UK play streets making a comeback

Parts of Britain are reinvigorating their neighbourhoods by bringing back “play streets”.  As reported in the UK Telegraph, dozens of streets are being closed off to traffic for three hours a week so that children can play safely in them after school.

Play streets are not a new concept – they were first introduced in the 1930s as a response to the growing number of children being killed in road accidents.   By 1963, there were 750 play streets in England and Wales.  However, as car ownership increased and parked cars encroached on play space, they were all but forgotten by the 1980s.

The current drive started in Bristol in 2011 when a group of parents, concerned about their children’s health and their lack of outside play, used legislation designed for street parties to apply to have their street closed to cars.  The movement is taking hold, and play streets are now making a comeback, with 24 local authorities getting on board in the nationwide drive so far, and more expected to join.

According to the report, “There are now 40 play streets in Bristol alone and the concept has spread to other council areas, including Brighton, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Reading, Sussex and Norwich. Usually streets are closed for a couple of hours a week or month, with residents acting as stewards at either end to divert traffic.”

The original group of parents have also paved the way for others by establishing Playing Out, a not-for-profit organisation that provides resources, support and advice for neighbourhoods wanting to set up their own play streets.

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