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, 2002

6.45 A key aim of the play strategy should be the identification and recognition of what constitutes good play opportunities and provision. These features should be developed into appropriate benchmarks against which progress should be monitored. A key measure is popularity with, and use by, the fullest range of children and young people in a particular geographical location, although other subjective measures should also be developed based on the principle aims of the strategy.

6.46 A range of different play experiences enables children to engage in different types of play, as set out in Appendix D. It is not necessary that every type of play experience is provided in a single place, but important that children have access to this range in their local area, in a number of different play spaces.

6.47 Where a quality assurance system is already in place, the latest assessment or internal evaluation reports will provide valuable information about the need for improvements in supervised provision. More information about quality assurance appears on page 62.

6.48 It is important to assess the types of play engendered by different play spaces, and also to consider the Best Play objectives. This then needs to be viewed across a wider area to look at overall play opportunities. The range of types of play space in parts of the borough, based on the defined typology, will help to assess the range of play opportunities available to local children.

6.49 Fitness for use (related to, but not dependent upon, standard compliance) should also be assessed, based on the overall condition of the equipment and its life expectancy. This may be covered in an annual inspection already carried out, or an audit may additionally include these elements. Data collected should inform existing asset management plans.

iii. Accessibility

6.50 Good quality play spaces only provide a quality play opportunity if they are inclusive and accessible. Physical and social barriers need to be carefully considered and inclusive design principles established from the outset. This section should assess whether there are any significant barriers to access, such as busy roads, railway lines and travel distances, as well as access to sites for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Access audits can be useful. Accessibility to different types of transport – accessible bus routes, space for car and minibus parking – is important for children with mobility impairments, as is the design of entrance gates and paths, which should all have wheelchair access from the road.

6.51 Distance is a key barrier to children’s play. Benchmarks are given in the GLA Open Space Hierarchy and the NPFA standards. These can be useful rules of thumb – and can help to identify deficiencies – but it is important to consider what the particular barriers are to children accessing even those areas that are within the recommended distance. These include:

• roads where speeds are in excess of 20mph39

• railways

• watercourses

• isolated or secluded routes

• social divisions associated with/by location.

‘Sensible health and safety is about managing risks, not eliminating them all. HSE is not in the business of stamping out simple pleasures wherever they appear and at whatever cost. We recognise the benefits to children’s development of play, which necessarily involves some risk, and this shouldn’t be sacrificed in the pursuit of the unachievable goal of absolute safety.’

Health and Safety Executive, 2005

Risk and safety

6.52 The issue of risk and safety in play provision is a crucial one to get right, if the play strategy is to be effective. What concerns children about their play space and public space generally is often quite different from the concerns of those in authority. Because of insurance issues and concerns about liability, those in charge of public parks are increasingly wary of accidental injuries caused by equipment. On the other hand, playgrounds that are too safe become underused and an inefficient use of resources. This tension in expectations needs to be addressed. Over-safe playgrounds can, paradoxically, create more danger for children by causing them to look for their fun elsewhere. Conversely, a playground equipped with the best apparatus can be similarly underused, or vandalised, if it is not under some kind of supervision.

6.53 The Play Safety Forum, a national body with government funding, was set up to consider this issue, and its position statement is recommended for adoption as part of the play policy framework (see box on page 41).

6.54 CABE Space believes that many risk and safety issues can be addressed through the careful consideration of design quality, the selection of materials and approaches to maintenance.40

6.55 Research with children and young people in London41 shows that bullying and traffic are children’s main concerns, rather than the physical dangers of play itself. To be enjoyable, play areas should be challenging and ‘fun’. ‘Safe’ to them would mean meeting friends, having opportunities to stretch themselves physically, while being free from harassment. This section should assess whether children are likely to feel secure at a play area because of such factors as good sightlines from their homes, the presence of passers-by, casual supervision from park staff or actual supervision from park rangers or playworkers. These factors can be highly significant to the degree of use. They can also be used to identify why a particular play facility may be particularly vulnerable to vandalism or inappropriate activities.

