The Mayor of London has today released draft revised planning guidance for outdoor play, entitled Shaping Neighbourhoods: Children and Young People’s Play and Informal Recreation. The document shows that London’s decision-makers continue to take seriously the play needs of the capital’s children and young people.
The core elements of the first version are still there: the requirement of 10 sq m of ‘playable space’ per child; a simple typology of play spaces of different sizes; clear tools to address access; the emphasis on inclusion; and the promotion of playful, creative, multifunctional, flexible approaches to design. Obvious improvements include a greater emphasis on nature (a strong response to my Sowing the Seeds report) and new material on community involvement and the role of volunteers. There is also updated information on technical planning matters, and a new spreadsheet for calculating requirements for play in new housing developments, which could be very useful.
One thing that strikes me is the number of great images of play spaces – many of them in London. When EDAW and I were drafting the first version back in 2006, we struggled to find inspiring case studies from the UK.
The existing guidance has been in place since 2008. As I mentioned in a post last summer, the Mayor’s planning team has been leading on the revision. I would have liked to have seen a proper assessment of the impact of the current guidance, as this is obviously the point of the exercise. However, officers have been actively engaging stakeholders from the play sector and beyond, and it looks like the document builds effectively on the current approach.
Central Government’s ‘localism’ agenda is leading it to propose dramatic reductions in its guidance on planning. As Play England has argued, there is a real risk that children will lose out in the pursuit of short-term economic priorities. Given this shift, the Mayor of London’s guidance provides a model of child-friendly policies that can and should be promoted and taken up in other towns and cities.
What do you think? Is the new guidance about right, or are there gaps or flaws? I’d love to hear your views – and I am sure the planners in City Hall would too.
The consultation runs until 27 April 2012.