London children's chance to play needs to be protected, but Education secretary Michael Gove's decision to call time on the previous governments £235 million Playbuilder scheme in order to save frontline education services is likely to result in the cancellation of 1,300 new playgrounds across the country, with many exciting new playgrounds in the capital now not getting the go ahead.
Under the scheme a total of 3,500 playgrounds were planned, with England's 132 councils each promised the money to build 11 new playgrounds in their areas by 2011.
Now only those playgrounds already built or where contracts have been signed will go ahead. All political parties agree that children's outdoor play is important and needs to be encouraged.
A recent ICM poll for PlayDay 2010, the annual celebration of children's play which takes place every year in August, demonstrates how little freedom today's children have, with 47 per cent of adults saying it is unsafe for children to play outside without adult supervision, whereas only 11 per cent thought it had been unsafe when they were young.
With Playbuilder coming to an end, councils and community groups will look for other sources of finance to get their playgrounds built. But with local and national charities already under pressure, the spotlight will turn to the arcane area of "planning gain".
Under former London mayor Ken Livingstone's plan, developers were required to make provision for play space in all housing schemes where significant numbers of children were expected to live, a requirement that the Greater London Authority says is expected to remain under Boris Johnson's new London Plan which is currently out for consultation.
As well as on-site provision of play space, local councils can also ask the developer to provide or improve play provision in the neighbourhood. Councils have already taken advantage of these planning rules to get new playgrounds built in some housing developments, and with the ending of Playbuilder, many more must soon be in the pipeline.
At Silk Gardens (thesilkgardens.co.uk; 020 7089 1315) in Parmiter Street close to Cambridge Heath station in Bethnal Green, housing association Family Mosaic is building 63, three, four and five-bedroom flats and houses. More than 65 per cent of the site is given over to open space as well as a new playground. Prices start at £81,250 for a 25 per cent share of a three-bedroom flat with a market value of £325,000 rising to £124,750 for a 25 per cent share of a five-bedroom flat with a market value of £499,000.
Another playground has been installed at the redevelopment of the Prestolite factory on Worple Road in Acton in west London, the Factory Quarter. The development by housing association Genesis (genesishomes.org.uk; 0844 800 2864) of over 450 flats has only two, two-bedroom flats left for shared ownership. They are available only to residents registered with Hammersmith and Fulham council. The flats are priced at £87,487.50 for a 25 per cent stake for a home with a value of £349,950.
St Luke's Square in Turner Street, Canning Town, in East London is a Galliard development of 106, one and two-bedroom flats, which is built around a courtyard with its own children's playground. Genesis (0845 600 4633) has 43 flats available for affordable shared ownership; a onebedroom flat starts at £45,000 for a 25 per cent share of a flat with a market value of £180,000; a two-bedroom flat starts at £60,750 for a 25 per cent share of a flat with a market value of £243,000. The development is two stops away on the Jubilee line from Canary Wharf.
The regeneration of the troubled Crossways Estate in Bow by housing association Swan Housing (www.swan.org.uk; 0800 389 6382) involved removing ugly walkways and replacing them with attractive children's play areas. The estate, now known as Bow Cross, also has a purpose-built crèche in one of its three tower blocks. Over 400 new homes have been built on spare land around the estate which will be offered with a mixture of tenures.
Prices range from £122,000 for a 70 per cent share under the government's HomeBuy Direct scheme under which some buyers can qualify for a 30 per interest free loan for the first five years, or £63,000 for a 30 per cent share in a flat with a market value of £210,000.