Play Wales call on #Cardiff council to spare children’s playground from heartless developer’s axe

Time and time again, children say play is important to them

Legal duty on local authorities to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children in their area

Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how important access to good outdoor space for health and well-being is

Many children and families living near the proposed development do not have access to private gardens for play and exercise

Britannia Park, Butetown, pic: Mark Chatterley (the playground is out of shot to the left)

Marianne Mannello, the assistant director of Play Wales has written to Cardiff council to demand they reject plans by developers to build a museum of medical military on Britannia Park in Butetown. According to an officer in Cardiff’s park’s department the plan will almost certainly lead to the loss of the park’s playground. Council officials also admit the plan will see the loss of a significant amount of green space in a park which is popular with children and families.

In her letter Ms Mannello wrote:

15 December 2020

RE: Application Number 19/02506/MJR Land Off Harbour Drive, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff

We have been notified of the above planning application by local residents. Play Wales is concerned that the proposed development will result in loss of space for play and recreation in a community where there is already a deficit in private space for play and recreation.

Play Wales is the national charity for children’s play. We uphold children’s right to play. Freely chosen play is critically important in the healthy development of all children and young people. More importantly, time and time again, children tell us it is important to them. All children are entitled to quality play provision within their communities.

The right to play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The evidence is compelling for the contribution that self-organised play can make to children’s well-being, particularly in terms of mental health and resilience (through attachments to peers and to place, emotion regulation, stress response systems, pleasure, openness to learning) and to their physical health. Furthermore, the value of access to opportunities for quality play is noted in guidance from the UK Chief Medical Officers, who note that playing, including regular independent outdoor play can increase physical activity levels in children.

The Welsh Government has taken a global lead on promoting the importance of children’s play and for the first time, legislating to place a duty on local authorities to assess and secure the sufficiency of play and recreational opportunities for children in their areas. Cardiff Council submitted its current Play Sufficiency Assessment in March 2019.

Section 11 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 placed a duty on local authorities to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children in their area. The Play Sufficiency Duty is part of the Welsh Government’s anti-poverty agenda which recognises that children can have a poverty of experience, opportunity and aspiration, and that this kind of poverty can affect children from all social, cultural and economic backgrounds across Wales.

Wales: A Play Friendly Country is Statutory Guidance to Local Authorities on assessing for and securing sufficient play opportunities for children in their areas. In this statutory guidance, Welsh Government stresses that an aim of the Measure is to create an environment where children can freely play.

The guidance goes on to note that “society has changed significantly in recent years in the extent to which it is accepted as the norm for children to go out to play and organise where they go and what they do in their own time. This has come about for various reasons including increased concerns about risks to children from increased traffic density; perceived danger from adults who may pose a threat to children; lack of safe places to play; increased television and computer use and sometimes a negative view of playing children by other sections of the community. For these reasons, we aim to make communities more play friendly by valuing and increasing quality opportunities for play throughout the community. The intended outcome will be more children playing so enjoying the health, social, cognitive and emotional benefits that play provides.”

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how important access to good outdoor space for health and well-being. Children’s access to outdoor space for play, exercise and enjoyment differs greatly across Cardiff and this was heightened during lockdown conditions. Some children live in accommodation with outdoor gardens and ample outdoor community space. Many children and families living near the proposed development do not have access to private gardens for play and exercise. Protecting the existing community asset will support children, parents and communities feel more confident about playing out, and therefore, better connected to their neighbourhoods.

Play Wales supports action to protect the access of this local facility due to the positive impact having access to good outdoor space has on the well-being of children and their communities. We support the community’s call upon Cardiff City Council to reject any application that would remove or negatively impact on Britannia Park and nearby open space. Retaining the land as recreational space contributes to some level of sufficiency with regards to play opportunities locally.

It is well established that playing contributes to the well-being and resilience of children. Having welcoming places, enough time and the company of others to play with every day, is of great consequence to all children and we need to foster environments that support this.

Modern social trends have seriously eroded the opportunities for children to play in their own communities. Where spaces do exist, it is vital that they are preserved and protected for the wellbeing of children and communities now, and in the future.

Kind regards,

Marianne Mannello
Assistant Director: Policy, Support and Advocacy

Play Wales

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