Play Strategy 2020 - Summary

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The Play Strategy is one of three related Environmental Management Strategies along with the Parks and Greenspaces Strategy and the Wildflower and Grasslands Strategy.

The 2020 Play Strategy updates the 2016 strategy which covered the period from 2016-2020. The 2016 Play Strategy was used to secure external funding for play and youth facilities of £1.67 million and enabled the implementation of 64 improvement schemes.

From initial engagement undertaken in summer 2020 with councillors and service teams; a wide variety of external partners and stakeholders; and children and young people; feedback confirmed that with some updates the Key Principles and Policy Statements of the 2016-20 Strategy should carry forward to provide the framework for the updated Play Strategy.

Strategy Overview

The Play Strategy is comprised of two "Tiers" of documents:

  • Tier 1 - A borough-wide strategy that provides guidance on policy and best practice in outdoor public play provision. The Tier 1 strategy makes the case for play and demonstrates its alignment with and contribution to corporate policy such as the Council Plan – Play your part to thrive and the Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
  • Tier 2 - Four Locality Play Improvement frameworks. These supply detailed analysis of play spaces and outdoor youth facilities at the locality level.

This summary provides an overview of Tier 1 of the strategy

General Principles

  • The strategy is for Cheshire West and Chester as a whole – not just the Council. It aims to encompass the roles and contributions of all partners involved in developing and managing Play spaces across the Borough.
  • Future provision will be planned in line with co-production principles to help break down barriers between people who use services, people who provide services, and people who design services.
  • Consultation and engagement with children and young people in particular are recognised as essential in the planning and delivery of play and youth facility improvement projects.
  • The Strategy will encourage innovation in design and take account of appropriate design principles and specifically any revised guidance on design principles in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy

The Play Strategy confirms policy statements covering ten areas:

  1. Benefits of play and youth provision to the health and wellbeing of children and young people
  2. Commitment to providing fully inclusive provision
  3. Recognising the contribution of play and youth provision in reducing anti-social behaviour
  4. Aiming for high quality play and youth spaces by following good practice in design, inclusion, and challenge; while adopting a risk/benefit approach endorsed by the Health and Safety executive.
  5. Only developing new play and youth provision that is financially sustainable.
  6. Aiming to develop child-friendly public space in general including support for community-led temporary play streets.
  7. Recognising the contribution of partners such as town/parish councils, housing associations and the voluntary and community sector; and committing to the principle of co-production and voluntary Community Asset Transfer where appropriate.
  8. Prioritising investment into new and refurbished provision by using an objective strategic analysis of need to secure greater equity across the Borough.
  9. Ensuring that all decisions on play provision are guided by comprehensive consultation and engagement with children, young people, their families and the wider community. This is part of the co-production approach.
  10. Working together with partners to maximise the benefit from spatial planning developments and external funding opportunities; and ensuring that all such play provision is publicly accessible.

4. Updates from the 2016 Play Strategy

The main updates to the first Play Strategy taking into account feedback from the 2020 engagement process relate to:

  • Co-production
  • Community-led temporary Play Streets
  • Government statements to ban segregated play space on new residential developments
  • The potential for Community Asset Transfer of outdoor play and youth facilities
  • Covid 19 and the potential for joint working

Co-production

There was universal support from partners for including a commitment to adopt the general co-production approach in the future development of the Play Strategy. This finding is reflected in the general principles noted above and actions to implement this have been added to the strategy Action Plan.

Play Streets

Nearly two thirds of partners were in favour of adopting policy in support of community-led Play Streets in line with government guidance. This is reflected in policy 6 above and in the Action Plan

Residential development - public access and segregated play

There was overwhelming support from partners in favour of adding policy to prevent developers providing segregated outdoor play and youth areas in the future; and calling on any developers who already manage such provision to ensure they are accessible for all children. This is reflected in policy 10 above and the Action Plan.

Community Asset Transfer

A clear majority of respondents were in favour of the Play Strategy including policy of offering Community Asset Transfer as a voluntary option for partners wishing to own/manage local Borough Council play sites. The detail of arrangements would be jointly agreed between the Council and the potential new owner/manager. This fed into policy 7 above and is carried forward in the Action Plan.

Covid-19 and the potential for joint working

There is clear willingness from many play partners to work together following the Covid pandemic in relation to developments in play space design guidance, joint action planning and to consider shared funding for initiatives where appropriate. Actions related to Covid responses are included in the Action Plan.

5. Borough-wide analysis of play space sufficiency

The number of children and young people aged 0-15 in the Borough was 61,000 in 2018, and is forecast to increase by over 5% to around 63,400 by 2025. At a very local level some small areas record rates of child poverty at around 40% and around 1 in 3 children and young people live in more deprived areas. Children in the Borough's deprived areas have significantly higher rates of excess weight.

