12 Aug 2008

Reclaim parkland for National Picnic Week

12 August 2008

The Children's Society is calling for children, families and their friends to reclaim park space for children as part of National Picnic Week. The call comes as the charity lists the top-ten green cities for play space as part of its first-ever National Picnic Week from 11-17 August.

The charity reviewed the top ten cities in England(i) and the amount of public green space available in relation to population figures. Leeds in West Yorkshire came top in providing the most square metres per child(ii) of public green space – 280 metres squared per child – that’s equivalent to 186 single beds or two Olympic size swimming pools.

In contrast, neighbouring Bradford came lowest, with 51.7 metres squared for each child, the equivalent to just half the size of a standard football pitch, less than one fifth of the space available in Leeds.

The data, gathered from individual city councils and the Department for Communities and Local Government, was analysed to identify those areas in the UK with the most green space(iii) for children and families. London has the highest population of children (over 1.3 million) and offers a generous 242.9m2 of green space – equivalent to 189 standard picnic benches or two football pitches across the city per child.

Research published by the Government(iv) shows that 80 per cent of children prefer to play outside and 86 per cent of parents agree that playing outside is preferable to watching TV. Yet the impact of traffic, parents’ fears and children’s fear of bullying often mean that these areas are out of bounds. 

In a survey(v) carried out for The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry(vi), 43 percent of adults said the best age for children to be allowed out with friends unsupervised was 14 or over, despite the fact that most of them had been allowed out without an adult at 10 or under. Children and adults submitting evidence to the inquiry emphasised the vital importance of outdoor play as an integral part of a good childhood.

Penny Nicholls from The Children’s Society comments: “The green spaces are there but too often they are seen as out of bounds. Children don’t have the freedom they used to, so they can’t always get to spaces where they can play. National Picnic Week is all about spending time with friends and family and giving children a chance to roam free. Let’s use this opportunity to reclaim our green spaces, have fun and help children enjoy childhood to the full.”

From contributions to The Children's Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry, many people commented that some of their happiest childhood memories included going on picnics and playing outdoors.  For more information on The Children's Society National Picnic Week, visit http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/.

Appendix:  Number of square metres of green space per child in the top ten cities in the UK:

London has 242.9 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 162 single beds/ 69 mini coopers/ 2 football pitches/ 135 table tennis tables
Birmingham has 158.1 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 101 single beds/ 45 mini coopers/ 1 football pitch/ 88 table tennis tables
Leeds has 280.2 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 186 single beds/ 80 mini coopers/ 2 football pitches/ 156 table tennis tables
Sheffield has 115.1 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 77 single beds/ 33 mini coopers/ 0.9 football pitch/ 64 table tennis tables
Bradford has 51.7 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 34 single beds/ 15 mini coopers/ 0.5 football pitch/ 29 table tennis tables
Liverpool has 145.7 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 97 single beds/ 42 mini coopers/ 1 football pitch/ 81 table tennis tables
Manchester has 160.1 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 107 single beds/ 46 mini coopers/ 1 football pitch/ 89 table tennis tables
Bristol has 206.4 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 138 single beds/ 59 mini coopers/ 2 football pitches/ 115 table tennis tables
Coventry has 167.7 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 112 single beds/ 48 mini coopers/ 1 football pitch/ 93 table tennis tables
Leicester has 188.5 square metres of green space per child, equivalent to 126 single beds/ 54 mini coopers/ 1.5 football pitches/ 105 table tennis tables

Notes to Editors:

For more information on The Children’s Society please contact Anil Ranchod/ Paul Martin in The Children’s Society Press Office on 020 7841 4422.

* The Children's Society is a national charity driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. To that end we provide vital help and understanding for those children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else. For more information visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk

(i) Ten biggest cities in England based on population, as stated in the 2001 census – London, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Coventry and Leicester
(ii) Children aged 0-14 years registered as living in the city, as stated in the 2001 census
(iii) Green space as defined as public green areas such as recreational land, public parks, woodland and open spaces. Not including golf courses, cemeteries, railway and roadside verges or agricultural land
(iv) Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, quoted at launch of Play 2006 event.
(v) GfK NOP conducted a total of 1,148 interviews with a representative sample of UK representatives, aged 18 or over. A summary of the findings is available from The Children’s Society media office.
(vi) The Good Childhood Inquiry – the UK’s first independent national inquiry into childhood – is managed by The Children’s Society. The inquiry’s final report and recommendations will be published in 2008. For more information please visit www.goodchildhood.org.uk