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Play streets and covid-recovery

How play streets can help children and communities through the pandemic.

Updated 31 Aug 2022

Play streets are a really positive, low cost, resident-led activity which enable safe, outdoor physical activity and neighbourly connection. After this most challenging two years, what better way to emerge, heal and re-connect? Research presented to SAGE in November 2020 recommended the temporary pedestrianisation of streets as a safe, equitable alternative to cramped indoor socialising. We know that transmission of the virus outdoors is far less likely than indoors.

See here for updates on what each nation’s rules mean for outdoor play in general.

Read more below on what Covid means for play streets. Click on the links below to jump to a topic.

When can we start play streets?

Having reviewed the current government guidance for the four nations, we don’t see any current reason not to go ahead with play streets. See below for more specific next steps and guidance for councils and residents who want to make play streets happen.

After the winter lockdown at the end of 2020  many areas re-started play streets in Spring 2021. As of Autumn 2022, we know of no local authority banning play streets for reasons related to COVID19.

See our guidance about managing covid risk on a play street.

All restrictions on social gatherings in England eased last year on 19 July 2021 which of course includes play streets.

In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland restrictions have also been lifted, meaning there are no longer any legal restrictions that would prevent residential play streets going ahead. Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoors, and this is reflected in the guidance for each of these nations.

For Wales – please see more detail here.

For Scotland – more detail here.

For Northern Ireland – more detail here.

Why do play streets make sense as part of covid recovery?

Temporary Play Streets are short, resident-led road closures on quiet residential streets that open up extra outdoor public space for neighbours to use responsibly and safely. There are many good reasons to think about play streets as part of healing and emerging from the impact of covid and lockdown:

  • Children desperately need to play outside, have fun with their friends and let off steam.
  • Play streets at their essence are simply the removal of traffic for children to play- like an extension of your local park.
  • More safe, public outdoor space is needed – parks and green space are in high demand.
  • Neighbours can meet for a supportive chat.
  • Play streets, like School Streets, support national and local government focus on creating safer, cleaner streets.
  • Communities self-organise the closure together responsibly.
  • Parents are responsible for their own children.
  • Closures are safe for those shielding (to avoid or to participate from the doorstep).
  • No sharing of toys/equipment needs to be involved – everyone can use their own stuff.
  • Very low cost for councils – most streets need minimal support.
  • Local closures can be paused at any time where necessary.

As many people are feeding back to us:

Play streets could be a wonderful way both to mark more freedom and to hang on to some of the good things that have been part of this challenging time. And, in fact, to build on these.”

Get ready to play out!

Many councils and organisations are getting policies in place or thinking about how to make it easier for residents to apply.

At Playing Out, we have over 10 years of experience in supporting residents to open up their street space, and supporting councils across the UK to get good policies in place that allow parents and residents to self-organise. We can help you!

If you work in a council:

If you are a parent/resident:

Read about two residents who started playing out during lockdown:

“We live on such a rat run, it was amazing the difference it made. Very, very heart-warming.”

  • Lucy in Peckham – read Lucy’s story about encouraging her neighbours to play out emerging from lockdown, and the great benefits it had.
  • Fern in Streatham – great tips and advice on organising a play street in the time of social distancing, while still having fun!

See our guidance for covid-secure play streets

See guidance here