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Bristol: A street play case study

Playing Out started on 1 June 2009 when two residents, Amy Rose and Alice Ferguson, with support from their neighbours, used the council’s existing street party procedure to close their street to through traffic one day after school, making the space safe for free play.

After the success of that session, they went on to support residents to do the same in 6 local streets in 2010, with a small amount of funding from Active Bristol, a fund set up to increase everyday physical activity.

The council’s lead member for Public Health came to one of the pilot sessions and saw the potential for children’s health and wellbeing, as well as the wider community benefits. Residents on the pilot streets said they would like to be able to close to cars regularly, but at that time the council allowed streets a limit of 3 road closures per year, for events and street parties. With political support from the cabinet (including members for Transport and Children’s Services), highways officers developed a trial ‘Temporary Play Street Order’ (TPSO), using the same legislation already used for street parties (Town and Police Clauses Act 1847). This allowed residents to make a single annual application to regularly ‘open their street for play’.

Playing Out CIC received some council funding (initially from Children’s Services, then Public Health), to provide practical support and advice for residents. The TPSO was trialled in 2011-12 and is now a permanent policy, with almost 100 streets having held sessions across most parts of the city by end March 2015. Many other councils have now emulated this policy.

Rules and conditions for road closures

Streets can be closed for up to three hours once a week on dates specified in the application form (Google ‘Bristol TPSO’ to see the form).  A single form can be used to apply for road closures for one year.Two stewards are required per closure point, with standard Road Closed signs and cones, and Road Ahead Closed signs if necessary. Residents have access into and out of the road, supervised by stewards. Organisers are not required to put up notices, but should have the formal permission letter to hand on the day. Applicants are advised but not required to take out public liability insurance.

Application procedure for residents

The application process for a Temporary Play Street Order takes six weeks, which allows the council to consider any objections. The TPSO lasts for a year and is free. Applicants must consult all affected households and businesses using a standard letter provided by the council.
Any objections raised are dealt with by the council on a case by case basis but objections to the concept of street play are not considered sufficient grounds to refuse a TPSO.

Support for residents

The Highways Network Management team processes applications and is happy to give advice to residents on how to set up the road closure. Bristol City Council  funded a Bristol Playing Out Co-ordinator post and road closure kit for streets with a TPSO during 2013-16. Our Bristol Co-ordinator, currently funded through Awards for All,  provides advice and support to residents across the city, going to meetings, helping with printing and flyering, talking to neighbours and going to each street’s first session to ensure it happens safely and any issues are dealt with.

During 2015, a ‘Green Capital’ strategic grant funded pilot work to enable playing out in estates and areas of high deprivation and to roll out a ‘local activator’ support model where active residents support other streets locally to start playing out.

How the scheme is publicised

As well as some high-profile media coverage (Local TV, radio and print), publicity happens through local newsletters, social media and through Playing Out attending local events.
Bristol City Council also has a page on its website giving information about the TPSO and signposting to for more detailed guidance.

How active residents stay in touch with each other

We host a Bristol Playing Out Facebook group as a way for residents to share ideas and advice. As well as opportunities to attend workshops (for example, on how to ensure safe stewarding), there are also regular informal meet-ups of local street organisers.

A view from the council……                  

From Bristol City Council website:

“Street play for children fits completely within Bristol City Council’s vision for:

  • Keeping Bristol Moving – cleaner air, better for walking and cycling
  • A Vibrant Bristol – streets alive with activity
  • Building Successful Places – Well-connected neighbourhoods”

Playing Out is designed as a way to give children the space, time and safety to play actively right outside their front doors. To call it a low-cost, multi-generational initiative might seem like unnecessary jargon but in public health terms that’s what it is. And having seen it for myself and watched groups of children racing and chasing down their street I also know it’s fun and that’s the important bit!” Claire Lowman, Public Health Service Lead.

For more case studies read about Adur and Worthing and Hackney.

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