Risk and safety in play

The Play Safety Forum offers this perspective:

‘There is growing concern about how safety is being addressed in children’s play provision. Fear of litigation is leading many play providers to focus on minimising the risk of injury at the expense of other more fundamental objectives. The effect is to stop children from enjoying a healthy range of play opportunities, limiting their enjoyment and causing potentially damaging consequences for their development.

This approach ignores clear evidence that playing in play provision is a comparatively low risk activity for children. Of the two million or so childhood accident cases treated by hospitals each year, fewer than two per cent involve playground equipment. Participation in sports like soccer, widely acknowledged as ‘good’ for a child’s development, involve a greater risk of injury than visiting a playground. Fatalities on playgrounds are very rare – about one per three or four years on average. This compares with, for instance, more than 100 child pedestrian fatalities a year and more than 500 child fatalities from accidents overall.

Summary position statement

Children need and want to take risks when they play. Play provision aims to respond to these needs and wishes by offering children stimulating, challenging environments for exploring and developing their abilities. In doing this, play provision aims to manage the level of risk so that children are not exposed to unacceptable risks of death or serious injury.’

Extracted from the position statement of the Play Safety Forum, 2002

6.56 This issue is even more acute for many disabled children – who are often discriminated against on misguided ‘health and safety’ grounds – but who may have an even greater need than other children to experience risk and challenge, since they are so often denied the freedom of choice enjoyed by their non-disabled peers. The experience of adventure playgrounds, like those provided by Kidsactive, suggests that disabled children can – and need to – enjoy play opportunities that are robust, challenging and adventurous. A recent guide to accessibility and inclusion, published by the NPFA, cogently makes this point:

‘We strongly recommend that a “can do” approach is taken in all play situations and that, while regard to health and safety must always be taken, it should only be used reasonably and not as a knee-jerk reaction to discriminate against disabled children. We recommend that those with health and safety responsibilities consider the danger to the health and well-being of disabled children if they are discriminated against by over-cautious application of recommendations and guidance.’

Rob Wheway and Alison John, Can Play Will Play, National Playing Fields Association, 2004

6.57 Overcoming exclusion will require specific strategies for inclusion and the commitment of playworkers and managers working together with those who are responsible for the play spaces. The aim should be to facilitate informal, unsupervised play within neighbourhoods, rather than to rely solely on a strategy of supervised facilities.

6.58 The DDA requires service providers to include disabled people and, from October 2004, to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the physical features of their premises to overcome barriers to access. In 2003, the ODPM published guidance42 to accessible play provision, noting that ‘the key recommendation of the guide is that developers should concentrate on making the environment fit the child. There is no need to focus on impairment-specific issues – rather identify the obstacles to play for any child who might wish to access the play space and think about ways to circumvent them’.

‘Enabling disabled children to access play spaces helps them and their families build relationships and neighbourhood networks that can bind communities and promote social inclusion.’

Developing Accessible Play: A Good Practice Guide, ODPM, 2003

6.59 Other recommended guidance on providing for the widest range of children and their needs is available from the following:

Kidsactive, whose guide, All of Us, sets out good practice for playworkers and childcare staff and an inclusion framework for
local authorities

• the NPFA, whose Can Play Will Play43 offers advice on accessibility for existing playgrounds within the social model of disability.

‘Enabling all children to play, and to play together, is about a benefit to the whole community. It is not about overcoming legal hurdles or making expensive provision for a small section of the community. If any child is prevented from playing then it diminishes the play experience of all.’

Wheway & John, Can Play Will Play, National Playing Fields Association, 2004

Stage 4: Consultation – engaging children and young people

‘Proposals must be prepared in partnership with other local agencies, children and young people and local communities...’ Play Review, 2004

6.60 Engaging with and consulting children and young people as fully as it is possible to do well is an important aspect of the whole process: at least as important as the audit of provision. It is from determining the young community’s needs and aspirations for their free time, and assessing this against current provision and how it is used, that the specific objectives for the play strategy should emerge. A policy decision about the nature and extent of children’s participation in the process, together with an allocation of the appropriate time and resources should have been made at the outset.

6.61 Children’s play tends to be very local, particularly for younger children. They have ‘expert’ knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of their local area for play. An approach that cumulatively builds on local consultations, rather than trying to obtain a strategic view from a representative group, is likely to give greater insights and will have the added advantage of engaging those children with their local facilities.

