Haringey Play Streets offers local residents of Haringey the opportunity to pedestrianise their street for up to 3 hours per week, fortnight or month during the daylight hours by applying to the local authority for a Temporary Play Street Order (Haringey Play Streets, 2014). The aim is to encourage residents to socialise, and children to play together, in their street in order to build stronger social bonds and community spirit in the immediate neighbourhood. The initiative is area-based in nature as an application is made collectively on behalf of an entire residential street. It targets children and adolescents as its primary focus is on allowing children the space to play near their home. Interviews also indicated anecdotal evidence of an increase in social interaction between neighbours on Play Streets more broadly as a result.
The Haringey Play Streets initiative was in a very early stage of development at the time of interview with only two Play Streets active and four more in the pipeline. The first Haringey Play Street (combining Clarendon Road and Avondale Road which have 58 and 108 properties respectively, primarily terraced houses with a small number converted into flats) has been in operation since it was piloted in May 2013 and takes place between 2.30pm and 5.30pm on the last Sunday of every month. The second (at Pemberton Road which has 114 properties, also primarily terraced houses) operates between 2pm and 5pm every third Sunday. Just prior to publication of this report Haringey Play Streets informed the authors that they have successfully launched two more Play Streets which operate on a monthly basis at Clonmel/Alton Roads (Bruce Grove Ward in the east of the borough) and Dickenson Road (Crouch End Ward in the west of the borough) and one which operates weekly at Redston Road (Muswell Hill Ward in the west of the borough), plus three more on the way. Other neighbouring London boroughs (such as Hackney with over fifteen in regular operation) have been offering residents the scheme for longer and are at a more advanced stage. As a community-led initiative it is coordinated and run entirely by volunteers from each specific street. The local authority (Haringey Council) is responsible for promoting the scheme, offering advice, processing applications and providing the necessary temporary traffic signs, cones and high visibility waistcoats to organisers. The concept for Play Streets was originally derived from a national not-for-profit organisation called ‘Playing Out’ established by two parents from Bristol concerned with enabling their children to play safely on the streets where they live. Since their first session in Bristol in June 2009 ‘Playing Out’ has now become a community interest company (CIC) that offers ongoing advice and guidance on the local implementation of the scheme in a variety of localities (such as Haringey) across the UK via their website which hosts comprehensive guides, instructional manuals and promotional videos as well as by telephone, email and via its Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
The founders of ‘Playing Out’ state in their ‘Step-by-Step Manual for Organisers’:
‘Playing in the street increases community cohesion and brings neighbours of all ages together by providing a sense of common space and shared ownership. It can engender a sense of collective responsibility and thereby increase the safety of the neighbourhood’ (Rose and Ferguson, 2012: 19).
Haringey Play Streets can offer neighbours from very socio-economically, ethno-culturally and demographically diverse backgrounds the opportunity to interact and communicate which they might not otherwise have had as part of their busy everyday lives. Haringey’s diversity was highlighted as a positive feature of living and working in the borough by those responsible for setting up Haringey Play Streets, although it was noted that the extent to which interaction and exchange would take place across, for example, socio-economic and/or ethno-cultural lines varied significantly depending on the streets involved as certain parts of the borough (and therefore streets) were more deprived and ethnically diverse than others. In short, the project embodies a pluralist conception of public space and the power of communicative interaction to generate new forms of inter-community awareness and understanding. It promotes interaction as a vehicle for greater cohesion between the diversity of groups who reside in these neighbourhoods. The first Play Streets have been launched in the east of Haringey, building social bonds in the aftermath of the riots in Tottenham in 2011. However, applications to hold a Play Street can be made by all Haringey residents (excluding those on the ‘unsuitable streets’ list – see below) and organisers were aware that Haringey Council leadership are keen for more to be implemented in the more affluent west of the borough, which has been the case more recently.
Main factors influencing success or failure
Practical factors affecting the success or failure of this initiative include the availability of suitable streets (e.g. not on principal, bus or TfL red routes or those without viable diversion routes), a requirement for a majority support from households in the road (no less than 60%) and the willingness of volunteers to organise, promote and steward the Play Street. One of the most significant factors affecting the success of this initiative is likely to be the fact that there is no charge to residents for applying for, or operating, the Play Street, as well as a minimal cost to the local authority for managing the scheme (which is absorbed within existing budgets). In a time of government cutbacks for local public services Play Streets follows a model that appears financially sustainable. Haringey Council highlights the importance of making the initiative as easy as possible for residents to organise and implement while ensuring they are adequately protected (e.g. by recommending organisers purchase public liability insurance). Despite the limited financial implications it was noted by one Haringey officer that the Hackney scheme had received independent funding for a dedicated community leader responsible for the initiative whereas the coordinator in Haringey was doing so in addition to other core duties. Haringey Council had managed to fund two community leaders on a short-term temporary basis for the two pilot Play Streets and were conscious that these initiatives relied on the work of these individuals to get up and running. However, once established Play Streets required no further funding and had not experienced any significant problems having developed a degree of longer term sustainability. Play Streets is also a very visible form of policy outcome given the changes to the local environment which regularly occur as a result. This visibility, combined with the qualitative impact the project has on people’s experience of place, helps to foster a sense of progress and achievement on the part of all those involved.
Haringey Council conducted a review of the pilot scheme and agreed to formally implement it across the borough, determining that the scheme contributes positively to ‘promoting the well-being of children, empowering communities and supporting community cohesion’ based on feedback from organisers and children involved (Haringey Council, 2013). Our interviewee relayed how residents had made friends with those they have lived near for ten years but had never previously spoken to or had observed their children reuniting with others who live on their street but who had lost touch by attending different schools.
The feedback from council officers on the impact of the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive and there was a sense that the initiative had gone some way towards challenging some of the negative perceptions of Haringey. The initiative has also been strongly supported by the Leader of Haringey Council as a positive response to the riots which took place in parts of the borough in August 2011. The council hopes to have as many as 15 active Play Streets in operation by early 2015 and is seeking further short-term funding to support wider promotion and advertising of the scheme and other community leaders to further develop the initiative in other streets.
Image: Gabrielle de Pauw
 Both active Play Streets take place within St. Ann’s ward in the east of Haringey where: 28.5% are classed as White Other, 23.1% White British, 10.0% Black Caribbean and 8.2% Black African (a downward trend in White British and Black Caribbean residents and an increase in those classed as White Other); 47.7% are born in the UK and the Republic of Ireland (declined from 60.4% in 2001) and 14.7% are born in post 2001 EU countries compared to 9.8% of Haringey; 35.3% are qualified Level 4 or above (40.8% in Haringey); 30.3% are economically inactive in 2011 compared to 39.8% in 2001: http://www.haringey.gov.uk/census11_st_ann_s_ward_profile.pdf.