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New CABE report calls for end to KFC play spaces
Detail: The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which is the government's advisor on architecture, urban design and public space in England, has published "Designing and Planning for Play" to highlight a different approach to playground design from the commonplace bland playgrounds that rely on an identical KFC (kit, fence and carpet) approach to design. Irrespective of their location, playgrounds across England look much like each other, with uniform kit of swings and slide, fencing, and vast expanse of safety carpet. Typically over-sensitivity to risk blocks the creation of rich and stimulating play spaces.

Over the next three years, the government is making an unprecedented investment in children’s play: £235m to upgrade 3,500 playgrounds. Sarah Gaventa, director of CABE Space, says that this represents an incredible opportunity. “It is a massive investment and it is essential that local authorities use it to create exciting new spaces.”

CABE’s report points out that local authorities need to stop relying on the catalogues of a small number of manufacturers who usually ‘design’ the play spaces as well as produce the kit of parts. Natural play design, which uses landform and vegetation as well as elements such as wood and stone, encourages imaginative play. A natural environment often makes it easier for children of different ages and abilities to play together. Play spaces should also allow children to take risks to learn their boundaries.

The report also recommends specially designed artworks for play spaces instead of standard equipment to offer better play value and to impart every space with a strong local identity. This can be achieved through participatory design to develop distinctive designs by working with children, local craftspeople and local materials.

Report can be downloaded at
Date: January 1 2009