Playing Out ‘is good for health’

Published on: 01 Sep 2014

A HEALTH expert has joined the growing campaign to set up ‘Playing Out’ in Bromley Heath.

As Downend Voice revealed last month a group of residents are trying to establish the scheme following its popularity in neighbouring Bristol.

The idea is to close off a road for an hour and a half while children play in the street.

They are hoping South Gloucestershire Council will waive the £140 road closure fee just like Bristol City Council.

The campaign has been given a boost by Downend resident Helene Gibson, a specialist community public health nurse. 

Helene, who has just finished a masters level public health course, says the council should be supporting Playing Out because of the benefits to the emotional, psychological and physical health of the children in South Gloucestershire.

Helene, 42, who lives in Rockside Avenue, said: “I want to present a case on the health benefits for children.

“The emotional and psychological well-being of children is linked to physical activity. One of the key challenges at the moment is the rising epidemic of childhood obesity and giving children the opportunity of playing out together is one way of tackling this.

“Also after making initial friendships, they are also more likely to play together afterwards in ways which are more physical.”

Reports have already warned of an obesity crisis in the UK with estimates saying by 2050 half the UK population will be obese.

And a report by South Gloucestershire NHS states: “Addressing the rise in childhood obesity is a priority for South Gloucestershire. Obesity in childhood is one of the most significant adverse health trends which, if left unchecked, can contribute to a wide range of health issues in later life, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Helene, who has two children aged seven and 11, would like to see the scheme rolled out throughout South Gloucestershire so the benefits of outdoor play in a safe environment are available to all children from all social spectrums.

“The lower down the social scale you go, the more likely it is that children have childhood obesity and these are the parents who aren’t going to be able to pay the road closure fee. These are the people who need it the most.”

Helene said she has witnessed benefits of street play following a street parties in Rockside Avenue and Bridge Leap Road to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Children who didn’t know each other before have now forged friendships and a number of street initiatives have taken place including a Halloween party and bake-off events. There is also talk of holding a ‘Bridge Rock In Bloom’ to get young people involved in gardening as well as an event to bring the elderly together.

Helene is now looking to contact councillor Ian Blair, the chairman of the council’s Children and Young People committee, and there are also plans for a petition signed by the children of South Gloucestershire.

So far the group has had little success in getting the council to waive the fee and it looks possible the first planned road closure - in Bromley Heath Avenue on September 13 - will have to be abandoned.

Bromley Heath resident Jacky Dockerty, 45,  submitted an official road closure application along with an alternative traffic plan at the beginning of August. She has received an email from a council street works co-ordinator saying no to her request to drop the fee.

However, she has yet to hear back from the authority’s legal team and remains positive that ultimately the council will support the scheme.

“I think the timing, with it being August, has gone against us because people are on annual leave. It’s not in the council’s interest not to support us. I just think we are not getting through to the right people.

“We are disappointed by the initial response but don’t think it’s the end of the road. There are other avenues we can explore and really hope the council can be supportive of us.”

Jacky said it wouldn’t be practical for residents to have to pay the fee.

“We can’t pay the £140 because we don’t have a committee and we’re not a charity - we have no funds. If it’s going to rely on residents being benevolent it will fall flat on its face. No one is going to want to pay £140 out of their own pocket.

“Playing Out is about building closer community relationships and safer communities. It hits all the targets around encouraging children to play. We feel children should be outdoors playing rather than staying indoors not exploring their local environment and not making local relationships.”

South Gloucestershire Council was approached for a response but had not got back to us before we went to print.

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