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Identifying play priorities

Exemplar Award Winner- Highly Commended NLPG NSG Exemplar Award ‘Citizen Award’ 2010: Canterbury City Council

Canterbury City Council carried out a Play Strategy review for young people living in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable. It used national guidelines, GIS technology and its Local Land and Property Gazetteer to find gaps in its provision, identify priorities and secure external funding.

The Play Strategy review was carried out under the council’s existing Play Strategy and looked at three distinct types of play:

• Fixed play – play facilities, such as equipped play areas, skate parks and ball courts

• Organised or adult-led play – supervised play activities, such as play schemes, children’s clubs and youth clubs

• Casual or child-led play – play activities that children and young people create and do on their own, without supervision. The Play England national guidelines look at age groups, proximity and the type of play required as follows:

• LAP (Local Area for Play) Age 0-5 – 400 metres or within 5 minutes travel time

• LEAP (Local Equipped Area for Play) Age 0-12 – 400 metres or within 5 minutes travel

• NEAP (Neighbourhood Equipped Area for Play) Age 0-18 – 1000 Metres or within a 20 minute travel time.

Using these guidelines, household information provided by the LLPG and the already mapped location of existing Fixed Play Areas, it was relatively simple to determine the number and percentage of addresses both with and without access to fixed play areas. This was carried out for each council ward.

The council identified five Gaps in Provision (GIP), where a ward had little or no fixed play facilities. These were put to the top of a priority list. The remainder of the play areas were assessed against five specific criteria and prioritised accordingly. The criteria were:

• Play value

• Disability access

• Risk – using ROSPA risk assessments of each play area

• Child poverty – using Child Poverty Index

• Level of community interest in improving or establishing a play area


On the priority list many had equal rank and therefore had equal priority.

Using the criteria, a recently refurbished play area will move down to the bottom of the priority list which will be reviewed every two years. To date, six play areas have already been refurbished.

The use of national guidelines means that improved play areas will be delivered with exciting, challenging equipment, appropriate to specific age ranges. This will include inclusive play equipment for children and young people (both able bodied and disabled), along with other enhancements such as signage and seating.

The GIP and the priority list have also been communicated to planners and developers to enable the council to address the shortage through the planning process. Specifically, this will focus on Section 106 agreements that compensate the local community for any impact caused by a development. The money raised would be targeted specifically at Play Area provision.

Key benefits

  • Study carried out entirely in-house, saving on any outside consultancy
  • Identified local need as part of the council’s own Play Strategy
  • Delivers on national play strategy targets
  • Has led to a more focused approach to capital funding Improvements have already been made to six existing play areas
  • Use of LLPG has included direct mail to keep citizens informed
  • Support for community groups and Parish Councils in bids for external funding
  • Focus on Play Areas is helping to keep young people safe and out of trouble

View from the authority

“This project has, and will continue to have, a positive impact on local communities and the citizens within them. It is an excellent example of how the LLPG and GIS can assist in local government projects to benefit both the public and the council, providing both bene

fits and savings. Without the LLPG and GIS, this would have been an impossible task, extremely time consuming with inaccurate and incomplete results.”

-Stella Loftus, GIS/LLPG Custodian, Canterbury City Council

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