A pioneering playground with equipment specially designed for children with disabilities has been opened in Victoria Recreation Ground in New Barnet - the first of a new era of play areas that could be rolled out across the UK.


A swing and seesaw suitable for wheelchairs, a wide elevated walkway with turning circles for wheelchairs and inter-active attractions are just some of the innovative structures that are included in the imaginative layout.

Fair Play Barnet – the first inclusive and accessible playground of its kind in the country – was officially opened by the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Nagus Narenthira, who said the London Borough of Barnet was proud to host an initiative that could revolutionise the opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to play together.

Despite a wet, cold afternoon, the co-founders of the playground, Deborah Gundle and Nathalie Esfandi, were overwhelmed to see children, carers and parents express their amazement at finding such a vast array of play equipment.

Deborah (above) is a long-time campaigner for inclusive playgrounds which can be enjoyed by children and adults with disabilities. Trying out an eye-catching climbing frame was Angelica Silva (7).

Fair Play Barnet was launched two years ago. With personal donations and financial contributions from other supporters, they raised £400,000 which was topped up with £100,000 from Barnet Council to complete the project.

Deborah, whose disabled son Zach is 30, said inclusive playgrounds were commonplace in countries such as Israel and America but the UK lagged behind because local authorities did not have either the knowledge or experience as to how to create such play centres.

“We knew we needed to get one off the ground and it is wonderful that our local council has seized the initiative. So New Barnet is now the host for a model playground that we hope will be replicated across the country.”

Nathalie – seen here with Councillor Phil Cohen – described the ease with which children in wheelchairs could use equipment like the seesaw and play together.

Fair Play had worked with the manufacturer Komplan to include accessible equipment that spin, rocks, and swings, along with sensory panels for touch, movement and sound which had all been selected with the disability community in mind.

Parents and carers could join in the fun – and help push the specially widened swing for wheelchairs.

Solid but safe surfacing across the play area ensured it was wheelchair accessible and there were communication boards and a textured path surface to support visually impaired users.

Councillor Narenthira said she felt immensely proud as Mayor to open what was clearly a flagship project in the innovation and design of playgrounds.

She thought it highly likely other wards in Borough of Barnet would be asking to have a similar playground and she believed the council would be prepared to contribute especially if there had been local fund raising.

She acknowledged the importance of providing play areas for the one million children in the country with disabilities and the council was delighted to have played its part in starting to bring about a transformation in provision.

There was a good turn out of Barnet Councillors supporting the Mayor and they agreed with her that the Fair Play Barnet co-founders deserved to be congratulated on their perseverance in getting the play area up and running. From left to right, Mayor’s escort, Kan Narenthira, Councillor Richard Barnes, Councillor Phil Cohen, Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Nagus Narenthira, Councillor Anne Clarke, Councillor Zahra Beg, and Councillor Pauline Coakley Webb.

Three tv crews – from ITV, Sky News and Channel 5 – reported the official opening.