Fight to ensure Lanarkshire children have ‘Space to Play’ taken to parliament

A South Lanarkshire campaign group has taken its fight to ensure children have ‘Space to Play’ to parliament.

The campaign is asking South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) to prepare a play strategy that enables Multi Use Games Areas (MUGA) to be opened out with school hours and to renew all local play parks.

A furious backlash erupted when Hazelhead play park in St Leonards was removed following a spate of vandalism without the consultation of the wider community last year.

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It led to a wider petition being launched as part of the campaign, which has secured over 800 signatures.

The campaign group saw some success with the reopening of three MUGA facilities – St Leonard’s, Long Calderwood and St Hilary’s primaries – to the public but campaigners insist more needs to be done.

And its mission – to have the council recognize the importance of play for children’s’ wellbeing – has been backed by Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay who recently raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament, with cross-party support.

Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay raised a motion at Holyrood backing the Space to Play campaign

Ms Mackay said: “I commend the hard work and effort of the Space to Play campaigners who rightly highlight that MUGAS and play parks are fabulous spaces to help improve health, wellbeing and community activity.

“I would urge SLC to prepare a play strategy which would see more MUGA’s opened up out-with school hours for community use, renewed parks and more opportunities for children to play in our communities.”

The Space to Play campaigners also claim that SLC acted unlawfully when it removed Hazelhead play park and have now submitted a formal complaint.

Kirsten Robb from the campaign group told Lanarkshire Live: “The council should have applied for planning permission to make this material change to land.

“There was no consultation – they also ignored their own planning guidance, which states that ‘communities should be involved in the management of their open spaces,’ to suit.

“These are the legal conclusions of the Environmental Rights Center for Scotland. We have now submitted a formal complaint to SLC about these issues.”

She added: “We’d like to thank Gillian for her support and all the MSPs who have signed the motion to parliament so far.

“By getting play raised in parliament we are saying loud and clear that play is vital and that our children deserve better.

“To help our kids, we are asking people to sign the Space to Play South Lanarkshire petition on, join the campaign page on Facebook and ask their MSPs to sign Gillian’s motion too.”

In regards to Hazelhead play park a spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said play equipment had become a danger to children using it.

He added: “There is no consultation necessary for removal in this case, as the risk of injury to children was paramount and so the equipment was removed as a matter of urgency.

“No planning permission was needed for the removal of the play equipment as the site is designated as a public open space, and it remains in use as this.

“There is no specific class for play areas, so no material change of use has occurred.”

Following the backlash over Hazelhead, the council committed to discussions with the local community as to whether it would be reinstated or the nearby Glen Doll park enhanced as previously proposed.

It added the removal of equipment had been approved by councilors for the East Kilbride East ward – Gladys Miller, Graham Scott and Jim Wardhaugh.

The council has also launched a consultation on all play parks across South Lanarkshire with a share of Scottish Government funding available.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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