United Kingdom

Boris Johnson urged to open playgrounds

Boris Johnson is being urged to reopen playgrounds or risk a ‘catastrophic’ impact on children’s health.

Campaigners have written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to set out when public play areas will be reopened.

Beaches and parks are now open to the public, but playgrounds have been closed since the lockdown began, with anyone caught using them risking a fine.

The pressure comes as children begin mixing again in schools. 

Campaigners have written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to set out when public play areas will be reopened. Pictured: Grass and weeds beginning to grow in the sand in a closed playground in Manchester

Mark Hardy, chairman of the Association of Play Industries, said: ‘Children’s outdoor play is essential for their normal development. 

Children have been in lockdown for months, many with limited or no outside space. It is astonishing that the Government has made no mention of reopening public playgrounds.’

Other European nations have reopened playgrounds in recent weeks and the Republic of Ireland will do so tomorrow.

Mr Hardy said: ‘Mr Johnson has declared a “much more interventionist” approach to obesity in the fight against coronavirus, and yet they have remained silent on playgrounds, which have an essential role in tackling the obesity crisis.’

Campaigners say play areas have suffered years of chronic under-funding. 

The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Parks campaign revealed that one playground a week has closed since 2014 and local authorities plan to cut £25 million from playground budgets next year.

Mr Hardy called on the Government to invest £100 million in the nation’s play areas to offset years of underfunding.

The pressure comes as children begin mixing again in schools. Pictured: Playground equipment taped off at Brambles Primary Academy in Huddersfield

He said: ‘We are giving the Government notice now of the catastrophic impact on children’s health unless there is targeted support for our small but vital industry.

‘The lockdown has created a renewed appreciation of shared public spaces and their role in public health. With evidence that obesity exacerbates Covid-19 symptoms, the need to address the already burgeoning inactivity epidemic becomes even more urgent.’

Downing Street said: ‘There is an increased risk of transmission of the virus in outdoor swimming pools, gyms and playgrounds, so they remain closed for now. We know how important play is and we keep all measures under regular review.’

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