6.62 There should have been consultation with the community, including children and young people, during Stage 2. This stage is much more about finding out what local children and their families want for their area, although local consultations can also inform the wider strategy.

6.63 Careful planning is needed to engage children and young people, their parents and carers in a meaningful way that both empowers them and helps the borough to respond effectively to their needs, and to manage and fulfil their expectations. Employing special workers or engaging consultants with the relevant skills and experience is essential to ensure best value. They should then be provided with the time and the resources to do the job properly.

6.64 Very young children should not be excluded but the relevant methods and skills deployed to give them and their parents and carers a voice.

‘The most important outcome from undertaking consultation with children was the sense of ownership that it gave them. This ultimately increased the number of children that actually used the play opportunity once their views had been accounted for and acted upon.’

Borough Officer, London Borough of Ealing

Example: Playing for Real in Devon

In Devon, several play areas have been developed using the Playing for Real process, inspired by the Planning for Real method which uses scale models as the basis for discussion.

At the request of the local community, a playworker visits the site with a group of local children. The children are asked what they like and dislike, how they access it, plus their play preferences. They then go to an indoor venue where there is a short discussion and a viewing of display materials. Questionnaires are completed with assistance. The practical session begins with a map of the play site on either cloth, sand or clean compost. The children then create models from various materials to show the features and equipment they would most like to see. Finally the model is discussed and a consensus reached on the most important aspects. This is used as the basis of a report to the planning authority, which will typically incorporate at least some of the ideas presented.

Playing for Real draws adults and children together to plan, and uncovers local solutions. It adds credibility to the planning group and, because it is fun, helps to break down barriers.

Adapted from More than Swings and Roundabouts,
Children’s Play Council, 2002

Consultation methods

6.65 Methods of consultation with children and young people vary considerably and may include one-to-one or group interviews, questionnaires, conferences, arts and drama workshops, youth councils and forums, focus groups, postal surveys and Playing for Real sessions (see box above). Games can be devised to facilitate engagement. For example, the Project for Public Spaces has created the Place Evaluation Game, which can be adapted for play space evaluation.44 Making Connections by Pippa Murray offers recommendations for enabling young disabled people’s play and leisure needs to be explored.

6.66 Observational surveys (such as ‘Places for Play’ by PlayLink) can also give insights into how and where children actually play and where they do not. When consulting children, a deliberate approach should be taken to involve those who do not play outdoors, or who do not use particular facilities. It may well be that they have the greatest need. Tower Hamlets and Sutton both recognised the need to promote and value play in the home to families and communities, and to consider the play needs of children in hospitals and closed institutions.

Example: Young consultants in Lambeth

In 2000, the Article 31 Children’s Consultancy Scheme, working for LB Lambeth with funding from the Health Action Zone, recruited a team of 16 young consultants, aged seven to 13, to review play provision in the borough and to inform the development of the council’s Play Policy. The team were trained in peer consultation methods and conducted a survey of 1,000 children and young people. They visited play facilities in the borough and, for comparison, in neighbouring boroughs. They analysed their findings and produced a report to the council. Their recommendations included ensuring shorter travelling distances to play spaces, better lighting, safer road access to play space, more variety, cleaner toilets and more indoor play space for bad weather days. The council incorporated many of the recommendations in its Play Policy, adopted in 2001.

The Article 31 Children’s Consultancy Scheme in Lambeth,

6.67 Consultation exercises can broadly be used in two different ways: first, as a basic means of gathering views and information in order to inform broad decision-making about provision throughout the borough; second, as a means of influencing decisions to be made of a more site specific or financial nature, such as for an actual play area. For the wider issues informing the play strategy, the former is appropriate, whereas the latter approach may be more relevant for the action plan.

6.68 An understanding is also needed of children’s timescales and expectations, which need to be considerably shorter than for adults. If expectations are raised for provision that cannot be delivered within a few months, disenchantment with the process is likely to set in. Once the views of children and young people have been received, they need to know that they will learn the outcome of the process and how they have influenced it. What has changed or will change as a result of their involvement? The methods and purpose of different types of consultation are set out below.

