Comment: Lower fees are real victory for people power

Ross Gardens residents Vincent and Bernard Hinchcliff-Drumm, and Anjalie Khan. Picture: Toby Williams

Ross Gardens residents Vincent and Bernard Hinchcliff-Drumm, and Anjalie Khan. Picture: Toby Williams

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WE all know you don’t get many things for free these days. But the right of children to play safely outside should never come with a price tag.

The city council initiative to allow local communities to close off residential roads temporarily to allow youngsters to run around in a traffic-free environment quickly gathered support.

A successful trial was held and all was looking good for the next stage in the war against the Xbox, getting youngsters (and their parents) outside, exercising and socialising with their neighbours.

That is until one group of residents tried to repeat the exercise.

Only then did it emerge that closing the street would cost a whopping £1500 a go, involve advertising restrictions and require a council team to be sent to install barriers. In short, quite an expensive kickabout.

It was also an example of how a simple idea with widespread support and seemingly no drawbacks could be scuppered by council red tape and regulations.

All credit today then to the campaign group Edinburgh Playing Out which has been keeping up the fight against the charge.

We now have assurances from the city council that they will find a way to reduce fees to a minimum, hopefully at a nominal level which will allow communities to regularly come together for events.

Such schemes have been operating successfully elsewhere in the UK already and there is no reason why Edinburgh cannot do the same.

Closures will of course need to be carefully monitored and must not lead to traffic disruption on surrounding streets or inconvenience residents.

But this is a step in the right direction.

Congratulations to all those involved in what has been a real victory for people power.

Now all we need is the weather to play its part.