Play streets boost children’s activity and improves sense of community – with minimal impact on traffic

A pioneering Hackney project to get children playing outside in the streets and estates where they live has reached more than 1,600 youngsters and led to thousands of hours of active play, an independent report by a children’s play expert shows. And parents volunteering to run the Play Streets said they are helping create a greater sense of community – making streets feel friendlier and safer.

The evaluation report looking at the impact of Hackney Play Streets has been written by writer and researcher Tim Gill. He will present the key findings at a formal reception held in Hackney on 27 February 2015, involving many of the residents who volunteer as organisers in their streets and estates, as well as councillors and partner organisations.

Hackney Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board commissioned Hackney Play Association, a local charity, to deliver the Play Streets project. The charity provided training, mentoring and practical support for residents and schools wanting to start a Play Street.

The report shows that in the 12-month period until September 2014 the project has:

  • Led to 380 hours of street play sessions in 29 locations that have reached around 1,600 children and nearly 800 families.
  • Supported 8,100 hours of children’s physical activity – on a par with 14 extra classes of weekly term-time PE lessons. Projecting forward, this figure could rise to 13,800 child-hours in the year from October 2014.
  • Caused drivers minimal disruption, with an average of nine cars affected per session.
  • Recruited and supported parents to run Play Streets across most parts of Hackney, including areas of disadvantage.
  • Assisted three schools and a children’s centre to run termly Play Streets at the end of the school day.
  • Supported parents in three estates to run play sessions in green spaces or amenity areas.
  • Revealed a strong consensus among organisers about the perceived benefits for children, families and communities – especially in terms of improving social interaction among neighbours, and giving children more freedom and choice in how they play.

The full report also indicates residents are broadly accepting of the scheme. The Council has received a total of 18 letters opposing Play Streets since the scheme was first introduced in September 2012 – averaging less than one complaint per participating street.

As of February 2015, there are 32 Play Streets in Hackney. Several of these have been running for well over two years. During the sessions, children ride bikes and scooters, bring out and share their own toys – with games of yesteryear like hopscotch, chalking and skipping making a comeback.

Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “Growing up in the city can be tough for children which is why we have made it as easy as possible for parents, schools and estates to close residential roads near them in order to get youngsters outdoors and running around.

“Play Streets has been a resounding success, helping to get more children physically active, creating tighter-knit communities and making our neighbourhoods more livable. I would like to thank all those who have been involved and look forward to seeing more Play Streets around Hackney.”

Report author Tim Gill said: “This report shows that Play Streets are not just a popular, effective way to get many more children playing outdoors and being active. They also have the potential to transform the way people feel about their neighbourhoods. I suspect that councils across the country will be looking to follow Hackney’s lead in promoting the idea.”

Zoe Eisenstein, a resident organiser in Clapton, said: “The scheme has strengthened the sense of community, and has been a stepping stone for other community groups, including a park user group. It is an amazing initiative with the potential to work magic.”

Jenny Lewis, head teacher of Thomas Fairchild School in Hoxton, said: “Traditional games were very popular; children loved them and one parent asked ‘where do I buy a skipping rope?’”

ENDS

Notes to editors

In September 2012 Hackney Council became the first London council to adopt a Play Streets policy as a result of local residents taking up the idea. Hackney Council’s Play Streets scheme is based on a model of street play developed by the national not-for-profit organisation Playing Out, www.playingout.net – which is working to support street play nationally.

Press office contacts

Media wanting further information or interviews should contact Claudia Draper at Hackney Play Association on 07591 696964/ email hackney@playingout.net,  or Jane Ball in the Hackney Council Press Office at 020 8356 8338 or email jane.ball@hackney.gov.uk

 

Posted in Hackney Play