The Play Strategy undertook an audit of provision across the Borough including site visits to assess quality.

  • Quantity of provision: Provision was analysed in relation to the standards adopted in the Open Space Study. Both in overall terms and at individual ward level there is a large shortfall of youth provision. While overall there is sufficient play space provision, over half of the wards do not have enough. Hence, it is the inequitable distribution of play space across the Borough rather than an overall shortfall that is the main issue.
  • Quality of provision: From site visits it was observed that while much of the play equipment across the Borough is well maintained and in fairly good condition, there is a large variation in the quality of play space in terms of size, design quality and play value.
  • Access to provision: The Play Strategy also used the Open Space Study access standards for play spaces and youth facilities to analyse local geographical gaps in provision.

All of the above factors require careful study at ward level to assess local priorities. Findings from this detailed research can be found in the four associated Locality Area Frameworks. All partners have access to this information (which is updated regularly) and can make use of it when planning for the development of their own local play spaces and outdoor youth provision. It is of particular value when providing evidence in support of external funding bids.

6. Working together – co-production and partnerships

The full Strategy document provides detail on the current roles, responsibilities and contributions to the management and development of play and youth facilities. It looks at the contribution from all relevant Council teams and external partners such as town/parish councils, recreation trusts, housing associations, strategic voluntary sector organisations and local community groups/volunteers.

The Strategy also confirms the aim of improving partnership working and adopting a co-production approach for the future development of the Play Strategy and local play space initiatives. This includes ensuring the active involvement of children, young people, their families and the wider community. The Strategy encourages partners to support the formation of Friends of Groups to guide and contribute to play area management and development.

7. Good practice and guidance – Quality, Risk and Street Play

The Play Strategy provides useful good practice and guidance in four main areas:

  • Play space and inclusive design
  • Risk and Challenge
  • Inclusion
  • Play Streets

The guidance also covers “playable space”, appropriate use of play equipment, natural play and issues concerning boundaries and fencing.

Play Space and Inclusive Design - This covers guidance from Play England’sDesign for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces” which the strategy adopts as the basis for good practice in design. As regards inclusion the recommended approach follows that provided in “Inclusion by Design - A guide to creating accessible play and childcare environments” published by KIDS - the Disabled children and young people's charity. The Strategy also commits to working jointly with partners to adopt any new good practice guidance arising from recent experience of the Covid 19 pandemic- for example, in relation to equipment design, spacing, access, egress, and signage

Managing Risk in Play Provision - The Play Strategy adopts the High-Level Statement from the Play Safety Forum and Health and Safety Executive: “Children’s play and leisure: Promoting a balanced approach”. It also adopts the associated detailed approach recommended in the Play England document “Managing Risk in Play Provision: implementation guide” as endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive.

Play Streets – This covers government guidance for local authorities issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) in August 2019 as well as advice and practical guidance for parents and community organisations interested in organising play streets as produced by the voluntary organisation Playing Out.

8. The Play Strategy Action Plan and Locality Play Improvement Frameworks

The Tier 1 Action Plan covers broad strategic actions relating to the Tier 1 document. The Locality Play Improvement Frameworks supply detailed evidence in relation to the development of site-specific options for new and improved play and outdoor youth facilities at local delivery plan level.

The Tier 1 Action Plan is structured within the framework of the Council Plan – Play your part to thrive and is focussed on two of its main priorities:

  • Support children and young people to make the best start in life and achieve their full potential
  • Make our neighbourhoods even better places to call home

It shows how each action point links to specific priority objectives within those two Council Plan priorities and highlights specific tasks relating to each of the ten individual Policy Statement in the Play strategy

Funding and delivery plans

In terms of the Action Plan and the implementation of any prioritised improvement projects identified through the Frameworks, securing capital funding and ensuring sustainability are crucial. Each of the partners will therefore need to review their own internal levels of funding available for implementation of individual delivery plans. In many cases, for all strategy partners there will be a need to secure external funding to enable implementation. This is one example of where the co-production and partnership approach will be valuable. In relation to funding Council officers, for example, the Locality Teams may be able to provide support to strategy partners in developing and submitting funding bids.

Monitoring and Review

The Strategy suggests that this task be overseen by the Eat Well Be Active Reference Group which has representation from both internal Borough Council services and external partners in relation to improving community health and wellbeing. It is also proposed that monitoring and review should be informed by existing and developing support mechanisms within each of the four Localities, in particular regarding updates to the Locality Play Improvement Frameworks.

