Latest figures from the Association of Play Industries (API) member companies show that total UK order values for playgrounds and play equipment rose by 2.5 percent in 2014 to £166.8 million from £162.7 million in 2013. Sales in the last quarter of 2014 were £38.3 million – 14.5 percent higher than in the same period in 2013 (£33.5 million), but six percent lower than the previous quarter of 2014 (£41.1 million).
The API attributes last year’s uplift in total order values to member success in securing contracts to install new outdoor facilities for primary schools as part of Sport England’s £18 million Primary Spaces initiative. It blames a stagnant local authority market, however, for the decline in final quarter orders.
API chair Michael Hoenigmann says: “Despite well-documented evidence that we are an increasingly sedentary society, we are yet to see genuine political will to address this situation. Physical inactivity, its impact on health and the NHS are a national catastrophe at every level, yet investment in local play facilities that would address these problems is declining.”
Specifiers are missing opportunities to tackle the inactivity crisis, says the association. Members report a distinct lack of local authority play provision briefs that welcome imaginative solutions to encourage children to be more active.
“Our mission is to improve children’s lives by providing well-designed, high-quality play spaces that meet the specific needs of local communities,” says Michael. “Sadly, decisions about public play provision are increasingly made by procurement departments based not on the best play value or wider benefits delivered for local children, but on cost saving.”
In the run-up to the general election, the API is urging political parties to make play a manifesto priority via its Twitter campaign #APIasksforplay and is calling for:
1 Well-designed public play facilities, particularly in deprived communities
2 Removal of play from local authority procurement processes
3 Extension of the scope and scale of Sport England’s Primary Spaces funding programme
4 A measurable outcome for physical literacy in schools, assessed by Ofsted