The council will support Play Streets according to the street’s suitability and they have a process you need to follow to make it happen but won’t work on the South Circular, unfortunately.It’s the same application process you would do for a street party, or the ‘Big Lunch’, or any event that’s for the community. Here’s how to do it. You need to leave about six weeks to prepare. There is a lot of information on Lewisham’s website at https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/roads-and-transport/closing-a-road-for-a-play-street-event:
- First write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get the go-ahead at a council level. If closing your road will cause major problems on neighbouring roads unfortunately they won’t allow you to. Most suburban residential streets, however, should be allowed to close (particularly on weekends). It’s best to chat informally to your neighbours about this before you do it, just to test reactions. You do not need to have wholly positive reactions before writing the email, and writing to Lewisham’s active travel team about this doesn’t mean you’re committed at all, but it’s best to do both.
- Once the council give you ‘in principle’ permission, continue the conversations with neighbours, and make a little flier to distribute to all your neighbours. You need to inform absolutely everyone affected, which means your street, and possibly neighbouring streets as well. Any businesses on your street must be informed. It’s much better to schedule play streets on a weekend. Here’s a [downloadable and editable flier] to use. Make the words you use clear and simple as sometimes people don’t speak or read English well. Make the lettering large enough for those with weak eyesight. Put a nice picture on the flier so that people feel attracted to reading it. Write confidently and positively: you already have council permission after all. Make sure you include a contact email and say explicitly that people can write to you with any queries – don’t use the word ‘problems’ or ‘complaints’. Its’ best not to use your personal email, but make a generic one for the occasion, such as ‘email@example.com’.
- You’ll need a few people to steward, so the first conversations you have about this with your neighbours will be important in finding supporters. When people express interest or support, as them if they’ll be stewards on the day. [More about stewarding here]
- Once you have leafleted your street once, wait for any emails to come in. If people raise something specific, reassure them that there is a protocol to allow them to use their car on the day, and repeat the positive reasons why you think this will be a good idea ie …peace and quiet…chat with neighbours…allow children to play…clean air.. If you find people email you with problems you can’t solve, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Things to you’ll need to do and be aware of:
- It does not mean that residents can’t use their cars. If they need their cars, they should, if possible, let you know in advance. Then, they will be accompanied by a steward towards the barrier at walking pace, and the road can be cleared to allow them to pass. Anyone who needs to use their car on your playstreet day can be told that this is the procedure.
- It’s best to ask people to remove their cars for the day to another street if they can. Give them a time deadline, for example 9am on the day of the play street. Tell them when they can bring them back, ie. after the closure (leave time for clear-up).
- You will need a small team of stewards, who will need to wear hi-viz and stand at the ends of your street, and any intersection with other roads. They will stand at the street barriers and explain to drivers that the street is closed. You will need to recruit these people, and ask them to sign up to a rota. Two hours is a good length of time. If you plan to close the street for the whole day, say 10am – 4pm, then you’ll need at least three stewards to do two-hour slots at one end, more if you have intersections with other streets.
- You will need barriers, and sometimes the council can lend barriers and ‘stop’ signs, but you may need to make your own. You can make basic barriers with wheelie bins and hazard tape. Several reels of hazard tape are useful. You can buy it in most hardware stores.
- If you have disabled neighbours who are genuinely completely reliant on their cars to move around (ie. wheelchair users), make sure you speak or write to them personally and reassure them that they will have normal access to their cars on that day, but that you’d love to see them on the street for a cup of tea and a chat too. They may be made to feel extra-nervous by traffic-limitation schemes, understandably.
- You may have some neighbours who deeply dislike the idea of a ‘Play Street’ and refuse to move their cars. There’s nothing you can do about that, so don’t get into arguments. Your duty in the eyes of the council is to consult with the residents and deal with their concerns. The council will give you a legal document and the power to close your street if they approve your application, but they do not need the consent of every resident of the street.
- You need to do a risk assessment. Think carefully about blind corners, exits from shops or hidden exits, building works or any other possible hazard, and think about how any accidents can be avoided. See a good example of a risk assessment, and a [downloadable template here].
- It’s useful to provide a map of your street, and add on the map where you need barriers and how many stewards you will put on each barrier. If you live in a cul-de-sac, you may need one barrier at the entrance, and one person can stay there to steward it. Most streets have two ends so will need two sets of barriers, if you have streets cutting across yours you’ll need more. You will also need to fill in the Lewisham’s application form and read their online advice carefully.
- Once you have compiled all this information download a checklist here, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and wait for them to approve your application.
- Once your application has been approved, make sure you let everyone know who will be affected. It’s useful to use any social media that will reach local people. If you want you can make more leaflets, but you don’t have to. The better you prepare your community, however, the easier it will be.
- Once you have approval from the council, you can start to organise any activities that your neighbours might like. You should obviously observe social distancing at this time, but large chalks for kids, outdoor toys, outdoor chairs, music, and any other entertainments you fancy can be arranged. Discuss with neighbours the ground-rules for their kids (and your own if you have them). This must include being careful of others’ property that is in public space (such as cars).
- You should get insurance. This company https://www.events-insurance.co.uk is excellent and reasonable, and a day’s public liability costs about £50. Ask your neighbours to chip in, the council won’t fund this.
- A day or so before the Play Street you need to put windscreen fliers out on all vehicles along your street, and neighbouring streets if possible, reminding them that your street will not be accessible on that day, and give the exact times. The more you remind people on the street the better.
- A few days before, email or call your stewards, remind them of their duties and give them a rota. On the day, issue them with a hi-viz jacket. You will be sent a copy of your traffic order, which is a legal order that closes your road to traffic. Print them out.
Checklist of Activities and things to do. Make sure you allow at least 6 weeks from beginning this process until the Play street day