PARENTS who faced extortionate charges for temporary road closures to create safe play areas for their youngsters have won a victory after council chiefs promised to slash the fees.
Residents will still have to seek permission to block off their streets, but they are now expected to be allowed to put up barriers and signs themselves rather than being charged for council staff to do the job.
Earlier this year, the Evening News told how a group of parents in Parkgrove Terrace, Clermiston, were told they would have to pay £1500 to close the street for an afternoon – £900 for the council to put up barriers and £600 to advertise the closure.
Residents’ group Edinburgh Playing Out – which wants to see streets closed on a more regular basis for localised Playing Out events – launched a campaign for fees to be waived.
And Green councillor Steve Burgess persuaded fellow councillors to order a review.
Now council leader Andrew Burns has promised to change council policy and cut the red tape and expense surrounding local street closures.
A report to the council’s corporate policy and strategy committee next week says: “There is no legal necessity for the council to employ the staff that will set up barriers, or marshal vehicles on Playing Out streets.
“Parties other than the council can assist in overcoming obstacles – for example, parents organising Playing Out events on approved roads can take on responsibilities such as consultation, posting notices and erecting approved signage to avoid costs to the council, and ensure community ownership of the exercise.”
Councillor Burns said he wanted costs reduced to an absolute minimum.
He said: “We want to do everything we can to sweep away some of the bureaucracy.
“We have processes we need to go through, but where it is a local street closure we shouldn’t be making it difficult we should be making it easy.”
Louise Drumm of Edinburgh Playing Out welcomed the council’s change of heart.
She said: “We’re delighted they are trying to cut down the cost. We see this as something that should be accessible to every community in Edinburgh.
“If the council can cut down the cost, we can just get on with doing it ourselves.
“It’s quite a simple thing to do, closing off a street for a few hours.”
Green Holyrood candidate Alison Johnstone also welcomed the move.
She said: “It’s testament to the efforts of the parents who have campaigned effectively about the cost and sheer bureaucracy involved.”
Some streets – including Parkgrove Terrace; Ross Gardens, Newington; and Abbotsford Crescent, Morningside – will be closed this Sunday afternoon as part of the Playing Out initiative.