Words by Kate Thompson. Photos: Tara Barton-Leigh
Reclaiming a street in Southsea for playtime could just be the start of a bigger movement across the city.
Mother-of-two Laura Mellor has been the driving force behind a pilot scheme that has seen a section of busy Francis Avenue closed to traffic for a Sunday afternoon in July to allow the children to play safely on the street.
This latest playing-out session follows the success of an initial experiment that coincided with roadworks on the road.
Laura explained: “During the Easter school holidays part of the road was closed to
traffic while the council installed traffic calming measures so it was the ideal time to see if playing in the street would work.
“The response was great – the kids made new friends and it was a chance for parents and grown-ups to get to know each other over a cup of tea.
“It was likened to a camping holiday where you know the kids are somewhere around playing and they are safe.”
As well as being a great way to make new friends, playing in the streets helps to increase children’s daily activity and there are also benefits with reduced levels of air and noise pollution.
Cars can still park in the closed section and if they need to be moved during the play session, stewards can ensure they do so slowly and safely. Parents are responsible for their children at all times during street play sessions.
Laura explained there are successful Playing Out schemes in Bristol and Hackney and they have helped her to pull the trial together. When she approached Portsmouth City Council they were very supportive.
Having gathered feedback following the initial experiment, Laura needed to get the necessary permissions for the road closure.
“If the trial is successful, we would like to make this a monthly occurrence from September and have the road closed for play on a Sunday afternoon,” said Laura.
Laura has set up a Playing Out Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/portsmouthplayingout) and if residents from other roads wanting to set up similar schemes want advice they can contact her there.