Long game for Playing Out team

October 05 2014

CAMPAIGNERS for free street play sessions may have failed in their first battle but they are determined to win the war.

CAMPAIGNERS for free street play sessions may have failed in their first battle but they are determined to win the war.

They want South Gloucestershire Council to drop fees for “Playing Out” road closures so that children across the district can have the health and social benefits.

Bristol City Council already waives charges for the popular sessions but the official South Gloucestershire line is that the fee is necessary to cover costs.

However, the Voice has learned that leading officials and councillors intend to investigate the issue next year.

Already the first Playing Out event planned for the district had to be cancelled.

Families had been looking forward to closing Bromley Heath Avenue in Downend on September 13 and had hoped the council would waive the road closure fee.

But the application to close the road was withdrawn after they were told they would have to cough up the £140.

But a leading councillor has told Downend Voice that papers are being drawn up so the matter can be discussed and a decision made early next year.

Lib Dem Ian Blair, chairman of the children’s and young people committee, said the issue will be put in front of councillors early next year, although he was unable to give a date.

“It’s not a definite no. In principle there is a lot of support but it’s the detail that needs to be ironed out. 

“We will be speaking to Bristol City Council about how it’s working there but I don’t think it’s been 100 per cent successful. We need to find out what these issues are and if there is anything we can do to overcome them.”

The idea behind Playing Out is that children can play in the street for around one and a half hours without risk of coming to any danger.

But campaigners say it is not practical to expect families to cover the road closure fee out of their own pockets.

Playing Out is being supported by mums and dads in South Gloucestershire many of whom have witnessed the similar scheme in Bristol.

It is also being backed by health expert Helene Gibson who says street play could play a leading role in tackling the childhood obesity crisis in the UK as well as helping build community friendships.

Helene, 44, said: “It’s positive it’s being looked into by the council but we just need some clarity as to how far the process has reached and make sure councillors have all the information they need to make an informed decision, which will hopefully be that they agree it’s a great scheme and are willing to fund it.”

Campaigner Jacky Dockerty, 45, said: “Although we feel disappointed our event didn’t happen, we don’t feel it was all in vain. In fact, it’s probably for the greater good because it will become a proper South Gloucestershire-wide initiative rather than a local one. We are still very much committed to Playing Out.”

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson would not be drawn on whether the matter will be discussed by councillors.

“Street closures do take considerable time to prepare and process, each closure involves carrying out a consultation and the administration which goes with it, and as such there is a fee involved to cover these costs.

“We have advised the group that their best way forward would be to apply for grant funding to help cover their costs. We have invited the organisers to meet with our grant funding team, who can talk to them about the range of community funding that’s available from the council and other organisations. We can also work with the group to help them with the application process.

To support and find out more about the Playing Out South Gloucestershire initiative, you can visit their Facebook page.