STREETS could be closed and turned into temporary children's play areas under a new council proposal. The play street policy is expected to get approval from the new Labour council's cabinet on Monday. But Councillor Kathy Bee, the cabinet member for transport and environment, said it would be up to residents to make the running if they wanted to take advantage of the idea. The cabinet proposal will enable up to ten play street schemes to be created initially and the council is proposing to take £23,000 from financial reserves to pay for the administration of any schemes and for signs and road barriers. The idea would be that streets involved could be closed to through traffic for a period of around three hours at the weekends or after school, allowing children free access for a variety of games. Safety would be overseen by stewards provided by residents, who would also supply someone to shepherd residents' cars in and out of the road at a speed of no more than five miles per hour to ensure safety. The scheme will be reviewed in March next year and Cllr Bee said decisions about future financing would taken then, based on an assessment of how the pilot had worked and demand. Cllr Bee said she believed play streets could have considerable benefits in building community spirit. She said a lot of people had got used to the idea of streets being closed for one-off events and play streets could be seen as an extension of the idea. Cllr Bee added: "It is very different from children going out to play in a park, which younger ones cannot do without being supervised by their parents. "In the street they can play on their scooters or bikes and I think children like the excitement of being able to play with others without being closely supervised. "If you put a group of children together the number of games they can play is almost limitless." She claimed play streets would also bring children from different schools together and build friendships between both the youngsters and their parents. Cllr Bee added there was bound to be opposition from some residents to the idea, but the council would act as mediator, to overcome any problems caused by play street requests. She said: "We will have to weigh up whether a small number of people who say no have the right to stop something the majority of people want to do." Cllr Vidhi Mohan, the shadow cabinet member for transport and environment, said there was no objection to children having places to play and he did not want to oppose the idea outright. But he said there needed to be close checks on how long streets were closed and how the scheme would be financed in the longer term.
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