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How child-friendly Cardiff is ‘repurposing’ urban spaces

Image: Cardiff Council

Global children’s charity UNICEF has been highlighting some of the innovations which brought it the title of the UK’s first Child Friendly City.

This prestigious and internationally-acknowledged status was awarded last year to the capital of Wales in recognition of the steps the city council and partners had taken to advance the human rights of children and young people across the city.

It was the realisation of a campaign that began in earnest in 2017, when Cardiff City Council and its partners joined the UK Committee for UNICEF’s (UNICEF UK) Child Friendly Cities & Communities programme in 2017 as part of a pioneering cohort.

UNICEF says that as part of the the city’s ‘journey to recognition’, the city council made play a central priority by introducing the play streets scheme, which involved shutting off residential streets to traffic for a few hours every month so that children could safely play close to their homes.

The council decided to take play streets one step further

“Yet with children suddenly restricted to the few streets around them during the pandemic, the council decided to take play streets one step further,” adds UNICEF.

The upshot is that today, the council is supporting children to reclaim some of the city’s lanes, those narrow alleyways running along the back rows of terraced homes which are homes to thousands of families, but which have often been linked with incidence of anti-social behaviour and the dumping of rubbish – also known as ‘flytipping’.

A project involving the council, Cardiff University and local community group Grange Pavilion are working with youngsters to repurpose these spaces into new, green safe spaces suitable for outdoor play. Lots of ideas for how to use the spaces have already been suggested, ranging from ‘scootable’ tarmac to vertical gardens.

In another example of how the city is being transformed into a huge urban play spaces, ‘Story Trails’ which encourage children and families to follow stories using QR codes hidden across Cardiff are also popping up.

Child Friendly Cardiff organisers, working with the Welsh Government, have also been producing a variety of other resources, including guides for parents & practitioners, creating ‘safe spaces for girls and women’, and a social action grant programme. More information is available on the Child Friendly Cardiff website. 

In January, a major EU-wide survey measuring the quality of life in major cities across the continent rated Cardiff as one of the best cities in Europe for families with young children.. The survey was conducted by the European Commission, and the city outperformed all of the other 83 cities in this particular area, with a 96% positive rating which was higher than cities like Oulu (Finland), Aalborg (Denmark), Rennes (France) and Geneva (Switzerland).

Author: Simon Weedy

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