Sunday, 19 September 2021

Council to consider closing streets to allow children to play

PLAY streets could be introduced in Henley to encourage children to stay fit.

The town council is to investigate the idea at the suggestion of a resident who has seen it elsewhere.

Father-of-three Tom Potter, of Church Street, told members of the council’s town and community committee that play streets allowed communities to temporarily close residential roads so children can play safely outdoors and close to home.

Mr Potter, a governor at Trinity Primary School in Vicarage Road, said the roads could be closed for up to three hours at once after school.

“Forty-four local authorities have already adopted this,” he said. “The result seems to be that it is dramatically increasing physical activity of young people.

“It’s also increasing social cohesion and community spirit. I’ve always liked Henley because I see it as a progressive, forward-thinking town in some respects.

“This is possible, it is do-able and it is successful where it’s already happening.”

Mr Potter, who lives with his wife Kate and children Kitty, six, Betty, four, who are pupils at the school, and eight-month-old Ted, said the scheme would also encourage older people to come out of their homes and meet parents, helping to increase community support.

He suggested the scheme would work well in both his road and Greys Hill as they were “relatively quiet” and closing the roads wouldn’t have much impact on traffic.

“It would make it a lot safer and a nice environment for residents, pupils and parents,” he said.

“Generally it encourages kids to be out in what is called ‘semi-supervised play’. It allows parents to do things indoors while their children are playing safely outside.”

Mr Potter said Playing Out, a not-for-profit organisation based in Bristol, offered a pack that included road closure signs, skipping ropes and chalk.

Deputy Mayor and committee chairwoman Lorraine Hillier said it would be confusing for children to see a road closed on one day and open another and anyway the council should be encouraging children to play in the town’s green spaces.

Mr Potter replied: “We have some great parks and recreation places in Henley for sure, but the reality is children have to be taken there and supervised by a parent.”

Councillor Sam Evans said she was concerned about road closures, adding that it had been a “huge” process to obtain permission for a party in Queen Street.

She added: “You mention Greys Hill, that’s a narrow road. There are some pretty smart cars down there. I don’t want my car damaged.” Councillor Will Hamilton said: “I believe we should be using the green spaces in the town. Greys Hill is not the place to be doing one of these. Church Street you go straight out into a main road. We should be using the parks.”

But Mayor Kellie Hinton backed the idea, saying: “You wouldn’t have it on a main street like Queen Street. Somewhere like Church Street and King’s Close strike me as appropriate.

“I think just because our county or district council don’t have a scheme in place doesn’t necessarily mean we shouldn’t push for one.

“I do think we need to get children out and playing more.”

The committee agreed to consult Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

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