Investment In Playgrounds Falling Despite Physical Inactivity Crisis

Government policymakers are failing to recognise the value of play in tackling children’s catastrophic obesity and physical inactivity levels, says the Association of Play Industries (API).

According to latest figures from API member companies, UK order values for playgrounds and play equipment fell by six per cent between the second and third quarters of 2014, from £43.8 million in Q2 to £41 million in Q3.  Total order values in the first nine months of 2014 were £128.1 million compared to £128.8 million at the same point last year, a drop of 0.5 per cent.   The API blames the play market downturn on financial pressures in the core Local Authority sector, traditionally the UK’s biggest play buying market.

£18 million of National Lottery funding from Sport England to improve the outdoor facilities of 600 primary schools across England[1] has so far failed to make a significant impact on the play market, despite many API members winning contracts to install new facilities.  However it may contribute to a more optimistic end of year.  Total order values for API member companies in 2014 are set to be £164 million.  This is a one per cent increase on 2013 levels (£162 million) but is 17 per cent below the 2010 market peak of £198 million when political support for play was at its highest.

API Chair Michael Hoenigmann says: “There has never been a greater need to increase children’s activity levels, yet the UK play market faces significant challenges from constrained Local Authority budgets and a lack of political will.  Today’s children will live shorter lives than their parents unless we tackle obesity and sedentary lifestyles.  It’s time for policymakers to acknowledge that investment in well-designed, high-quality public play provision will bring long-term health, economic and societal benefits.  This is about more than swings and roundabouts, it’s about our children’s future.”

One area where the API does expect to see market growth in 2015 is from commercial play buyers looking to attract more families like hospitality and tourism businesses.

The API is the lead trade body within the UK play sector, representing approximately 85 per cent of UK play industry companies including manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing.  It campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition of the value of play.  Play buyers include local authorities, town and parish councils, schools and nurseries, the NHS and MoD, housebuilders and developers, holiday and theme park operators, and pub and restaurant chains.

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November 24, 2014


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