Boost for Play Streets as rules are simplified

10.07 | 27 August 2019 | | 5 comments

The Government has pledged its support for an initiative that allows residents to temporarily close their roads to enable children to play safely outside.

Play Streets, where roads are closed to allow for small events and sports, are designed to reduce air pollution, improve children’s health and develop community cohesion.

Their popularity has risen in recent years, with a number of cities using them to promote active travel and road safety.

In June, Leeds City Council organised road closures at 11 primary schools in the city – to mark Clean Air Day 2019.

New guidance, issued by the DfT on 23 August, is designed to simplify the process of creating Play Streets.

The DfT hopes the move will break down some of the barriers that prevent children from having the freedom to play out where they live – as their parents or grandparents did in times gone by.

Baroness Vere, roads minister, said: “Play streets offer wonderful opportunities for children to get outdoors and for families and communities to get together.

“A generation ago, it was common to see young people playing out in the street but today it can be a rare sight.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be making it easier for those who want to create Play Streets, boosting the health and wellbeing of children, families and communities.”

How will the rules be simplified?
At present, the process of organising a Play Street involves obtaining a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), which the DfT describes as costly – due to a requirement to advertise them.

However, the new guidance enables councils to grant ‘special event’ orders, which mean roads can be temporarily closed to enable children’s play – and these do not need to be advertised.

While consent is needed for multiple closures, councils can also use a single consent application to close several roads repeatedly for children’s play over any 12 month period – rather than submitting individual applications for each closure.

The simplification of the rules has been welcomed by Playing Out, one of the driving forces behind the street play movement.

Alice Ferguson, director of Playing Out, said: “We are delighted that the Government has now issued guidance for councils to support play streets. Children need the chance to play out freely near home, as was the norm a generation ago. Heavy traffic and other conditions have made this increasingly difficult.

“We hope this guidance will enable all councils to get behind the idea and that we will see many more children having the chance to play out and make friends on their own streets and estates over the coming years.”


 

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    Is there any evidence of any problems encountered when these latest play streets are in operation. Or any examples from the many street parties celebrating Jubilees, coronations, etc?

    I have always struggled to see that the people on the play street could not move out of the way safely and in time if emergency services needed to access their road. As long as the roads are not through routes then I think many such play streets could happen without any problems. I imagine it would be more dangerous when walking to the play street?

    Hugh – “once a highway always a highway” is not correct – unless I have been involved in illegal stopping up orders previously? The appropriate highway laws could be altered/amended etc to allow anything that “the people” decide they want – that is democracy for you. Change is not to be feared….


    Nick Hughes, Preston
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
    0

    This government proposal (does this apply to England only?) is welcome to reduce the cost for advertising & admin. There are still direct costs for implementing the road closure and marshalling it properly in case an emergency should arise. Is it the case that, technically, anyone physically putting a road closure in place should be “Chapter 8 qualified” and appropriately insured? That is still a cost burden and a likely stumbling block for small events.


    Pat, Wales
    Agree (9) | Disagree (2)
    +7

    I didn’t really understand your comment Adrian. ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ to what? Once a highway, always a highway.. you can’t alter the definition or interpretation after the event.


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (11) | Disagree (3)
    +8

    We need to think about we are trying to achieve with our roads, Hugh. In not deciding explicitly, we are asking them to serve two conflicting purposes – places to be and places to go. I suggest that the answer lies in the definition of ‘highway’ and tend to go with the following:

    1) Motorways and rural A / B roads: YES – either WERE built for cars, or are commonly accepted as such
    2) Private driveways and roads plus public estates, cul-de-sacs etc. Mostly NO
    3) Roads originally designed as places to be (residential streets) but now being used as cut-throughs.

    #3 is the problem category and we probably need to decide case by case. As you might have guessed, my presumption would be no, unless shown otherwise.


    Adrian Berendt, 20’s Plenty for Kent, Tunbridge Wells
    Agree (1) | Disagree (12)
    --11

    This seems to contradict the Highways Act which makes it an offence to play ball games etc. on the highway to the annoyance of highway users. I’ve said it before.. the highway is not for playing on!


    Hugh Jones
    Agree (11) | Disagree (4)
    +7

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