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Gloucestershire Business News

Teenage girls ‘designed out of parks’ across South West

There is no proper provision for teenage girls and young women in parks, according to new research.

Parks and open spaces are essential for wellbeing and for developing social and physical skills for people of all ages.

But Somerset-based campaigning charity, Make Space for Girls, found that 90% of those using the most common park facilities for young people in the South West are boys or young men.

The charity's new report, ParkWatch, sets out the scale of the imbalance across the region for the first time, showing that most of the options on offer for teenagers in parks - skate parks, Multi Use Games Area (MUGAs) and BMX or pump tracks - are almost entirely used by boys and young men.

The ParkWatch project took place on May 27-29, with hundreds of volunteer participants across the UK noting how many teenagers were using the facilities in their local park, and how many were girls. More than 250 counts took place across the country, including in the South West, recording more than 1,800 teenagers being active in these spaces.

Make Space for Girls also surveyed the provision for teenagers and young people in 90 council areas across the country.

Findings from the report:

• 95% of the users on MUGAs were boys and young men

• 89% of the users on skate parks and BMX tracks were boys and young men

• 88% of the park facilities counted were MUGAs, skate parks and BMX tracks - all of which tend to be dominated by boys

Make Space for Girls is a charity which campaigns for parks and other public spaces to be designed with teenage girls in mind.

Imogen Clark, co-founder of Make Space for Girls, said: "What this research shows, is that for every £100,000 a council in the South West spends on a MUGA, £95,000 is spent on boys and just £5,000 on girls. And there is little else on offer in parks for teenage girls and young women.

"Ninety-seven per cent of the facilities counted by the volunteers were either MUGAs, skate parks or BMX tracks (which have a similar user profile to skate parks).

"This is borne out by additional research in our report, which suggests not only that the spaces and equipment which are dominated by boys make up most of the facilities that councils provide, but also that this discrimination is often embedded in policy, which all too often specifies that facilities for teenagers should be skate parks and MUGAs.

"Girls end up with nowhere to go. This impacts their physical and mental health, as well as their right to play. It's a clear case of inequality and something which councils, as public bodies, have a duty to address."

Make Space for Girls has produced recommendations as part of the report, which include:

• Providing a wider range of play facilities for teenagers and young people

• Consulting teenage girls to find out what they want to see in parks

• Councils to evaluate their provision and address these inequalities

Susannah Walker, Make Space for Girls co-founder, said: "All too often, the facilities that councils provide for teenagers are skate parks, fenced pitches or BMX tracks. People have always known that these spaces are dominated by boys, but until now there has been no real data to confirm this.

"Our report demonstrates just how great the imbalance is and we hope councils will now take steps to rectify the issue and make play spaces across the UK more open for all."

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