The Play Strategy is one of three related Environmental Management Strategies along with the Parks and Greenspaces Strategy and the Wildflower and Grasslands Strategy.

The 2020 Play Strategy updates the 2016 strategy which covered the period from 2016-2020. The 2016 Play Strategy was used to secure external funding for play and youth facilities of £1.67 million and enabled the implementation of 64 improvement schemes.

From initial engagement undertaken in summer 2020 with councillors and service teams; a wide variety of external partners and stakeholders; and children and young people; feedback confirmed that with some updates the Key Principles and Policy Statements of the 2016-20 Strategy should carry forward to provide the framework for the updated Play Strategy.

Strategy Overview

The Play Strategy is comprised of two "Tiers" of documents:

  • Tier 1 - A borough-wide strategy that provides guidance on policy and best practice in outdoor public play provision. The Tier 1 strategy makes the case for play and demonstrates its alignment with and contribution to corporate policy such as the Council Plan – Play your part to thrive and the Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
  • Tier 2 - Four Locality Play Improvement frameworks. These supply detailed analysis of play spaces and outdoor youth facilities at the locality level.

This summary provides an overview of Tier 1 of the strategy

General Principles

  • The strategy is for Cheshire West and Chester as a whole – not just the Council. It aims to encompass the roles and contributions of all partners involved in developing and managing Play spaces across the Borough.
  • Future provision will be planned in line with co-production principles to help break down barriers between people who use services, people who provide services, and people who design services.
  • Consultation and engagement with children and young people in particular are recognised as essential in the planning and delivery of play and youth facility improvement projects.
  • The Strategy will encourage innovation in design and take account of appropriate design principles and specifically any revised guidance on design principles in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy

The Play Strategy confirms policy statements covering ten areas:

  1. Benefits of play and youth provision to the health and wellbeing of children and young people
  2. Commitment to providing fully inclusive provision
  3. Recognising the contribution of play and youth provision in reducing anti-social behaviour
  4. Aiming for high quality play and youth spaces by following good practice in design, inclusion, and challenge; while adopting a risk/benefit approach endorsed by the Health and Safety executive.
  5. Only developing new play and youth provision that is financially sustainable.
  6. Aiming to develop child-friendly public space in general including support for community-led temporary play streets.
  7. Recognising the contribution of partners such as town/parish councils, housing associations and the voluntary and community sector; and committing to the principle of co-production and voluntary Community Asset Transfer where appropriate.
  8. Prioritising investment into new and refurbished provision by using an objective strategic analysis of need to secure greater equity across the Borough.
  9. Ensuring that all decisions on play provision are guided by comprehensive consultation and engagement with children, young people, their families and the wider community. This is part of the co-production approach.
  10. Working together with partners to maximise the benefit from spatial planning developments and external funding opportunities; and ensuring that all such play provision is publicly accessible.

4. Updates from the 2016 Play Strategy

The main updates to the first Play Strategy taking into account feedback from the 2020 engagement process relate to:

  • Co-production
  • Community-led temporary Play Streets
  • Government statements to ban segregated play space on new residential developments
  • The potential for Community Asset Transfer of outdoor play and youth facilities
  • Covid 19 and the potential for joint working

Co-production

There was universal support from partners for including a commitment to adopt the general co-production approach in the future development of the Play Strategy. This finding is reflected in the general principles noted above and actions to implement this have been added to the strategy Action Plan.

Play Streets

Nearly two thirds of partners were in favour of adopting policy in support of community-led Play Streets in line with government guidance. This is reflected in policy 6 above and in the Action Plan

Residential development - public access and segregated play

There was overwhelming support from partners in favour of adding policy to prevent developers providing segregated outdoor play and youth areas in the future; and calling on any developers who already manage such provision to ensure they are accessible for all children. This is reflected in policy 10 above and the Action Plan.

Community Asset Transfer

A clear majority of respondents were in favour of the Play Strategy including policy of offering Community Asset Transfer as a voluntary option for partners wishing to own/manage local Borough Council play sites. The detail of arrangements would be jointly agreed between the Council and the potential new owner/manager. This fed into policy 7 above and is carried forward in the Action Plan.

Covid-19 and the potential for joint working

There is clear willingness from many play partners to work together following the Covid pandemic in relation to developments in play space design guidance, joint action planning and to consider shared funding for initiatives where appropriate. Actions related to Covid responses are included in the Action Plan.

5. Borough-wide analysis of play space sufficiency

The number of children and young people aged 0-15 in the Borough was 61,000 in 2018, and is forecast to increase by over 5% to around 63,400 by 2025. At a very local level some small areas record rates of child poverty at around 40% and around 1 in 3 children and young people live in more deprived areas. Children in the Borough's deprived areas have significantly higher rates of excess weight.

