Worcester Play Plan

Client: Worcester City

Team: Urban Design Works

Support: Placechangers, Sally Watson

In 2019 the South Worcestershire Open Space Assessment (SWOSPA) revealed a deficit in children’s play spaces in Worcester. It identified a shortfall in the provision of play space for younger children and large deficit for older children.  Worcester City commission the Play Plan as an opportunity to rethink the access, quality and inclusivity of the cities children’s to play. As part of our commission we looked across the city at how play was currently provided

As part of the evidence case to help the council target investment, we mapped +60 existing designated play sites in the city according to their intended user groups.  From this data, we were able to produce isochrone shapes around each site to evidence which residents had access based upon maximum walking distances.    We could then identify and map the gaps in access across the city and propose where to target in new play sites for the two age ranges with the ultimate goal of achieving 100% access for all residents to play sites.

The Play Plan was developed through a blend of in-person consultation with residents across the city with the design team and online consultation provided by Placechangers. Through this process we were able to reach wide and far to identify a Worcester specific picture of what works well, what needs to be improved and the ambitions of local residents.  With support from the City, engagement was developed directly with schools and youth centres using the online tool for children to map what they wanted to see.  In-person events targets youth clubs, leisure centres and the city centre sites to capture more nuanced and local concerns and ambition.

Aside from allocating sites, the play plan is an opportunity to capture the concerns and ambitions of residents.  The plan sets out 10 priorities to range of priorities including place-specific, inclusive, open-ended, safety, urban spaces, maintainable and risky.

Fundamental to delivery of play is the recommendation for the city to integrate participation and engagement at an early stage and throughout the process of delivering new play. Alongside opportunities for co-participation, the involvement of children in the process will help target what is delivered, particularly when working with older children where needs can be more nuanced and complex.  The procurement stage concludes with ‘stepping stones’, an assessment tool for planning how to assess play within new developments using an index linked to Building for Healthy Life (BHL12).

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