Case study: Playing Out in Hackney
Stoke Newington resident Claudia Draper led a campaign for Hackney Council to introduce a Play Streets policy after hearing about Playing Out in the national news. The campaign stressed the physical benefits to children of playing out more often, as well as the community building impact. Residents calling for play streets were featured on national TV in a BBC Breakfast piece in June 2012, which added to momentum.
Claudia approached key councillors and was supported by Hackney Play Association, London Play and Playing Out, who offered advice and practical support. Once she had street play sessions going on her own street, Playing Out found funding (from the government’s Social Action Fund) to pay her a few hours a week to spread the word and offer support to other streets. She developed a network of interested residents by setting up a local Facebook group, organised workshops and directly supported streets to get started.
In August 2012 the Council said they would be introducing a one-year pilot, emulating Bristol City Council’s Temporary Play Street Order. This was officially launched on 11 September 2013. The pilot was successful and a permanent policy was then put in place. Hackney Council now funds Hackney Play Association to support street play in the borough.
Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (see ‘Legal framework for street play’ for more info)
Rules/conditions for road closures:
- Play street sessions can be up to three hours long and can occur up to weekly at times of residents’ choosing.
- Hackney Council provides appropriate ‘Road Closed’ signs free of charge collected by residents in time for their first session.
- Notices are issued to residents a week before the first play street session and are also placed in local council-produced free newspaper Hackney Today and The Gazette (e.g. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/L-60804-2013446) – to manage the costs of official notices, each notice is for a number of streets at a time.
- Hackney strongly recommends residents take out public liability insurance but it is not a requirement.
Application procedure for residents
Hackney has an application pack that has to be accompanied by an indication of the level of support on a street (a list of supporters or a petition). There are four deadlines a year for processing applications to reduce the cost to the council of advertising the closures in the Gazette.
How the council deals with objections
Hackney’s position is “To enable activity supported by the majority of affected residents and not being ‘phased’ by one or two objections.”
Objections in the first instance are to be directed to the resident and if not resolved by them passed on to the council. When making a decision as to whether a play street is to go ahead, it will weigh up objections with the amount of support. All objections result in a ‘decision audit’ being prepared for decision by senior management.
So far no objections have been upheld by the council. In one case organisers were asked to move the closure area to another part of the street, due to an objection from a resident with a severely disabled family member.
Support given by the council
In September 2013 Hackney Council’s Health & Wellbeing Board commissioned Hackney Play Association, with Claudia leading the project, to support the development of play streets across all parts of the borough, targeting deprived areas and supporting four schools and/or children’s centres to run regular sessions.
A Play Streets Steering Group meets quarterly to discuss the scheme, share updates and information and address any issues. Members include council officers from Streetscene, Health & Wellbeing, Play Services, Communications as well as the Council member for Neighbourhoods, two residents, the Hackney Playing Out Coordinator, and the Director of Hackney Play Association.
How is the idea publicised?
- Hackney Today (the council’s magazine for residents)
- Workshops for residents (four per year)
- Events and drop-in sessions by the co-ordinator g. attending Stay and Play sessions at children’s centres.
- Flyers (children’s centres, street organisers and other charities)
- Hackney Active Kids guide distributed to all families via bookbags
- Social media
Communication with residents
- Peer support and communication with residents is mainly via the Hackney Playing Out Facebook group
- The co-ordinator visits new street organisers and offers phone support.
Other organisations and projects
- Estates: The Street Play co-ordinator has worked with community organisations including children’s centres, schools and housing associations, and other local charities to increase take up within housing estates.
- Hackney also trialled resident led playing out sessions in public spaces/ green spaces in three housing estates (ie without closing the road) through Spring 2014. These were initially supported by qualified playworkers.
- Research: Hackney is supporting a piece of research by University of East London Masters students looking at the impact of street architecture on playing out opportunities.
- Reaching BME groups: Partnership with Claudia Jones Organisation http://www.claudiajones.org.uk/
- Schools: Hackney has piloted school-hosted playing out sessions.
The school-hosted model has proved an effective means of modelling playing out in more deprived areas and helps recruit street organisers from more diverse backgrounds. Four volunteer organisers from estates have been recruited via school hosted playing out sessions.
Hackney Play Association has produced a guide to playing out with schools.
Level of activity
Hackney has had over 50 streets playing out by Autumn 2017.
As well as all the known outcomes of play street sessions, there have been many knock-on effects reported, including:
- Resident groups set up as result of coming together to organise sessions, in several streets
- Street planting initiatives e.g. in Roding Road E5, Winston Road and Oldfield Road N16
- Organisation/impetus for resident-led fun day in local playing fields
- Involvement of older members of the community and those without children
- Engagement with local neighbourhood police and police bike markers – who have attended several streets’ sessions
What people in Hackney think:
Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods: Feryal Demirci:
“Play Streets has been a 100% positive experience for the Council.”
A local resident:
“The snow! Chatting to neighbours we don’t normally see, kids having fun together, reclaiming the street for ourselves, enjoying just hanging out, outside our houses.”
School headteacher Jenny Lewis:
“What was really lovely, and also unexpected, was the way it brought together parents from different communities whom I’d never seen chatting – and skipping together – before.”
Tim Gill has carried out two evaluations of the Hackney Council funded project, which is due to be published. One summarises the play streets project from 2013 to 2016 and the other is a more in-depth review covering the 2013-2014 period.
Key Council contact:
Charlotte Connell Senior Engineer