Play streets

What are play streets?

Residents close off their streets to through traffic for a few hours weekly or monthly so that children can play out more safely and neighbours come together – making streets friendlier and more fun for all.

Redbridge Council has successfully piloted the scheme with residents in five neighbourhoods in summer 2018.

As a resident, community group or school you will be able to apply throughout the year.  This will enable you run a play street weekly, fortnightly or monthly.  It is important that you think ahead and apply by the relevant deadline if you would like to start running your play street at a specific time of year. Information about deadlines can be found below.

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Apply to run a play street

Before completing this application form please read every section of this web page. The information is here to help you but we are happy to talk you through anything you might be unsure of. To arrange an informal phone conversation contact your local Neighbourhood Engagement and Education Officer.

Play streets application form

Please note that the deadline for this round of applications is 1 February 2019. This will enable you to run a play street from March 2019 on-wards for up to 12 months at which point your application will be reviewed.


Play streets is a growing national movement encouraging informal playing out. Some of the benefits include:

  • improving children’s health and wellbeing
  • building stronger communities and a sense of belonging
  • encouraging more active citizens
  • changing culture around children’s freedom

Play streets have been running successfully in places like Hackney and Bristol and our pilot scheme here in a Redbridge has been a great success. Here is a comment from one organiser in Barkingside:

"In this day and age, we rarely see children playing on the streets, they rarely get out and converse with neighbours. Play streets is a wonderful informal way of allowing this to happen in a safe and manageable way. It was such an enjoyable, multi-cultural and multi-generational event and really helped build a community spirit that we would not have otherwise seen."

Read more about the benefits of playing out.

Below are the ‘four simple steps’ you can follow to make this happen where you live:

1) Talk to your neighbours

2) Get permission and support

3) Tell everyone

4) Play out

You will find some fabulous video guides and resources on including a lively video guide and additional templates you can find at the bottom of this web page.

You will need a bit of time and energy. The whole process, from having the idea to the first session, takes around 2-3 months. But please don’t let that put you off – the work can be shared and much of that time is simply waiting for us to give permission!

Contact your local Neighbourhood Engagement and Education officer if you want an informal chat about it.

As a community and resident-led project, it is your responsibility to ensure everybody affected by the street closure has been consulted and all concerns have been addressed before you go ahead and put in an application. The best way to do this is to start off talking to neighbours who are already positive about the idea!

As a minimum we would ask you to do the following:

  • talk to neighbours and set a date for a meeting (this can even be held on the street or somebody's front garden!)
  • schedule a meeting for all supporters and affected residents at an appropriate place or time
  • consult with every single neighbour affected by the street closure via door knocking and a consultation letter. This will include every household that will need to pass through the play street where there is no alternative route 
  • every affected household must be given or posted a consultation letter with details of the meeting and information about how they can raise any concerns if they have any*
  • you must provide evidence that you have consulted with all affected residents and businesses on your road. For example, we will ask to see a draft of the letter you have sent and details of your meeting time/ date

*It is advisable that you provide your own email address and/ or phone on the consultation letter so that you can resolve any issues at a local level. If you do not want to share your personal details we would suggest you make a new generic email account. You must also provide the following email address to enable residents to raise concerns anonymously. 

If you aim to hold your play street from:

  • 1 March to 31 May onwards the deadline for us to receive the application is 1 February
  • 1 June to 31 August onwards the deadline for us to receive the application is 1 May
  • 1 September to 30 November onwards the deadline for us to receive the application is 1 August
  • 1 December to 28 February onwards the deadline for us to receive the application is 1 November

For example, if you want start your play streets from August 15 onwards, you will need to let us know by May 1.

If your application is approved, you will be able to run your play street sessions for a 12 month period at the specified time and location. After this 12 month period your application will be reviewed.

If your application is successful we will provide you with a Traffic Management Order (TMO) that will enable you to close your road at the specified days and time. This is a legal notice.

Neighbours volunteer to ‘steward’ road closures. People living in the street, as well as visitors and deliveries can still drive in and out at 5mph, guided by the stewards. Through traffic is redirected.

Once the road is closed off children come out to play, often with simple things like bikes, balls and skipping ropes. Parents are responsible for their children.

People without young children and older residents also join in – chatting with neighbours over cups of tea and sometimes helping with stewarding too.

Schools and community groups are encouraged to organise a play street near their premises to provide alternative opportunities for play.

Organising a school or community play street is the same as a ‘normal’ play street but with a few added extras. It is important to ensure that both the schools and the residents are fully consulted, and on board and that the school or community centre can stay open during the street play session. They must submit an application in the same way as a resident application.

Visit the Hackney Play website for useful resources on running a school play street.

The Council does not require this as a matter of course but if you plan a large scale session, we may want to satisfy ourselves that you have insurance cover.

Whilst it is impossible to eliminate all risk, as the organiser of a play street it is important to think through all potential risks and how you will manage them well ahead of your first session – and you can use the risk assessment template for guidance (you can find a link below).

Many experts on childhood now recognise that risk-taking in play is beneficial for children in terms of their physical development, self-esteem and happiness. Accidents such as children falling off scooters or tripping over will happen in play streets, as they do in parks, playgrounds and streets on any normal day. 

The most serious risk to manage is from cars/drivers entering at speed, but this is minimised by having stewards who follow the procedures around road closures and stewarding.

We also recommend doing a walkabout of your street to identify any particular risks – e.g. are there any entry points to flats with car-parks? If so you might want to think about how you will manage this, perhaps having an extra steward stationed here to stop cars driving out at speed.

If there is a steep hill you may decide you want to reduce the risk of children riding down very fast, maybe having an agreed area for bikes and trikes which you could mark out with chalk.

In addition, do a final walkabout of the street just before the session starts - looking out for any extra risks - e.g. broken glass in the street – and remove any obvious hazards. Each time you do a play street – review your risk assessment and update to reflect any new risks or extra steps you’ve found to help manage the closure

In general, the best way to prevent being held liable for anything that goes wrong is to make sure you do everything in a responsible way, prepare well and encourage everyone to be respectful about other people and property. Try to generate a sense of shared responsibility for making sure the sessions are safe.

The Council will fund the costs of whatever legal Traffic Order may be required. Should an order be needed to cover the closure of your road then you will be sent a notice to affix on a lamp post to advise other local people. There will be no charge for this.

You will need to source funding for cones, signage and printing letters although we would encourage you to contact us if you need advice about this.

Playing Out is a national organisation supporting a growing UK-wide street play movement. They have some fantastic resources which you can find on the Playing Out website.  Please note that these documents are generic documents used nationally and must be adapted.

Resources include:

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