City Council’s ‘It’s ok to play’ scheme gets £200,000 boost

Press Release: 21/12/2007

Nick Hazlitt and Cllr George Beckett visit Micheldever Woods, one of the areas which will provide young people with more play opportunities in the fut

Children and young people across the Winchester District are set to enjoy adventure and fun play in the great outdoors thanks to a hugely successful bid to the Big Lottery for £200,000

The award has been given to support the Winchester District’s exciting new Play Strategy which identifies the need to create more opportunities for play in the natural environment.  Almost a quarter of the district’s population is aged 19 or younger. Yet, across the nation, for every 80 acres of golf course there is just one acre of free play space for children and young people.

Now, thanks to the award announced this week by The Big Lottery Fund, Winchester City Council will be working with the Forestry Commission and other key partners to deliver the project “It’s OK to Play”.  New bespoke natural play sites will be developed at four Forestry Commission sites around the District – West Walk, West Wood, Creech Wood and Micheldever Wood and a new Play Outreach Worker will be appointed.

Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr George Beckett said: “This wonderful news has come as an early Christmas present for the district.

“We recognise that play is absolutely crucial to children and young people’s mental, physical, and social development, and this new project will provide exciting opportunities for children of our district.”

Further consultations will be carried out at each site to ensure that the facilities provided meet the needs of all children and young people including those with disabilities and special needs.

Winchester City Council is one of 201 local authjorities in England to successfully bid for a share of the Big Lottery Children’s Play Initiative fund totaling £67.5 million nationwide.  The initiative is based on the recommendations of Frank Dobson’s 2004 play review ‘Getting Serious About Play’, which defines children’s play as “what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas, in their own way and for their own reasons”.

The creation of the Winchester District Play Strategy has come about through close work with the Forestry Commission, members of the Winchester District Children and Young People’s Partnership, Play England, as well as through consultation with young people themselves, parishes, parents and carers, and local practitioners.  The strategy will make sure that provision for play remains a high priority for the district.

Nick Hazlitt from the Forestry Commission said “This award will help us to provide creative, safe natural environments where youngsters can explore and enjoy fresh air and exercise, while having lots of fun at the same time! With childhood obesity and inactivity at an all-time high, it's more important than ever to encourage children to get active and discover the great outdoors."