Children’s and young people’s access to, and freedom to play in, the natural and built environment has been in decline for decades. However, access to inclusive child-friendly environments is a fundamental right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UK signed up to the UNCRC in 1991.
Among these rights are three articles especially relevant to their environment:
Article 12: the right to meaningful participation in all matters that affect them (to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously).
Article 15: the right to freedom of association, including to gather in public space and organise their own activities.
Article 31: the right to play, rest, leisure and access cultural life.
Scotland has a duty to ensure that the planning system facilitates the creation of child friendly places which accord with the Articles set out in the UNCRC.
Planning policy in Scotland clearly recognises a need for sustainability and inclusivity. In practice, this is most directly focused on economic issues such as providing employment opportunities and delivering infrastructure and housing. Social needs – and especially those of the young people and children, our most vulnerable citizens – can be downgraded when competing against so many demands. When it comes to planning, involving children is still viewed as an innovative and supplementary act of consultation.
To ensure children’s and young people’s ‘meaningful’ participation this has to be taken seriously and integrated in the planning system. We are disappointed about Amendment 82 which will diminish the opportunity for young people’s and children’s ideas and opinions to be canvassed and listened to during the development of a Local Development Plan.
There are examples of cities (e.g. Empoli, Italy; Munich, Germany) which involve young people and put children’s input at the core of engaging with them in a meaningful way leading to sustainable outcomes. Young people’s and children’s participation in planning and designing their places can also be a catalyst for the engagement of adults as well and can be the ‘most effective vehicle towards city-wide acceptance of sustainable principles and practices’. Sustainability is at the core of the Scottish Planning System. However, this will only be successful with the involvement of children and young people to help build sustainable communities.
Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 articulates a strong presumption that any opportunity to ‘secure or further effect in Scotland UNCRC Requirements’ will be taken by The Scottish Ministers unless it is deemed inappropriate.
There is a burden, therefore, on the Scottish Ministers to articulate clearly why it is inappropriate that their policy position does not apply to this critically important opportunity for the Children and Young People of Scotland, when it does to other innovative and inspiring policy initiatives such as the Early Learning and Childcare Expansion programme, Learning for Sustainability, and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
It should be noted that engaging children and young people in the planning system is considered an exemplar of the purpose of CfE, notably in the development of the two core capacities: ‘responsible citizens’ and ‘effective contributors’.
Furthermore, there is growing evidence that the absence of children’s and young people’s voices in the Scottish planning system is resulting in its failure to deliver places which meet their basic needs. Research undertaken has demonstrated that of the greenspace available within the catchment areas of 49 primary schools in Edinburgh, greenspace which has a primary function of being a play space accounts for less than 2% within any given catchment area. Young people’s and children’s participation is fundamental to ensuring the next generation has access to quality spaces which can enable their healthy physical, cognitive and social development and are is able to contribute to discussion about place.
Proposed Planning (Scotland) Bill
It is for these reasons that we are extremely disappointed to note Amendment 82 has requested the removal of part 3, Section 16ZA Participation of Children and Young People in the Local Development Plan of the Planning (Scotland) Bill.
Local Development Plans can serve as highly effective ways to coordinate dialogue and decision-making processes to children and young people, and ensure that their participation is prioritised, protected and valued.
It is vital that it is understood that the professionals accountable for the planning of our places and environments, are also involved in upholding the rights of our children and young people. Scotland’s planning system is a critical mechanism in the delivery of better places for children and young people and ultimately an inclusive society.
There is also a significant opportunity for officials in planning authorities to engage with their colleagues in community planning and education departments to utilise the existing structures and resources to engage with children and young people which does not require additional financial input.
We do not consider that the Section 16A Evidence Reporting stage would be sufficient to ensure the delivery of full participation of children and young people throughout the LDP process. Section 16A (Evidence Report for the preparation of the LDP) indicates that the participation of children and young people in the plan making process would be consigned only to the Evidence Report stage and no further.
It is unclear how the views of children and young people identified in the evidence report would influence and shape the LDPs and there is a real risk their input would be minimised or lost against the number of issues considered as the LDP progresses.
The loss of Section 16ZA will also reduce accountability of the process to children and young people and they would not receive feedback on how the views of children and young people have influenced the plan. This could contribute to disillusionment with the planning process, and something a democratic society should seek to avoid.
We also consider that Amendment 82 is inconsistent with the Scottish Government’s core policy position, aims and objectives with regard to the rights of Scottish young people and children, to develop a generation with the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for Scotland to flourish in the 21st century.
On the basis that the Scottish Government must be consistent in its policy position regarding children and young people, and that by not including the requirement for participation in LDPs which is currently resulting in outcomes which are the opposite of what is intended, this amendment is deemed unacceptable.
We respectfully request that section 16ZA Participation of children and young people in the Local Development Plan is retained to ensure the protection and delivery of Article 12 of the UNCRC in Scotland’s duty to uphold, and to begin facilitating the creation of real inclusive places for the benefit of all.
Signed by A Place in Childhood
Signed by Children in Scotland
Signed by PAS – Building Active Citizenship
Signed by Play Scotland
Signed by Adrian Voce OBE, president of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities and founder of Playful Planet CiC
Signed by Sustrans
Who we are:
A Place in Childhood (APiC) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) which promotes and conceives inclusive child-friendly environments through a triad of practice-based research, advocacy and action.
Children in Scotland is the national network improving children’s lives. By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.
At PAS we help individuals, young people and community groups get involved in the planning system in an impartial, open and inclusive way. We are a volunteer-led organisation supported by a network of over 400 specialist volunteers, including professionals from across the built environment sector. We provide advice, training and support for community groups, planners, elected members and public bodies, as well as to seldom-heard groups who often cannot readily engage in the planning system.
Play Scotland was formed in 1998, Play Scotland is working to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland have daily access to diverse and quality play opportunities that meet their individual need at home, in early years and childcare settings, at school and in the community.
Playful Planet manages the activities of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities, an international advocacy group for children’s rights in towns and cities, and is the organiser of Towards the Child Friendly City, the network’s new international conference, coming to Bristol in November 2019. Adrian Voce OBE is the President of the Network.
Sustrans is the charity that makes it easier for people to walk and cycle. We are engineers and educators, experts and advocates. We connect people and places, create liveable neighbourhoods, transform the school run and deliver a happier, healthier commute.
Further details can be obtained from:
Anna Gaffney at APiC (Secretary)
E: firstname.lastname@example.org | T: 07810718121