London Play has submitted evidence to a government select committee inquiry looking at how better planning and building and urban design in England could enhance the health and well-being of children and young people.
London Play was excited to hear about the call for evidence from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, inviting submissions about the experiences of children and young people in the built environment; how well their needs are currently met by the planning system and whether the government is currently working effectively to address this.
Our submission detailed how a hostile built environment currently significantly restricts children’s ability to play outside freely and move independently around their neighbourhood. We highlighted that although a child’s right to play is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; this is not incorporated into domestic law in England. This results in decisions being made that limit children’s ability to enjoy that right – including those relating to the built environment.
We highlighted some of London Play’s successful initiatives supporting children’s right to play, roam and enjoy independence in their local neighbourhoods and made a number of recommendations that we believe would help put the needs of children at the heart of spatial planning and urban development. In doing so this will create a public realm that works for children – and therefore everyone else too; including other groups who currently experience marginalisation in the built environment such as disabled people and the elderly.
- A cabinet minister for children should be appointed with responsibility for promoting and protecting children’s needs and rights.
- The government should work to enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic English law.
- This should include the introduction of a play sufficiency duty on local authorities (as is already the case in Wales and Scotland), with funding to support this. In doing so this will incentivise local authorities to better enforce the requirements and guidance set out in the London Play.
- The government should implement a National Play Strategy to direct cross departmental coordination on ensuring that children can exercise their right to play and enjoy increasing independence and mobility as they grow, starting in their own neighbourhoods. This should include a directive to local authorities to develop local play strategies in line with this aim.
- The Department for Transport should standardise play street policies and procedures nationally, to bring all councils in line with one another and promote best practice in play streets.
- Equalities impact assessments should be routinely carried out on all proposed developments to gauge their impact on existing and new child populations.
- Existing play space should be protected with preservation orders similar to that used in Islington.
Our full submission can be read here.