Association of Play Industries (API) member companies reported £42 million of orders in the first quarter of 2014, the lowest level since the same quarter in 2006. This is the fourth consecutive annual fall in Q1 figures and represents a 33 per cent drop since the first quarter of 2010.
The association, which represents UK manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing, cites a combination of local authority spending cuts, delayed procurement decisions and discounting as the cause of declining order books.
The value of API member company orders reached a high of £198 million in 2010 following the launch of the previous government’s national Play Strategy and £235 million investment in play provision. The Playbuilder Play pathfinder initiative was scrapped by the Coalition government and by 2013, play industry order values fell by 18 per cent to £162 million.
API Chair Michael Hoenigmann says: “The UK is suffering a physical inactivity epidemic which threatens the lives of our children and generations to come unless it is addressed urgently. Reports that call for a national cross-party, department and sector strategy to tackle the crisis are welcome but now it is time for action.
“It is important that the vital role of active play from children’s earliest years is recognised at a policy level. Inactive children become inactive adults which increase the burden on the NHS every year. There is a strong economic case for investment in the provision of high-quality, accessible places, spaces and equipment for children’s play – particularly in disadvantaged communities.”