Method Purpose

Children’s conferences Opportunities for delegates to share ideas and projects and to develop future directions and initiatives. Multimedia and video conferencing present further opportunities

Surveys and consultation

exercises Obtain information and necessary feedback in developing child-aware services and structures

Access days; children’s days For a specified time each year, programmes are organised whereby children are able to voice their concerns with leaders and officials in government at all levels

Youth councils/forums Meetings of young people who come together, usually as a committee, to voice views about their social and physical environments

Websites, videos, audio-visual Allow children to use sound, images and text to get their

or other new media projects messages across in new, exciting and engaging ways

Focus groups Where children come together, either with or without professionals to address particular issues

Adapted from More than Swings and Roundabouts, Children’s Play Council, 2002

Note Tick-box consultations should be avoided or used with discretion. Though ‘multiple choice’ or ‘yes/no’ questionnaires can be useful, they can also limit qualitative responses and introduce bias to the results. Children, eager to please, can be susceptible to giving responses that they have heard in the question. Open questions, discussion groups and playful planning exercises will give greater insights into what children really think.

Consultation with children

Consultation with children is vital if their true needs are to be considered. The following guidance may be helpful in formulating consultations.

1 Children should NOT be interviewed without the permission of their parent/carer or teacher.

2 It is important that the children realise that there are no ‘right’ answers. Consultations should be deliberately open (asking closed questions such as ‘You do like swings don’t you?’ limits the answer both to equipment and to a specific item of equipment).

3 Asking children ‘Where do you go?’ or ‘Where do you hang out after school or at weekends?’ is likely to reveal a wider range of places than ‘Where do you play?’ to which the obvious answer is ‘playground’. Favourite play places may not be designated play places.

4 ‘What things do you like doing?’ will reveal a much wider range of activities than ‘Which equipment do you play on?’.

5 Having identified locations and activities, asking how often will indicate whether they are regular play places or places that are only visited occasionally.

6 Asking why they go to those places will indicate whether the reason is proximity, friends, specific equipment etc.

7 Asking why children do not go to specific places in the area will indicate physical or social barriers to their attending.

8 Asking if they like what is at the play places in their neighbourhood will indicate the play value of what is on offer.

9 Inviting their suggestions for improvements, both for themselves and for children of other ages, will encourage them to use their expertise – they are after all the experts in children’s play.

10 When consulting children it is important to select a wide cross-section by age, gender, culture, ethnicity, disability etc. It is as important to consult those who do not get out and play as those who do.

11 Meaningful consultation with young disabled people aimed at developing inclusive practice needs, itself, to be fully inclusive, which ‘entails building respectful relationships with a grouping for whom respect is definitely not the norm’ (Pippa Murray, Making Connections).

12 Consulting in this more open way does make analysis more difficult than simple tick-boxes. However, it will give a much truer picture of where children need their play opportunities to be located if they are to use them and what they think will give good play value.

Stage 5: Analysis and identification of objectives

Analysis of the audit

6.69 This stage is to assess the results of the Stage 3 audit of provision (supply-side), with the results of the Stage 4 consultation (demand-side). The analysis should be within the context of both the broad policy statement (Stage 1) and the review (Stage 2) in order that gaps and shortfalls in provision can be viewed strategically. This should enable priority objectives to emerge and form the basis of the strategy.

6.70 A list of suitable questions to use in analysing the audit, adapted from the Children’s Play Council, are suggested below:

Questions for the play space audit

• Do all children and young people have easy access to play spaces appropriate to their age, needs, culture, interests and abilities?

• How well is existing space currently used by different groups of children and young people?

• What are the reasons for the ways in which the space is used?

• Where is existing provision in relation to children and to where they want it to be?

• How safe, easy and accessible are the routes between home, school and play spaces?

• How easily can children and young people travel independently to outdoor play spaces and other areas?

• In spaces used by other groups and other sections of the community, how is shared use managed and negotiated?

• What plans exist for the future development of land currently used by children and young people for play and recreation?

