Whilst flipping through the latest Town and Country Planning magazine recently (TCPA, June/July 2007) I came across a very short article by David Lock entitled “Playing out – a child’s right to roam”.
Lock was lamenting the sad reality facing planners in the UK in that they have had to resort to campaigning for the provision of “such an obviously necessary ingredient as family homes with gardens to be part of planned sustainable communities”.
It amazes Lock no end that they have had to “fight for this pathetic victory” whereas common sense would have told that it is a basic ingredient in good planning.
Nevertheless, Lock remains discontented. And this makes for another interesting point of view.
For he goes on to declare that this so-called “victory” should only be taken as a beginning. What’s necessary now is also to “press home the argument for space for older children to play out – to roam away from the house and garden with their friends, and thus complete their transition to adulthood”, he adds.
I must admit, we planners just love to carry out studies and, at the end of it, come out with more of our perennial “tools of trade” which is the planning standards.
As regards open space, we have a nice, orderly hierarchy (as always) of open space beginning from the metropolitan parks, urban parks and right down to pocket parks within residential areas.
The standards are fine. After all, they are there to ensure that the open space system is complete, catering to the needs of children and adults of the various age groups.
The problem, almost always, lies in the implementation.
From my observation, developers of residential schemes would gladly provide for a playground or two, if only to meet the requirements imposed upon them by the local authority.
However, what tends to be forgotten – perhaps conveniently – is space for the older children to roam, explore and to tough it out. Yes, the very type of open space which Lock is up in arms trying to secure in the UK.
Football fields, large open green fields and parkland for formal and informal activities. These are what’s lacking in most Malaysian cities – even in the newly-planned ones.
However, I believe the situation in Malaysia is much more serious. It is one which even Lock would find the UK experience pale in comparison.
For in Malaysia, the lack of provision is one thing. But unabated conversion of public open space to other (read: unplanned) uses is another.
The latter is a bane to good planning and the need to meet the recreational requirements of our children.
It is quite common to hear whatever green space allocated earlier at planning stage to be "taken up” for development of community centres, or even, local centre for political parties.
For crying out loud, why can’t they just leave the sekangkang kera open space alone?
What ever’s left of these little spaces are badly needed by OUR children, mine and yours! Mind you, these are the future generations of our nation that we are talking about. Our future leaders in the making.
Do we not want them to achieve balance as they grow into adulthood? Or do we want Malaysia to be led, and populated, by nerds and geeks come 2020?