King’s coronation is inspiring more UK Play Streets

This year’s coronation of King Charles III is inspiring one London borough to expand its successful ‘Play Streets’ programme in time for children to celebrate the day in safe surroundings.

Redbridge, which is on the outskirts of the capital, brings together the local municipality and residents to work together to close off their roads to traffic for just a few hours every month.

No fewer than 22 Play Streets have so far been approved by Redbridge Council, which are being run across the area as part of the council’s commitment to becoming a UNICEF-approved ‘Child Friendly Borough’. Redbridge Play Streets, says the council, ’empowers local people to create thriving, close-knit communities on their street, and encourage more outdoor play opportunities.

With the King’s coronation scheduled to take place on Saturday 6 May, the council is now seeking applications for other local communities and streets to become a car-free space in time for the big day.

And if they’re seeking inspiration, then they need look no further than mother-of-two Millie Richards, who was inspired to organise a Play Street as a way to get to know her neighbours after moving to the borough.

‘Build a friendly neighbourhood network’

Urging others to follow her street’s example, she said: “Play Streets can be really flexible so there’s no pressure to run one all the time –  we held five Play Street events last year and it has been a great way to get to know the neighbours and bring a community vibe to the street,” she said.

“It’s also been lovely seeing my kids widen their social circle by playing with other kids on the street – you don’t often see kids playing like that these days.”

Successful Play Street applicants get a legal notice from the council permitting them to close their street to through traffic at specified days and times. Neighbours also volunteer to help monitor the road closures, enabling children to play freely on the street and neighbours to socialise and get to know each other better.

The council says that a Play Street can be as simple as children chalk drawing and playing games, while also a great way to build a friendly neighbourhood network.

Jo Blackman, Redbridge Cabinet Member for Environment and Civic Pride:Play Streets are a great way to reimagine and reclaim streets for children and residents to enjoy without cars. They can help improve children’s health and well-being, as well as building stronger communities and a sense of belonging.

‘Great way to reimagine and reclaim streets for children’

“We’re keen to keep growing the number of Play Streets in Redbridge and are encouraging local people to be part of this community-minded movement, which is already having a positive impact on many neighbourhoods across the borough.”

Another local organiser, Mark Hayden, who is also a paediatrician and environmental campaigner, added: “Play Streets help get cars off the street and kids playing outdoors. Clean air is child’s right and I believe children have the right to play and enjoy their streets without danger from traffic or vehicle pollution.”

The Playing Out website has more details of how the Play Streets movement is gaining popularity across the UK.

Author: Simon Weedy

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