Adapted from More than Swings and Roundabouts – planning for
outdoor play,
Children’s Play Council, 2002

Comparing supply and demand for children’s play space

6.71 The questions above should provide key comparisons of the current provision against its usage and against the needs of the community, allowing gaps in provision to be identified:

where children and young people’s outdoor play needs are currently being met, where they are not, and the implications of this.

deficiencies in access for disabled children and other minorities.

what works within existing provision and what are the problems.

where provision is staffed and supervised and where it is not.

6.72 Where there is a play service, or supervised provision offered from the voluntary sector (remember we are primarily concerned with free, open-access provision, not commercial or fee-charging services), an assessment of the extent and role of playworkers will be appropriate:

• How many community groups are involved (formal and informal)?

• How many paid and unpaid playworkers are there?

• How many have playwork qualifications and/or access to training?

Developing local standards and indicators

6.73 Standards for local play provision should be developed locally, with an emphasis on quality and accessibility as opposed to overly prescriptive measures of mere quantity. Government policy on recreational open spaces (PPG 17) recognises that it is important to modify standards to reflect local need, identifying that consultation on children’s play needs and consideration of the socio-economic context of an area will enable boroughs to adapt measures accordingly. In some cases, it may be appropriate to adopt different thresholds for different sub-areas of a borough to reflect the needs of different neighbourhoods.

6.74 This guide is not prescriptive as to quantity of space. It is recommended that the vision and aims contained in the Play Policy should inform the strategy and therefore the standard of provision for each community. This in turn should be informed by local need and aspirations, with children and young people’s own views being paramount. The guiding principle should be that ‘all children and young people should be able to play within their local neighbourhoods and have safe and attractive play spaces within walking distance of their homes’ (The Mayor’s Children and Young People’s Strategy, 2004).

6.75 It is anticipated that the development of regional standards for play (see paragraph 1.6) will assist the benchmarking of local provision and development of local action plans for improvement. In the meantime a number of widely used measures in planning and play are included for indicative purposes (paragraphs 6.76–6.78). Some of these have been used as minimum standards, or as benchmarks against which progress can be evaluated. They have also been used for different sub-areas to be evaluated against each other or for external comparisons to be made against other boroughs. They are, however, subject to a considerable degree of interpretation and very often what is found on the ground cannot fit precisely into a set framework. As recommended above, they should therefore be used for indicative purposes, rather than specifications to be rigidly adhered to, or aimed for. They are detailed below for information.

Best Value Performance Indicators

6.76 A number of Best Value Performance Indicators other than the one relating to the overall play strategy (see page 67) relate to provision of play space. Again, these indicators can provide useful benchmarks for assessing the level of play space provision and measuring how this changes over time, although it should be noted that they do not serve as a measure of quality of provision. The Best Value indicators most relevant to the provision of play space are summarised below.

Best Value Performance Indicators relating to play

The Six Acre Standard

6.77 The NPFA Six Acre Standard45 is a widely used standard for provisions of open space. It is, however, based on children’s travelling distances as researched in 1970. As children’s ranges have reduced dramatically since this time, its recommendations should be treated with some caution. Recent experience using GIS has shown that the radial distance can be misleading and the walking distance is a truer reflection of its usefulness from a child’s point of view.

6.78 It sets a minimum standard for outdoor playing space of 2.4ha (6 acres) for 1,000 people. This comprises:

• 1.6ha (4 acres) (per 1,000 population) for outdoor sport

• 0.8ha (2 acres) (per 1,000 population) for children’s play.

The Six Acre Standard

The National Playing Fields Association’s recommended minimum levels of provision for different types of facility:

Facility Time Walking Radial Minimum Nearest Characteristics
distance distance size dwelling

LAP Local Area 1 min 100m 60m 100m2 5m from activity Small, low-key
for Play zone games area

LEAP 5 min 400m 240m 400m2 10m from Five types of
Local Equipped activity zone equipment,
Area for Play small games

NEAP 15 min 1,000m 600m 1,000m2 30m from Eight types of
Neighbourhood activity zone equipment,
Equipped Area opportunities
for Play for ball games or wheeled activities

6.79 Deficiencies in the quality of provision should be identified. This can be assessed against meeting whichever qualitative standard the borough adopts or establishes, always aiming that children and young people with a wide range of needs and abilities will find any new developments both attractive and accessible. A list of improvements that are required to meet the standard could then be compiled for each site, feeding into the production of management and action plans.


