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Play Streets and Covid

Here are our current thoughts on how play streets are possible in light of the pandemic, and how they can be an important part of the recovery process.

Updated 8 December 2020

Play streets are a way to enable safe, socially-distanced activity, children’s play and community connection at a time when it is so desperately needed.

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, both now and in the future. Click on the links below to jump to a topic.


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 for their physical and mental health.
  • Play streets at their essence are not social gatherings but 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 stand at a distance for a supportive chat (adhering to the rule of 6 where applicable).
  • 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 in 2021!

Many councils are now thinking about getting a policy in place or making it easier for residents to apply, ready for the Spring next year.

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:

What is already happening?

Some streets and councils started or re-launched play streets over summer 2020, to great benefit:

  • Manchester City Council launched their new play streets application process.
  • Tameside launched Quiet Streets based on the play street model.
  • Brighton and Hove have been allowing play streets to go ahead
  • Croydon Council have been allowing residents to organise Exercise Streets throughout lockdown.
  • Several London boroughs allowed play streets to take place, including Westminster, Camden, Southwark, Lambeth, Greenwich, Islington and likely more we haven’t heard about.
  • Leeds Council allowed existing play street organisers to run socially distanced play streets.
  • North Tyneside Council, in partnership with local organisation re-launched play streets.
  • Salford Council have announced that they will be launching a new play streets policy based on our model
  • We’ve heard from lots of residents making use of their existing play street dates to do socially distanced activity. See below two stories we’ve collected:

“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!

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