Bristol leads the way in supporting street play

Image by Streets Alive

Bristol City Council has become the first in the country to introduce a new, easier way of arranging temporary road closures, in a bid to encourage more children to play outside their homes. By introducing Temporary Play Street Orders, the council aims to support residents organising street play sessions.

The green light has been given for more frequent road closures for a few hours after school by groups of neighbours and communities, without having to apply each time. Until now, residents have been allowed to apply for three formal road closures a year for street parties or other community activities. Instead they will be able to do one annual application as long as all neighbours are consulted.

The orders are based on a model developed by the Bristol-based Playing Out project, where the street becomes a temporary ‘play street’, with through traffic diverted. Those who live in the street can still drive to and from their homes, but they are guided at walking pace by stewards stationed at each end of the street.

Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for Health, Councillor Jon Rogers, said: “Older residents remember playing out in the street as a central part of their childhood. But this is an experience that children nowadays are less likely to be able to enjoy. By pioneering this new approach in Bristol, we hope to give residents the tools they need to get together to organise street play sessions. There are massive benefits to children’s health and wellbeing from having the freedom to enjoy active outdoor play – and there are also benefits for other residents as they get to know their neighbours and enjoy a greater sense of community.”  

Neighbours must be consulted before sessions are arranged, but this process in itself can help bring communities together. Laura Sarton ran a playing out session in south Bristol in August. She said: “We had a meeting with all the neighbours to check there were no objections. The meeting itself was a lovely community thing. I finally got to know the names of people I’d passed in the street for four years.”

Co-founder and director of Playing Out, Alice Ferguson, adds: “Street play sessions are not the same as street parties. There is no need to bring out the bunting – things can be much more low key. Ideally, children should be able to play independently and this project is about helping children rediscover their freedom. We hope the project will change attitudes, getting people to understand that streets are shared spaces that should accommodate different people’s needs, not just those of car drivers. I would urge all local authorities to consider making the small changes needed to help children play in this way.”

To find out more about how to encourage street play in other neighbourhoods contact Alice Ferguson

Tags: , , , Back to news