Play space and youth provision

Goal: Provide a diverse range of safe and inclusive play areas and youth provision that meets the needs of the community

  p66. The location of play spaces and youth provision needs to consider the surrounding context. Factors to consider will be: the intended age of the children and youth using the space, the size, the type of equipment, and the proximity to existing residential properties and other play provision. Play spaces should be accessible to all children and teenagers. Integrate natural and nature-based play, where possible and make sure that play areas feature adequate shade, planting, and seating with both active and social play. Play and youth facilities should be delivered and opened in a timely manner.

  p67. Inclusive play spaces are places where a wide range of users can play in a variety of ways and learn from each other. Through careful design and choice of equipment, play spaces can be accessible to all children, while offering varying degrees of challenge. Play spaces should provide for both active, social, and sensory play along with areas to relax, to accommodate the needs of all children. Play industry publication Plan inclusive Play Areas (PiPA) offers a useful checklist of items for designers to consider when designing play spaces. All equipped play spaces should provide some fully inclusive moving items such as: level access roundabouts, seesaws, or trampolines.

Play space and youth provision

 figure 36

  Figure 33: The different types of play spaces and youth provision

Local Areas of Play (LAP)

  p68. A small area of open space specifically designated, and primarily laid out, for young children up to 6 years old to play close to where they live i.e. within one minute's walking time. LAPs are designed to allow for ease of observation and supervision and primarily function to encourage informal play and social interaction for toddlers. The LAP requires no play equipment, as such, relies more on demonstrative features that indicate play is positively encouraged

Local Equipped Areas of Play (LEAP)

  p69. An area of open space specifically designed and laid out with features, including equipment, for children who are beginning to play independently, predominantly 0 to 8 years. The nature of equipment and structures should reflect the number of children being catered for, though provision for a minimum number of six play experiences is recommended.

  p70. Play features, including equipment, are an integral part of the LEAP and the attractiveness of such spaces. It is also important that the space can be used for physical activity and games. LEAPs should also include landscaped areas of play to compliment formal play equipment. Landscapes should be imaginatively designed and contoured using natural materials, as far as is possible, such as logs or boulders which create an attractive setting for play.

Neighbourhood Equipped Area of Play (NEAP)

  p71. This is an area of open space specifically designated, laid out, and equipped for older children (8 to 11 years and older), but potentially with play opportunities for younger children as well. NEAP areas can provide play equipment and a hard surface area for ball games, or wheeled activities, such as roller skating or cycling. NEAPs may provide other facilities such as a ramp for skateboarding, a rebound wall, and a shelter for meeting and socialising. NEAPs can often be co-located with LEAP provision to cover children aged 0 to 11 years old plus older children and young people aged 12 years and over.

Youth Space and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA)

  p72. Older children and young people aged 12 to 18 years often enjoy traditional play activities, such as climbing and swinging, as well as facilities for socialising, performance, fitness, ball games, and wheel sports (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child includes everyone under the age of 18 have the right to play).

  p73. Traditionally, youth provision has been focused on a range of active sports such as: skate parks, BMX tracks, and MUGAs. However youth space needs to be designed to appeal to a much wider range of teenagers, of both sexes, and not be easily dominated by one type of user. Elements that could be included in a youth space are wide ranging, such as: swings, hammocks, high bars, outdoor gyms, bouldering structures, more open (less cage like), and divided areas of MUGAs. A combination of these can ensure one user group cannot dominate, and will encourage a wider range of users. Youth spaces should consider performance spaces, social seating, shelter, elevated areas, and interactive sport and play equipment.

  p74. Youth provision should be an integral part of public open space design. Youth provision should be easily and safely accessed in the evenings. Spaces should be semi-private but be overlooked for ease of informal observation and supervision.


Inform your design:

Use Local Plan Policy and Developers Contributions SPD to determine the amount of play and youth provision required for the development. This will be supported by the opportunities and constraints plan to identify and take into account the accessibility and type of other provision within the locality.

Communicate your design:

Prepare a Play and Youth Provision Strategy to indicate how facilities are to be provided within the development and how they provide accessible play. The strategy should set out how play areas integrate with the wider areas of open space and how they complement provision both on and off site;

Mark the areas for play and youth provisions, and their associated buffer zones, on the site layout plans;

Prepare detailed plans showing the play and youth provision, including details of safer surfacing, planting, paths, seating, bins, equipment, and the intended age range and accessibility of equipment.

Support your design:

Vale of White Horse, Developer Contributions SPD: Delivering infastructure to support development (2021)

South Oxfordshire, Developer Contributions SPD: Draft for public onsultation (2022)

Fields in Trust: Beyond the Six Acre Standard (2020)

Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces (2008)

Public Space Lessons: Designing and planning for play (2008)

National Disability Strategy (2021)


Play area set within existing landscaping (Sutton Courtenay)
Bespoke play space to reflect countryside edge setting (Kennington)
Play area well overlooked (Sutton Courtenay)
MUGA (Southern Town Park in Abingdon)

Ensure the scheme:

    1. refers to the current councils Open Space Policy and Developers contributions Supplementary Planning Document and Local Plan policies, which set out the open space requirements for new developments, in terms of quantity, quality, and accessibility;
    2. is appropriate to the community needs and unique to the development;
    3. includes both formal and informal, active and social play, and youth spaces that offer stimulating and challenging environments that can be accessed by all children, whatever their needs;
    4. locates play spaces and youth provision that is integrated with local open spaces and has a clear access routes for all users, rather than an isolated/separate features;
    5. is located so that play spaces and youth provision do not cause disturbance to the occupants of nearby buildings but has good natural surveillance.
    6. provides at least the minimum space requirement for play spaces and provides suitable buffer zones. Play spaces need to be designed to allow for adaption and expansion in the future;
    7. provides opportunities for: play, social interaction, senses stimulation, quiet space, and enables young people to claim the space as their own
    8. considers the size of its facilities with respect to the intended age of the children using them;
    9. uses best practice guidance on inclusive play to ensure play spaces are accessible to all children;
    10. encourages natural elements and features within play spaces, including planting, to provide a range of textures, scents, colours, and shade;
    11. provides spaces for older children to socialise and be active, in appropriate locations where they can feel safe while not being intimidating to other people;
    12. provides youth provision that is complimentary to local facilities, including a mixture of facilities, such as: open access MUGAs, BMX/skateboard parks, and pump tracks, as well as more challenging or social play equipment for older children, such as: structures for parkour, climbing/ bouldering walls, seating clusters, and electronic play;
    13. provides opportunities for incorporating incidental play features in both green open spaces and more urban open spaces.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications