Play in the Community
Parent led street play sessions
Residents in Windsor Road, Abergavenny have moved their cars from the street in a series of road closures that have seen local children playing near their homes.
Based on the Bristol Playing Out model and inspired by a friend who had organised street closures for play in Worthing, local mum Chloe Charrington, approached Monmouthshire County Council in an attempt to try initiate street play in her neighbourhood.
Windsor Road residents have now closed their road for after school and weekend street play sessions on a number of occasions. The emphasis is on free, unstructured play and the children usually bring out their own toys – skipping ropes, bikes, scooters, and chalk.
A recent playing out session saw children scooting, cycling, playing rugby and football and covering the road in chalk. One child spent a lot of the two hours drawing a little pattern in a wiggly line from one end of the road to the other, and the other children ran or biked along it. Big, chunky chalk was a great success!!
The events have been led by neighbours for neighbours and are only publicised within the immediate streets. The road is closed to through traffic, with volunteer stewards at each road closure point to redirect through traffic and escort residents' cars in and out safely. Parents and carers are responsible for their own children.
To support the initiative, Monmouthshire County Council uses the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act to allow for multiple road closures for play. This approach for Temporary Street Closure Orders is used successfully by a number of local authorities in other parts of the UK. In Abergavenny, an application is completed and submitted for each closing.
To make it happen, Chloe provided the council with a local map showing where the road closure would take place and gained the permission and support of all residents by knocking door to door, along with her children. Local residents help with the printing and distribution of flyers and signs and a local neighbour has helped to source official Road Closed signs.
Over the past few decades it has become generally accepted that ‘roads are for cars’ and the idea of streets as play spaces has all but disappeared. As part of the Play Sufficiency Assessments, children and young people living in Wales and their parents have told us that they encounter many barriers to playing out with friends (most notably parked cars and traffic intensity and speed, fear of strangers and unwelcoming attitudes and environments).
We need to change the environment throughout our communities to create a play friendly Wales; and this requires supporting the change of attitudes and mindsets. Many of us have fond memories of growing up in a time when it was accepted that children, once they were old enough and confident enough to negotiate the outside world independently or with friends and siblings, played outside and ranged within their neighbourhood freely. Strong local neighbourhoods can mitigate parental fears about children playing out by providing a sense of community and security.
The street play sessions give children the space and support to play in the street, whilst adults have a chance to meet and get to know their neighbours better. When you know who your neighbours are it becomes much easier to let your own children to play out.