NICE – Public open spaces and physical activity
Planning the provision of spaces and facilities. It is important to improve the environment to encourage physical activity and evaluate how such improvements impact on the public's health.

Children and young people: Key Themes

  • Promoting the benefits of physical activity and encouraging participation
  • Ensuring high-level strategic policy planning for children and young people supports the physical activity agenda
  • Consultation with, and the active involvement of, children and young people
  • The planning and provision of spaces, facilities and opportunities
  • The need for a skilled workforce
  • Promoting physically active and sustainable travel.

What action should be taken?

  • Ensure physical activity facilities are suitable for children and young people with different needs and their families, particularly those from lower socioeconomic groups, those from minority ethnic groups with specific cultural requirements and those who have a disability.​
  • Provide children and young people with places and facilities (both indoors and outdoors) where they feel safe taking part in physical activities. These could be provided by the public, voluntary, community and private sectors (for example, in schools, youth clubs, local business premises and private leisure facilities). Local authorities should coordinate the availability of facilities, where appropriate. They should also ensure all groups have access to these facilities, including those with disabilities.​
  • Make school facilities available to children and young people before, during and after the school day, at weekends and during school holidays. These facilities should also be available to public, voluntary, community and private sector groups and organisations offering physical activity programmes and opportunities for physically active play.​
  • Actively promote public parks and facilities as well as more non-traditional spaces (for example, car parks outside working hours) as places where children and young people can be physically active.​
  • Town planners should make provision for children, young people and their families to be physically active in an urban setting. They should ensure open spaces and outdoor facilities encourage physical activity (including activities which are appealing to children and young people, for example, in-line skating). They should also ensure physical activity facilities are located close to walking and cycling routes.​
  • Ensure the spaces and facilities used for physical activity meet recommended safety standards for design, installation and maintenance. For example, outdoor play areas should have areas of shade from the sun and sheltered areas where children can play to reduce the impact of adverse weather.​
  • Assess all proposals for signs restricting physical activity in public spaces and facilities (such as those banning ball games) to judge the effect on physical activity levels.​
  • Making public spaces accessible and attractive

Physical activity and the environment

  • Ensure public open spaces and public paths can be reached on foot, by bicycle and using other modes of transport involving physical activity. They should also be accessible by public transport.​
  • Ensure public open spaces and public paths are maintained to a high standard. They should be safe, attractive and welcoming to everyone.

Creating stimulating environments

  • Provide children with access to environments that stimulate their need to explore and which safely challenge them. (Examples include adventure playgrounds, parks, woodland, common land or fun trails.) Also provide them with the necessary equipment. The aim is to develop their risk awareness and an understanding of their own abilities as necessary life skills.

General environmental improvements

  • Ensure the need for children and young people to be physically active is addressed. This includes providing adequate play spaces and opportunities for formal and informal physical activity.​
  • Audit bye-laws and amend those that prohibit physical activity in public spaces (such as those that prohibit ball games).​
  • Align all 'planning gain' agreements with the promotion of heart health to ensure there is funding to support physically active travel. (For example, Section 106 agreements are sometimes used to bring development in line with sustainable development objectives).
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