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Childhood at Risk From Poor Development

15 August 2007


Poorly designed road and housing developments are invading children's space, according to the Government's advisory body, the Sustainable Development Commission. Large building projects, aircraft flyovers and busy roads are causing excessive noise levels, increased pollution and safety fears, and preventing children from enjoying their local parks and neighbourhoods.

The SDC report, Every Child's Future Matters, demonstrates the profound impact that the local environment has on children:
* Children are more exposed and susceptible to traffic pollution, yet traffic levels in the UK continue to rise.
* Maximum levels of pollutants are often exceeded in urban areas.
* Excessive noise from road and air traffic affects children's cognitive development and reading comprehension.
* Road accidents are the highest cause of accidental death in children. Dutch children spend half of their pedestrian time in traffic-calmed areas, while English children spend only 10% of their time protected in this way.
* School car runs rose from 38% in 1995-97 to 43% in 2005 (for children aged 5-10)
* Areas that were once available for play have been taken away from children by constant development

Whilst the SDC applauds the Government's focus on children's wellbeing in the flagship policy, Every Child Matters, the report argues that the key outcomes of health, safety and enjoyment will not be met without considering the environment. Those responsible for children's services - including local authorities, heath services and police - must consider the impact that the local environment has on children's wellbeing.

Waheed Saleem, Commissioner for Education and Young People, says:
"Despite a lot of rhetoric about the importance of children in our society, we tend to ignore them when it comes to planning growth and housing developments. What would our streets and neighbourhoods look like if we really put children's needs first?"

Key recommendations include:

* Prioritise high quality parks and green spaces, situated away from busy roads, with convenient and safe access for young children. Parks must also be well cared for, with supervision to ensure children feel safe.

* Where possible, ensure schools and nurseries include green areas within their estates. School grounds could be made available out of hours and during holidays to allow children access to parks and playing fields.

* Design new housing developments around children's needs: avoid blackspots for pollution and noise and include safer walking areas and traffic-controlled zones.

* Reassess the validity of roads causing excessive noise, pollution and safety concerns close to homes and schools. Where possible, these should be returned to local communities for recreation and green space.

* Protect children's environmental inheritance by 'climate proofing' public policy. All schools, nurseries and health centres need to be designed and run to stringent low carbon and low waste standards.

* Consider the local environment when assessing children's wellbeing. Measure levels of noise air pollution in residential areas and the distance of homes and schools from high-quality gardens and parks.


» Download Every Child's Future Matters - Main report

Notes to Editors

The Sustainable Development Commission is the Government's independent advisory body, chaired by Jonathon Porritt and led by a board of 19 commissioners.

For more information and interviews, contact Rhian Thomas on 020 7270 8539 or email rhian.thomas@sd-commission.org.uk

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