London roads close to make way for safe children's play areas

Residential roads across London are being closed to traffic so local children can enjoy the simple old-fashioned pleasures of bike riding and informal street football.
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Haringey in north London is the latest council to introduce a “play streets” scheme, encouraging parents to apply to have their road shut for a morning or afternoon up to once a week so children can play in the road in safety. It joins five other boroughs — Hackney, Westminster, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Islington — which have recently introduced  similar schemes.

Later this month Haringey council will rubber stamp the proposals which it hopes will bring families together and make the borough more family friendly – and estate agents  believe that the scheme could also add tens of thousands of pounds to the value of family homes in streets which get involved.

“Play streets offer local residents the opportunity to take control of their own street for a few  hours … giving children a safe and secure environment to play outdoors and offering neighbours the opportunity to come together,” explained Ann Cunningham, the council’s head of traffic management, in a report on the project.

Applying to set up a play street will be free, the council has decided against insisting organisers must obtain public liability insurance, and residents can request how often, and for how long, they would like their street closed.

The council has decided to set up the project after organising a pilot scheme in two streets which have been closed to traffic one Sunday afternoon a month since spring. “Feedback from the pilot scheme has been very positive, with residents keen to get involved and happy to endure minor traffic disruption in the interest of community benefit,” added Ms Cunningham.

The Department of Health backs the plans; it believes the revival of street play, which has fallen out of fashion since the 1970s thanks to the increase of traffic on the city’s streets and a trend towards increasingly protective parenting, could help combat childhood obesity by luring children away from their computer terminals.

Ed Mead, a director at Douglas and Gordon, described the initiative as “fantastic”.

“It will definitely be a selling point; it implies a sense of community which is exactly what people want to buy into. If you had the choice of a family house on a street which did this kind of thing and one which did not you would obviously choose the one with. I would think it would add around five per cent to the value of a house which in London, with average prices of close to £400,000 means a £20,000 difference.”

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