Public spaces fail to meet needs of young people, report reveals

Young people are increasingly excluded and marginalised from everyday public spaces such as streets, parks, town centres and playgrounds — even though their quality of life depends on access to, and the quality of, these areas.

This is the finding of a report, entitled Seen and Heard; Reclaiming the Public Realm with Children and Young People, published last week by thinktank Demos. The report, commissioned by Play England, concluded that the important relationship between young people and public space is not being acknowledged and that outdoor play in Britain is on the decline. “As children and their parents become disillusioned with the quality and safety of the public realm, they retreat from it. The overall trend in Britain points towards less outdoor play, an increased reliance on private transport, increased parental anxiety and less freedom for children and young people.” Authors Joost Beunderman, Celia Hannon and Peter Bradwell added that young people’s needs are continually overlooked in what they describe as our “poor quality” urban development process. They discovered that this trend is having a negative effect on youngsters’ behaviour. “It can reduce their self-esteem, inhibit their freedom to explore and endanger their socialisation into wider society.” They also acknowledged that, in new developments, kids’ desire to play games like football is overlooked as inadequate green spaces are built into the plans. It blamed the problem on a lack of “shared knowledge” between policy-makers, the general public and professionals, including landscape architects, whose work impacts on the built environment and play. “We need a paradigm shift in the way we think about the built environment — one which addresses the deepening segregation between generations. “Interdisciplinary work experience would foster deeper understanding and could be aimed at professionals who are most distanced from each other.”

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