London council boosts street play initiative

By Neil Puffett

| 02 April 2014

A London council has moved to boost outdoor play by making it easier for residents to arrange temporary street closures.

Residents in Islington can apply for their street to be closed for up to three hours. Picture: Islington Council

From next Monday (7 April), Islington Council is ditching application fees related to requests from residents wanting to close their street.

It will be up to residents to gain the support of neighbours for temporary play street closures.

Once a proposed street closure is rubber-stamped, the street will be closed to through traffic for up to three hours on a named date.

Vehicles of residents, visitors and delivery people will still be able to access play streets, but only at walking pace, and children will take precedence over vehicles.

Andy Hull, Islington Council's lead member for finance and performance, said providing a “safe, fun play area” for children is important because many Islington families don't have access to gardens or play space.

"We want more of them and for communities to visualise what they could do in their street without cars,” he said.

"We are cutting the red tape and costs to make street closures easier – while of course, still keeping children safe."

Paul Hocker of London Play said: "London Play welcomes Islington Council’s new play street policy. It is a borough that has always valued play, most notably through its adventure playgrounds. Now with a great street play offer it is taking play right to children’s doorsteps."

Certain routes will be excluded from the scheme, including bus routes, highly trafficked roads or those with existing adjacent closures already agreed.

Islington is the latest London council to give backing to play street schemes following Hackney last year, and comes amid massive cuts to council-run play facilities.

The drive to increase street play in Islington coincides with wider efforts to encourage street play.

In April last year a consortium of play organisations - London Play, Play England and Bristol-based Playing Out, were awarded funding of more than £1m to develop street play across England.

Hocker said the organisations have been working hard over the past 12 months to “inspire, inform and support” a play street revival.

“We have seen a literal explosion in interest from residents across London excited about re-imagining their streets as spaces for communities and not just cars,” he said.   

“But a notable success has been the level of interest from more unexpected avenues such as council highways departments.   

“An event we held at City Hall last year saw 100 people, ranging from residents to public health officials to highways managers and elected councillors, all excited about the potential for play streets to strengthen communities, improve mental and physical health, and have a lot of fun in the process.”   

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