Roads will be closed in Calderdale to allow more children to play in the streets as plans for the new initiative were given the thumbs up.
Councillors recalled their own childhood days “playing out” but acknowledged these days it might need more of a helping hand, when they considered developing a Play Streets policy.
Establishing a policy could mean some streets are closed off at certain times to ensure it is safe for children to play there – but neighbours must be consulted and concerns raised carefully considered, members of Calderdale Council’s Cabinet learned when they agreed to recommend one be established.
The final decision on formulating a policy would be made by a meeting of the full Calderdale Council.
A Play Streets policy would allow residents to close a street for a few hours at a time, so children can play without the danger and inconvenience of traffic going through.
Cabinet heard the scheme would initially be trialled in areas of Sowerby Bridge, North Halifax and Central Halifax and would then be reviewed before potentially being implemented across the borough.
It is not a totally new idea, even in Calderdale – a number of local authorities already close streets for play and in June this year a temporary road closure was organised outside Field Lane Primary School in Rastrick with feedback from the school indicating it was a successful initiative, councillors heard.
The intention is that the scheme would be community led, with residents, supported by the council, responsible for the organisation of the sessions.
Before a closure could be granted, the whole street must be consulted and any concerns carefully considered, they were told.
Once upon a time, playing out was, for generations, as natural as, well, playing out, councillors heard but accepted today’s traffic volumes made it more difficult to do safely.
“The idea of playing out, crazy as it seems, was taken for granted when we were young children, it is kind of unusual to put a policy through about this, but here we are,” said Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot).
Establishing it would have health benefits in terms of children being able to get outdoors, exercise, make friends and do so safely and without as many carbon dioxide fumes around during play sessions.
It was a really good news story which would not cost the council a lot of money, he said.
Coun Faisal Shoukat (Lab, Park) agreed and felt the play sessions would be a focal point in the community. He too said in the past lots of children used to play out but in the last 15 years or so it had become less apparent. “I think it’s a fantastic thing,” he said.
Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said it was sad a policy proposal had to be brought to Cabinet – she recalled childhood when children played on inner city streets and there were no cars around. “It was just part of life,” she said, but acknowledged help needed to be given to encourage it and hoped it would soon be rolled out across Calderdale.
In turn, she hoped playing out would lead to families exploring Calderdale’s beautiful countryside close by “on the tops”.