Hackney scheme shows benefits of street play

By Joe Lepper

| 02 March 2015

Councils across the UK are being urged to invest in street play initiatives following positive results from a London based scheme.

Residents in 32 roads in Hackney signed up to the Play Streets initiative

Independent evaluation of Hackney Play Streets project, which involves 32 streets across the borough, found only limited resident complaints or disruption to traffic but a significant boost in physical activity among local children.

Hackney Council received just 18 written objections since the street play initiative was launched in 2012.

In the 12 months to September 2014, 380 hours of play were recorded, involving 1,600 children doing on average five hours of physical activity each (8,100 in total).

The independent evaluation, carried out by play consultant Tim Gill, estimates that from October 2014 the number of child play hours could rise to 13,800 a year.

Gill said: “Street play is something that could work in so many parts of the country and there will be a lot of councils and people in public health looking at Hackney with a lot of interest.”

He said the experience of Hackney also allays fears that street play would disrupt local traffic and disturb neighbourhoods.

Gill said: “What came across was the power and potential of the Street Play model that it is a very simple, easy to understand comparatively low-cost way of getting kids to be more active.

“A lot of the worries people might have, around traffic and disturbance, seem to have evaporated. While the average was less than one complaint for each of the streets involved, in many cases there were no complaints.”

Gill also backed calls for a national playworkers' body to champion play and initiatives such as street play. A "playwork steering group" was set up earlier this month to consult with the sector on the proposal.

He added: “A national programme could really help to get more streets involved and change the culture about what streets are for. Over the last 30 years we have had the message that the car is king. Street play is not anti-car but it is about getting a better balance of car drivers and children and families and people who want streets to be pleasant places to live.”

The street play initiative in Hackney is run by Hackney Play Association and commissioned by Hackney Council’s Get Hackney Healthy Board.

Vanessa Linehan is among the Hackney residents that help organise street play sessions. She said: “I know virtually everyone in the road now. It doesn’t feel such a scary place and I am happier to let my children out to play or to call on their friends.”

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