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National housing body calls for focus on play

A leading national housing body in the UK yesterday published a new report, Making Spaces for Play, which could lead to a more child-friendly approach to new developments. Adrian Voce reports.

The UK’s National House Building Council (NHBC) Foundation has published a new report, in collaboration with ZCD Architects, on the importance of design features taking account of children’s need to play outside, close to their homes. The report’s authors say that it ‘supports a new momentum to deliver child-friendly approaches to neighbourhood, town and city planning which have internationally-acknowledged links with economic success and social integration’.

The report is is a summary of a larger report, Housing design for community life, prepared by ZCD Architects, which was based on research sponsored by the NHBC Foundation.

The NHBC Foundation believes ‘the work adds to our understanding of the way people use community space on housing developments and explores in particular how design can influence the way space is used for play’. The report describes a simple mapping exercise that scores four physical characteristics of new developments. Though only a pilot exercise, the foundation believes ‘the methodology shows promise as a way of predicting, at an early stage in planning, future social outcomes’.

Focus on play

In the introduction to the report, its authors’ say:

The focus on play is significant. Play is the way children learn about the world around them and it is crucial to their development. If children are playing outdoors, the social and community interactions between adults are also likely to be enhanced.  The current trend in the UK, however, is for outdoor play (and particularly unsupervised play) to be ever more restricted, with children being deprived of a natural activity that contributes to their learning, socialising, fitness and wellbeing’.

‘this report could potentially pave the way for a child friendly approach to new developments, that all too often remain car dominant’.

Dinah Bornat, ZCD Architects

All-Party Parliamentary Group (APGG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood, whose report of 2015 highlighted concerns over constraints on children’s play and called for a new national play strategy. It says:

‘The APGG challenged current attitudes to play, where police may be called to investigate a wayward football or noisy game, and the stigmatising of younger children who are outdoors playing without supervision and of the parents that allow this to happen. It proposed a series of measures to re-boot our awareness of the importance of play and suggests how we should invest to provide the right environment to foster and encourage it. This report directly supports the recommendations of the 2015 APPG report. 

Dinah Bornat of ZCD Architects said ‘this report could potentially pave the way (excuse the pun) for a child friendly approach to new developments, that all too often remain car dominant’.

Adrian Voce

Making Spaces for Play is published by the NHBC Foundation and can be downloaded here

Author: Adrian Voce

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