The Play Strategy undertook an audit of provision across the Borough including site visits to assess quality.

  • Quantity of provision: Provision was analysed in relation to the standards adopted in the Open Space Study. Both in overall terms and at individual ward level there is a large shortfall of youth provision. While overall there is sufficient play space provision, over half of the wards do not have enough. Hence, it is the inequitable distribution of play space across the Borough rather than an overall shortfall that is the main issue.
  • Quality of provision: From site visits it was observed that while much of the play equipment across the Borough is well maintained and in fairly good condition, there is a large variation in the quality of play space in terms of size, design quality and play value.
  • Access to provision: The Play Strategy also used the Open Space Study access standards for play spaces and youth facilities to analyse local geographical gaps in provision.

All of the above factors require careful study at ward level to assess local priorities. Findings from this detailed research can be found in the four associated Locality Area Frameworks. All partners have access to this information (which is updated regularly) and can make use of it when planning for the development of their own local play spaces and outdoor youth provision. It is of particular value when providing evidence in support of external funding bids.

6. Working together – co-production and partnerships

The full Strategy document provides detail on the current roles, responsibilities and contributions to the management and development of play and youth facilities. It looks at the contribution from all relevant Council teams and external partners such as town/parish councils, recreation trusts, housing associations, strategic voluntary sector organisations and local community groups/volunteers.

The Strategy also confirms the aim of improving partnership working and adopting a co-production approach for the future development of the Play Strategy and local play space initiatives. This includes ensuring the active involvement of children, young people, their families and the wider community. The Strategy encourages partners to support the formation of Friends of Groups to guide and contribute to play area management and development.

7. Good practice and guidance – Quality, Risk and Street Play

The Play Strategy provides useful good practice and guidance in four main areas:

  • Play space and inclusive design
  • Risk and Challenge
  • Inclusion
  • Play Streets

The guidance also covers “playable space”, appropriate use of play equipment, natural play and issues concerning boundaries and fencing.

Play Space and Inclusive Design - This covers guidance from Play England’sDesign for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces” which the strategy adopts as the basis for good practice in design. As regards inclusion the recommended approach follows that provided in “Inclusion by Design - A guide to creating accessible play and childcare environments” published by KIDS - the Disabled children and young people's charity. The Strategy also commits to working jointly with partners to adopt any new good practice guidance arising from recent experience of the Covid 19 pandemic- for example, in relation to equipment design, spacing, access, egress, and signage

Managing Risk in Play Provision - The Play Strategy adopts the High-Level Statement from the Play Safety Forum and Health and Safety Executive: “Children’s play and leisure: Promoting a balanced approach”. It also adopts the associated detailed approach recommended in the Play England document “Managing Risk in Play Provision: implementation guide” as endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive.

Play Streets – This covers government guidance for local authorities issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) in August 2019 as well as advice and practical guidance for parents and community organisations interested in organising play streets as produced by the voluntary organisation Playing Out.

8. The Play Strategy Action Plan and Locality Play Improvement Frameworks

The Tier 1 Action Plan covers broad strategic actions relating to the Tier 1 document. The Locality Play Improvement Frameworks supply detailed evidence in relation to the development of site-specific options for new and improved play and outdoor youth facilities at local delivery plan level.

The Tier 1 Action Plan is structured within the framework of the Council Plan – Play your part to thrive and is focussed on two of its main priorities:

  • Support children and young people to make the best start in life and achieve their full potential
  • Make our neighbourhoods even better places to call home

It shows how each action point links to specific priority objectives within those two Council Plan priorities and highlights specific tasks relating to each of the ten individual Policy Statement in the Play strategy

Funding and delivery plans

In terms of the Action Plan and the implementation of any prioritised improvement projects identified through the Frameworks, securing capital funding and ensuring sustainability are crucial. Each of the partners will therefore need to review their own internal levels of funding available for implementation of individual delivery plans. In many cases, for all strategy partners there will be a need to secure external funding to enable implementation. This is one example of where the co-production and partnership approach will be valuable. In relation to funding Council officers, for example, the Locality Teams may be able to provide support to strategy partners in developing and submitting funding bids.

Monitoring and Review

The Strategy suggests that this task be overseen by the Eat Well Be Active Reference Group which has representation from both internal Borough Council services and external partners in relation to improving community health and wellbeing. It is also proposed that monitoring and review should be informed by existing and developing support mechanisms within each of the four Localities, in particular regarding updates to the Locality Play Improvement Frameworks.