Kingston's first play street
20 April 2016 I Essential Surrey
Once all kids played outside on the street, now very few do. Samantha Laurie looks at one Kingston community reclaiming its roads.
This month, something rather special is happening in North Kingston. Over 400 households have come together to launch the Royal Borough’s first ever play street. Every other Sunday afternoon, neighbours will put out the road closed signs, don hi-vis jackets to redirect traffic and open the space to the imagination of their offspring.
“It’s fantastic for kids to be able to play out on their bikes and scooters as we once did,” says Tim Holmes, vice-chair of BRaG Residents Association, which spans the three participating streets: Burton Road, Richmond Park Road and Gibbons Road. “In fact, this will be great for all ages – we hope that residents will drop by for a cup of tea and a chat.”
The play street is not supervised – and that is the point. For many, this will be the first chance to explore the space outside the front door on their own. Parents may pop by, but this is kids being kids: playing with soft balls, chalking on the pavements, racing up and down on bikes, meeting other kids of all ages and from different schools.
Holmes has worked hard to assuage fears of damage. If a ball goes through a window, the matter will be settled as in the 70s: by a parent. As for access, cars can be escorted through closed roads at walking pace, if required. But few residents needed to be convinced of the benefits of a car-free play space.
“Kids pollinate communities. By flitting from house to house they bring adults together too, creating more cohesive and safer neighbourhoods,” says Paul Hocker of London Play, which helps residents marshal efforts. “It’s right for children to be active, visible and numerous in their communities. For the past two decades, we’ve been shutting them away.”
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