6.80 Consideration should be given to how investment in play spaces is to be prioritised. A simple scoring system can be adopted relating to a number of standard categories, including socio-economic characteristics. The contextual review (Stage 2), including data relating to indicators of deficiency, is a valuable source of information for prioritising, particularly in identifying opportunities to improve the quality of existing play space through better management, maintenance and use of resources.

Example: Prioritising investment

The London Borough of Ealing has adopted a Priority Matrix for Open Spaces that enables investment to be prioritised on the basis of a number of standard categories. Each park is assessed in relation to:

• deficiency in play provision

• park deficiency as defined in UDP

• nature conservation deficiency

• parks audit score

• playground audit score

• deprived area in line with Multiple Deprivation Indicators

• funding available to undertake improvements

• whether it is a key park

• community involvement/usage

• potential sports centre of excellence.

Each category is scored: 3 Important, 2 Medium, 1 Less important. Each category is also given a weighting so that an area of deficiency in park provision is highly significant and weighted 5, whereas access to nature conservation has been weighted as 2. The overall assessment is presented in the form of a spreadsheet.

This system could be adapted for the play strategy.

Stage 6: Preparation of the strategy and action plan


6.81 The draft strategy should bring together the work done in each stage of the process and set out the framework for the future planning and management of open spaces in the borough. The document should, first, give a statement of the broad policy framework and understandings about play agreed at Stage 1. It should briefly set the context (national, local and regional) within which the strategy is being written. It should give key findings from the audit and identify significant issues that have arisen from the audit and the consultations. A summary of the main action points should be available in a child-friendly format and distributed through children and young people’s information networks. A special point should be made of providing copies to those who participated in the consultation phase.

Suggested structure for the play strategy

• Broad statement of principles (vision and rationale)

national and regional context

local context (including local needs)

results of audit of existing provision

summary of consultation

analysis and identification of priorities

development of policies and goals

links to other local and regional policies and strategies

Action plan

6.82 The draft strategy should include an action plan that shows how the opportunities for play will be maintained and improved. It should include a programme of annual review to enable effective measurement of targets achieved and to reflect changes in strategic priorities. In particular it should address the issues identified in Stage 5 and set targets that are achievable, as well as some that are more aspirational. The action plan should identify who would be responsible for meeting those targets, and within what timescale.

6.83 The plan should also indicate significant changes that are needed in the policy or management of play, both within the local authority and by other organisations. It should identify any funding applications that will need to be made. The plan will also identify the ways in which the strategy will be assessed, reviewed and modified in the light of changing circumstances. Annual reviews are recommended. The draft strategy and action plan should then be subject to consultation, both within the authority and with key stakeholders outside the authority.

6.84 The approach to the preparation of an action plan will relate to the best value review and preparation of Service Delivery Plans. It should, however, seek to:

• identify and prioritise a set of actions, initiatives, timescales and delivery agents in order to implement the policies and to achieve the goals

• establish means of assessment, performance indicators and targets for these actions and initiatives, how these will be monitored and, if necessary, how they will be adjusted in the light of actual performance and changing circumstances

• indentify implementation plans, those who will be responsible and sources of funding.

A series of management plans should be prepared in respect of key provisions. These can take the form of individual site management plans, which reflect local needs and specific issues.


6.85 The draft play strategy should be the subject of consultation with the stakeholders identified at Stage 2. This can take the form of requests for formal responses, questionnaires, public displays and focus group meetings. In order to ensure that consultation on issues relating to play is maintained, consideration could be given to the establishment of a permanent consultative network, or Play Forum.


6.86 Once the consultation exercise is completed and any necessary amendments made, the borough should adopt the play strategy. The adoption of the strategy will provide the framework for the delivery of the identified aims and objectives. The strategy and the audit information should be made available as widely as possible, for example on the borough’s website and in libraries.

Play forums

In many local authority areas where play strategies have been developed, the Play Strategy Group has formed a Play Forum to provide a borough-wide perspective on play issues. An annual meeting could be held to review progress on the play strategy and inform and set priorities for future action to improve and develop provision. This forum could also scrutinise the borough’s achievements in meeting the objectives expressed in the strategy.

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