At 2pm on Sunday 7 December we closed Devonshire Road in Palmers Green to let the kids play out – for the seventh time this year. We received our Temporary Play Street Order from Enfield council back in June, and ever since we’ve been closing the road to through traffic for a couple of hours once a month on a Sunday afternoon. We are carrying on through the winter. Temperature doesn’t seem to matter to the children, who make the most of the closed road to scoot, cycle, play ball games and decorate the tarmac with chalk. And it’s always great to see them bright-eyed and pink cheeked after two hours of haring around outdoors, rather than inside staring at an Xbox.
These monthly events have transformed our community. Children have made friends with neighbours’ children, and now some of them organise their own play dates during the week. Adults have also made friends. I met a neighbour this morning who said it’s taken her half an hour to walk the length of the street because she keeps bumping into people she knows. Many of the neighbours are on our mailing list and others regularly join discussions on our street Facebook page.
There are now sixteen London boroughs with play streets – and some, like Hackney, have dozens up and running. The good news is that we won’t be the only play street in Enfield for long. Residents from nearby streets including the Mall, Caversham Avenue and Old Park Road are taking steps towards getting a play street order of their own, and others a registering an interest. If you live on a typical London street – so long as it’s not a bus route – I’d recommend trying it. It’s a question of sounding out your neighbours, perhaps via leaflets through doors and an informal meeting. A majority of residents need to agree in order to be successful, so you’ll get to know lots of wonderful people you never realised were your neighbours. The actual event requires a handful of volunteers to act as stewards, keeping the street closed to through traffic and leading residents’ cars in and out safely. You don’t have to be a parent to be involved – our team of volunteers ranges from single people to grandparents.
Could your street be a play street?