KIDS in Huddersfield are to be let loose in new play areas – and they may get hurt.
But before the health and safety brigade get upset, it’s got official backing.
A new generation of play areas opening in Kirklees will take youngsters back to the kind of play enjoyed by their mums, dads and grandparents.
Logs, tree trunks, boulders and stones are being used to inspire children to do what they should do best – play, climb and explore.
And project leader Amy Woodhead said: “For a variety of reasons – perceived stranger danger, computer games, breakdown of community – children’s play has become increasingly restrained and children don’t ‘roam’ as they used to.
“We’re trying to get back to what it used to be like and give children more freedom to be kids.”
She added: “The play areas are designed to be exciting and challenging and to encourage children to get back to nature.”
The council team behind the project plan to ask children and young people what they want to see in the new play areas.
It is part of a government project to change current thinking on children’s play.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families has committed £225m nationally.
All councils in the country have received Playbuilder funding to create 25 small play areas.
However, Kirklees is one of 30 authorities which have been given Play Pathfinder status, qualifying it for additional funding.
That means as well as 27 play areas, the district will get two adventure playgrounds. One of those is already up and running at Cliffe House Education and Training Centre in Shepley and the other is earmarked for Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury, and should be ready for action later this year.
Kirklees received £2.5m to spend over three years and the council’s Children and Young People Service has been working closely with Parks and Open Spaces, which manages children’s play areas, to identify suitable sites in parks and recreation grounds.
The play areas are aimed at eight to13 year olds, the age group the government feels is missing out the most when it comes to play provision.
Ms Woodhead said: “A lot of modern play area equipment is mainly suitable for under eights so for older children it quickly becomes boring.
“The new play areas are designed so they continue to be challenging as youngsters get older, grow taller and become stronger.
“By involving youngsters in the design of their local play area, we hope they will feel it is theirs and, as a result, vandalism will not become an issue.
“The play areas will encourage children to challenge themselves and with that will come bumps, bruises and scrapes.
“But any small risks will be vastly outweighed by the benefits children will reap.”
There will be no rubber safety surfaces but there will be natural bark which provides the same level of safety as rubber. Also, there will be no fences, an area where about a third of the budget for a play area is spent, often unnecessarily.
Ms Woodhead said: “We don’t want kids to be penned in – we want to encourage them to explore the wider area.”
Play equipment has already been put in Norman Park, Birkby, and includes a cantilever tyre swing that actually swings out over a stream.
There will be no signs telling youngsters what they can and cannot do and the youngsters will be encouraged to climb on sculpture-style features planned for urban areas.
Clr Christine Stanfield, Kirklees' Play Champion, said: “These play areas will bring excitement and adventure back.”