Simplified Edinburgh street play scheme set for relaunch

A PROJECT designed to help parents close streets for their children to play outside is to be relaunched after residents successfully lobbied for the process to be simplified.

The Edinburgh Playing Out Streets scheme is to be relaunched next month. Picture: Toby Williams
The Edinburgh Playing Out Streets scheme is to be relaunched next month. Picture: Toby Williams

The Edinburgh Playing Out Streets pilot was first trialled last year only to be branded a “mess” after council chiefs were forced to admit it had not resulted in a single closure.

Now parents are being called to give the scheme another go after council officials met up with residents to formulate a simpler application process.

Lucy Richardson, of community group Edinburgh Playing Out, said the talks had proved “extremely helpful” and that nearly all of the group’s recommendations had been taken.

These include a simpler application form, more information online and a new system for approval from neighbours involving letter distribution rather than gathering signatures.

She said: “The key officers and councillors have been fantastic. They have just made it an awful lot clearer.

“Now when you go to the link on the website it gives you quite a lot of background information about what it’s all about and what you need to do.

“Last time it didn’t really have an application form and they didn’t have the staff on the ground to process the applications so the whole thing fell very flat. This time they have made it much easier to consult the neighbours.”

Last year’s pilot came after Edinburgh Playing Out successfully lobbied the council to cut the expense surrounding local street closures, amid claims it could cost up to £1500.

It is now free-of-charge to close a road for play, with the revised pilot offering residents the chance to close streets up to five times.

Mrs Richardson, 64, said the scheme was a “healthy and fun” way to get neighbours together, adding: “Once children are playing on the street, people of all ages come out and chat to their neighbours and join in the freedom of a traffic-free street.”

An update on the scheme will go before councillors next week before the revised scheme gets under way on April 1. It will run until August 31, after which a follow-up report will be prepared.

It comes after some parents said they actively avoided last year’s pilot, with Drumbrae dad-of-two Thomas Lynch previously saying he “could tell it was a process that wasn’t going to be easy”.

However, council chiefs now believe earlier problems have been ironed out, with transport and environment leader Lesley Hinds saying she hoped to see lots of applications.

She added: “This Playing Out project is an excellent opportunity for local residents to close their streets for free so that kids can enjoy playing safely in the open air with their friends.

“Play events are also a great way for neighbours to mix and socialise, helping build stronger communities as well as boosting children’s health and wellbeing.”