Kent transport

‘Play streets’ could see Kent roads regularly closed for a few hours so children can play safely

The idea of ​​temporarily closing roads so children can play in the streets in Kent is one to “seriously consider”.

Kent County Council (KCC) was asked this week to introduce the ‘play street’ scheme – where a road is closed to traffic for a few hours, on a regular basis, so young people can have space safe to play freely.

The idea of ​​introducing ‘play streets’ in Kent needs serious consideration

Cllr Kelly Grehan (Lab), from the council’s Labor group, said: “I see this as an opportunity for KCC to help the people of Kent make it a better place to grow up.”

Its aim would be to improve the physical, emotional and mental well-being of young people living in Kent.

Other councils across England have set up similar schemes, including Camden in London where, in June 2019, a group of young people used musical instruments, wore fancy dress and played hopscotch when a road was closed near Great Ormond Street Hospital.

This week, KCC’s full council debated a motion tabled by the Labor Party to introduce similar street gambling schemes in Kent.

Cllr Grehan, who proposed the move, said: “In this room we often talk about the issues that now surround childhood.

“The kids are always indoors, they don’t know their neighbours, suffer from obesity, social anxiety and a mix of mental health issues.

“Research shows it is fundamental to children’s physical, social and emotional development, as well as their immediate happiness and well-being. For many children, safe outdoor play is beyond their reach. .”

Other games discussed include chatting, listening to neighbors’ stories and singing along with other children.

Cllr Grehan said: “If you give children the time and space to play, common sense is that they will do so quite naturally, be more active and more emotionally resilient.”

However, KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Cllr David Brazier (Con), has warned of the dangers faced by children playing in the streets.

County Councilwoman Kelly Grehan (Lab) proposed a motion promoting 'playing streets'
County Councilwoman Kelly Grehan (Lab) proposed a motion promoting ‘playing streets’

He said: “There is a lot of traffic to cross on every street and deliveries have to be made.

“I anticipate objections to this program from residents who don’t have off-street parking and won’t want their vehicle hit by a soccer ball, or feel pressured to move their car and lose their parking space.”

He asked for more information from the opposition group and to check whether support could be obtained from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Labor’s motion was defeated, but talks will take place with the Tories to bring street gambling to Kent.

Cllr Brazier says any scheme should be ‘cost neutral’ amid the financial pressures the County Council is facing during the pandemic and Brexit.

“I don’t want to dismiss the aspiration of the motion and we would like to seriously consider it.”

He added: “We cannot vote for this motion, but I can offer a constructive way forward.

“I don’t want to dismiss the aspiration of the motion and we would like to seriously consider it.”