Let children play

I have written before about street parties for special events such as a celebration involving the Royal Family.

They can be most enjoyable and foster greater community spirit for both adults and children.

A report from Play England recommends that Councils encourage regular temporary street closures, for example, for three hour slots once a week after school. This allows children to learn to ride a bike, play football or hopscotch, or just chat. It also gives parents a chance to chat and provide refreshment while supervising the children. They also act as stewards to allow residents to drive in and park safely.

The Sunday Times has reported on examples of where the arrangement is thriving. It operates regularly in 500 residential streets in Britain – including over a hundred in Bristol. In London it has taken off in Ealing, Hackney and Haringey and even being given a push in Greenwich.

What about Hammersmith and Fulham? At present we have no streets regularly taking part.

The Council’s Head of Transport Policy and Network Management tells me:

“We support the play street  project and will assist residents who want to have events in their street.

“So far we have had pilot events in Roxwell Street and Galloway Road, but we haven’t had any requests yet for regular closures.”

Why should this be? Are the children of Ealing inherently better at hopscotch? Are the parents of Greenwich endowed with some special skill at making ham sandwiches and lemonade?

I suspect there would be plenty of participation in our borough if the Council actively encouraged applications.

You can apply here filling in the street parties form. But it doesn’t make clear that the application can be for a regular series – rather than having to fill in the form again for each week.

There is more information available on the Playing Out website and the London Play website.

I am always hesitant to make partisan points. However I would mention in passing that three years ago Labour’s council election manifesto pledged:

“Support communities in local streets to facilitate temporary closures to become play streets.”

Since then it has been quietly forgotten. The “support” has been negligible. We can see from elsewhere in the country that safe outdoor play can flourish where a local authority provides genuine encouragement. We don’t have that in our borough.

But I still hope you will consider it for your street. Please let me know how you get on.

2 thoughts on “Let children play

  1. I am showing my age but I can remember a time when children just went outside and played. It was called the 1970s. You had to be home in time for tea, but that was about it as far as rules went. Nowadays things are better of course.

  2. Daft idea. Gives children the idea that they can just play in the street, when streets are essentially meant for transport. A notion which will be dangerous once extended to busier roads, and may inconvenience those who need to use their car or have an Amazon delivery.

    The play street experiment in Bristol saw such anti-social behaviour as children throwing water over each other and practising martial arts on each other. Very neighbourly. It’s a poor substitute for providing proper parks, playing fields and playgroups.

    Hammersmith and Fulham Council have experimented with play streets in W12. There seems to be a bit of a pattern, wanting to shut off North End Road for a repeatedly dowdy street festival every couple of months, and talking about pedestrianizing it, which won’t make journeys easier, particularly if other routes snarl up as happened today. Of course HFC preens itself on being fairer to drivers when in reality it imposes joke speed limits that people just ignore and is having to look at heavy handed enforcement (humps?) to justify its folly. The lunatics really have taken over the asylum since 2014.

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