Headlines: October 30th, 2008

The body which advises the Government on urban design and public space says children’s creativity is being restricted by bland playgrounds. CABE – the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment – says too many local authorities are relying on what it is branding ‘an identical KFC – kit, fence and carpet – approach to design.

The Commission says too many play areas look the same with a uniform kit of swings and slide, fencing, and vast expanses of safety carpet. Over-sensitivity to risk, CABE believes, is acting as a bar to the creation of stimulating spaces for play.

CABE has produced “Designing and planning for play” in an attempt to promote a different approach to playground design and with regard to the fact that over the next three years the Government is investing more than 230 million pounds to upgrade 3,500 playgrounds. Sarah Gaventa, the director of CABE Space, said the money presented councils with an incredible opportunity and it was essential that they used it to create exciting new spaces.

“Local authorities need to stop relying on the catalogues of a small number of manufacturers who usually ‘design’ the play spaces as well as produce the kit of parts. Natural play design, which uses landform and vegetation as well as elements such as wood and stone, encourages imaginative play,” she added.

Ms Gaventa said play spaces should give children the chance to take risks and it was time to end the obsession with risk and trying to wrap children in cotton wool and instead to create playgrounds that would allow them to use their imagination.

The CABE report argues that artworks designed for play space often offer better play value than standard equipment and it says every space should have a strong local identity. It suggests that one way to achieve this is to develop a distinctive design by asking children what they want, and using local craftspeople and materials.