National level support is needed for child-friendly public spaces to become a “cultural norm” according to evidence submitted by Greater Manchester Moving to a committee of MPs.
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee in Parliament launched an inquiry back in November looking at how better planning, building, and urban design could enhance the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
Design, development, and policy centred around youth voice and children’s experiences could see more child-led public art, accessible play equipment, and play streets and school streets.
Kelly-Marie Rodgers, GM Moving’s Strategic Lead for Healthy Active Places, submitted evidence to the committee on behalf of the Active Partnership for Greater Manchester.
In the evidence, she stated:
“Our whole system approach to system change acknowledges the importance of the built and natural environment to enable active lives for all.
“The design, planning, and quality of our spaces [is] of paramount importance to a more equitable Greater Manchester.
“There are pockets of good practice across the UK but further support is required at a national level to support child-friendly spaces becoming our cultural norm.”
In Trafford, GM Moving has already seen the power of a whole-system approach to public space transformation through the Right to the Streets initiative which began back in September 2022.
The movement is founded on the belief that everyone has a role to play to make streets, parks, and public spaces safer, more joyful, welcoming places and that this is critical to enable healthy, happy, active lives for all. Read the full report here.
Greater Manchester Moving were also signatories on a joint statement.
The joint statement highlighted how children and young people’s physical and mental health are in “serious, long-term decline, significantly exacerbated by poverty and inequality”.
The submission argued that effective, evidenced, low-cost, child-focused built environment policy could transform children’s lives, health, and wellbeing almost immediately.
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee published written evidence submissions for its children, young people and the built environment inquiry in January.
An evidence session on Wednesday 24 January saw a cross-party group of MPs question witnesses on a range of topics on child development and the importance of the built environment.
GM Moving’s Strategic Lead for Children and Young People, Christine Bland, said:
“The physical environment and planning system have a clear role to play in creating safe spaces that are inviting for all children and young people to have fun and be active.
“1 in 3 of children in Greater Manchester average less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day and the built environment has a key role to play in reducing that number.
“We will continue to work closely with colleagues at regional and national level to advocate for a more child-friendly planning system which has health, fun, and physical activity at its heart.”
Prior to the training, many non-medical/community-facing staff didn't feel confident in discussing movement and physical activity within their work.
Across England, sports clubs and organisations are being supported by a new network of Sport Welfare Officers. They have been recruited by Active Partnerships and funded by Sport England through an investment of National Lottery money.