In the latest Talk of the Town column Bromley Town councillor Nicky Dykes poses the question of whether you would welcome the chance to close your road to encourage outdoor play and parties.

This may seem like an odd question. When I was growing up playing outside our houses was just something my friends and I did whilst our parents were able to gossip and catch up on the latest local news. Perhaps I am being nostalgic but it is not something that you see as often these days. There are of course many reasons for this and in Bromley we are very lucky to have many beautiful parks and green spaces for children to play and run around in. But what about enjoying outdoor activities whilst getting to know and chat with your neighbours?

There is a growing grassroots initiative to encourage authorities to allow road closures to enable communities to come together and enjoy their streets without cars on the road. The initiative being led by organisations such as London Play aims to help support residents to close their road temporarily for a few hours once a month or once a week so that children can play in the road, parents can socialise and neighbours can get to know each other. This is very similar to the street parties some residents have organised in the past to celebrate events such as royal weddings and the Big Lunch. Events which the Council has historically waived the road closure fee for.

There are of course health and social benefits to allowing children to play, helping them to keep physically active, make new friends as well as get to know their street and neighbourhood better. It also gives parents and adults a chance to get to chat over a cup of tea or coffee (or even something stronger!) whilst still keeping a watchful eye on the children. This has the potential to build a stronger sense of a community at a time when we know people are very busy juggling work, family and other such commitments.

It is an initiative that I have been very interested in. To understand the appetite for such an initiative in Bromley Town we coordinated with Bromley Living Streets to approach a number of residents on a selection of roads to offer support in organising such an event if residents on their road were in agreement. There was a mixed response and the uptake and interest was not as high as I was expecting and some were very skeptical about the idea. To me it highlighted the fact that closing streets for play or other such events will only succeed if it appeals to the majority of parents and residents.

The Council's formal role is to decide whether a road can be temporarily closed and to publish the formal notices so that the road can be used in this way. The Council and Councillors will provide support, advice and guidance to residents wanting to close their street in this way. This is an important role as it can be quite daunting to undertake organising events like this! The Council does have experience in these events, and I was pleased to support a recent street party in Shortlands which tied in well with the Council’s various ‘Friends’ programmes which bring residents together to make improvements to their localities. However, fundamentally it is a community, resident led exercise and should be something that a road has consensus on doing.

So if organising a street party, playing out session for children or just a friendly street get together appeals to you why not speak to your neighbours and see what they think. This will get the ball rolling and help make the task less daunting before seeking advice about logistics from the Council or your local Councillors.

If my children are anything to go by children are naturally drawn to playing outside. They love the freedom of playing outdoors to let their imaginations run wild! It is why I personally think that there is something in this idea of allowing residential road closures for a few hours – whether once a month or more or less frequently. It all depends on the appetite of residents. What do you think?