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Edinburgh parents pave the way for safe street play

Edinburgh parents pave the way for safe street play

An Edinburgh man has piloted a new scheme to get kids out playing in the streets again.

Playing just a stone’s throw from their home, children got to rule a small part of an Edinburgh road for a couple of hours as they zoomed around on their bikes and scooters and played an impromptu game of football.

Starting in Bristol in 2009, a resident-led project called Playing Out was set up to encourage street play within a closed off section of road. From this, a not-for-profit organisation called Playing Out CIC launched to help encourage street play across the UK and give advice to interested locals.

Six years on, there are now 38 local authorities across England that have a policy in place allowing residents to use their residential streets for play.

Seeing this trend take off in England, Dads Rock co-founder Thomas Lynch was inspired to trial it in Edinburgh, joining with other locals for the debut event in October.

“Last year, I applied for a temporary road closure,” he said. “It was only a really small section we closed but we had 13 kids come out for two hours to play.

“Most of the kids hadn't played with each other and some of the parents came out and they were playing too.

“We just said 'bring your scooters or bring your bikes' and that was it. We played football and the kids had races.

“I don't think kids need [something planned], they just need the space and to know that somewhere is safe and they will make their own games.

“It felt really nice, the whole community thing as well, of getting to know people and speaking to neighbours."

After hosting the first Playing Out event, the volunteers have since had interest from other parents in Edinburgh who are keen to run similar events.

Setting up the Edinburgh Playing Out group, they are now looking ahead to their first a public meeting on October 27 to find out the needs of the wider Edinburgh community.

  (© Edinburgh Playing Out)
via STV via STV

“A few parents have come together from different parts of Edinburgh with different issues around roads," Thomas said. "There are some roads that are used as rat runs and short cuts.

"We are just trying to see what the interest is and, if people want the support in organising this, we can do it together.

“I have been influenced by seeing play and the simplicity of play and how kids don't need complicated things, they just need the space.

“My own particular street is not a busy street but there are just a lot more cars than there used to be. We all know kids need to be outside more and be more active.

“There's something quite special about just being able to open your front door and to go right out and play right out in front of your house without having to worry about cars."

Buoyed by the enthusiasm, Thomas says the project would only be viable if the temporary road closures were provided at no cost like their debut event in 2014.

However, initial communication with the City of Edinburgh Council suggests there could be costs attached to holding regular events, an area he is keen to explore further once establishing if there is enough support within the city for the 'playing out' concept.

Naomi Fuller from Playing Out CIC says the success of these projects are very dependent on the services being free.

"38 local authorities across England are now supporting street play and enabling their residents to apply to use their streets for children to play safely and freely and for adult neighbours to meet and build a stronger sense of community," she said.

"Bristol City Council was the first local authority to put in place a specific policy for street play and allows residents to apply at no cost for street closures for play up to once a week. This no-cost approach has been followed by many others."

A spokesperson for the City of Edinburgh Council said the council is looking into guidance around the topic of Playing Out events, but added this is at a very early stage.

Main image: Nick Lee| CC

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