Leeds Beckett University
ACriticalDiscussionOfTheProvisionOfPublicSpace-EDWARDS.pdf (6.87 MB)

A critical discussion of the provision of public space for young people in the UK with analysis of international best practice.

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Version 2 2022-06-16, 14:16
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posted on 2022-06-16, 14:16 authored by Claire Edwards

Current UK Government economic and social policy is adversely affecting young people's rights, access to space and provision of, and within space, such as the closure of adventure playgrounds, and the erosion of play policy. 

This thesis examines young people’s access to public space in the UK. Is it restricted, and if so why? The thesis uses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ‘right to the city’ theory as well as youth needs established through a literature review as a broad theoretical framework. The thesis considers the cultural, socio-economic, environmental and policy factors affecting young people’s access to and provision within public space. It explores ideas for transforming space to better suit young people’s needs. These include concepts produced by the Situationist International, Amsterdam’s municipal Public Works Department in the postwar period, and approaches such as, the playful city and tactical urbanism. Case study method is used to focus on participatory practices and on conceptual and policy insights that may prove beneficial in improving UK practice. Projects include Superkilen and Super Street, Denmark; Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam; Cathedral Gardens, Manchester; the Wrexham Play Sufficiency Assessments; and an analysis of Kyttä’s use of affordances applied to SoftGIS mapping. 

The case studies illustrate that sites exist that are context-driven, playful, allow for freedom of expression, and that recognise young people’s needs and provide space for them in central urban areas. Progressive leadership and visionary practitioners sympathetic to young people’s rights and needs have made these spaces a reality. Yet the ability to participate in the production of, and adapt public space remains constrained. UK national and local governments should promote and encourage participatory practice and adopt a more inclusive and less negative attitude towards young people in planning policy. A diverse range of networked spaces is required, including adaptable and informal spaces that provide places to play and socialise for young people. Designs that promote intergenerational sharing of space are critical as urban populations increase.



Franco Bianchini; Elizabeth Stirling

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

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