COMMENT: Playtime in the street is an idea with potential

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The freedom and simple joy of playing out in the street is something few children of this generation have experienced.

Older people may have gleeful memories of playing in quiet streets before the motor car began its relentless journey to urban dominance.

But in those days, we are told, everybody also left their front doors open without fear of consequence. Those days, as we all know, are long gone.

The Playstation and X-Box generations, meanwhile, grew up in a different environment with video games, mobile phones and tablets to occupy their time.

Meanwhile outside, the traffic grew heavier, the fear of crime became greater, and some parents perhaps grew more protective, not wanting their offspring to wander too far out of sight and into possible stranger danger.

So what happened in Francis Avenue, Southsea, is very interesting. While the road was closed for speed humps to be installed, children discovered what fun it was to play outdoors in the street.

There were ball games, roller skates, chasing games, and enterprising Eve and Robyn Mellor, aged 12 and 10, even set up a lemonade stand to refresh newly-found playmates.

Now their mum is campaigning for Portsmouth City Council to adopt the idea of Play Streets, where through-traffic is controlled at certain times, and motorists wishing to access the street are shepherded in by stewards while children play safely nearby.

It is true there are parks where children can play, but these are not always within easy reach and parents may be unwilling to let their children go there unattended. And in a city like Portsmouth, patches of green space where children can kick a ball about are at a premium.

Play Streets could not work everywhere, but it is an idea with potential, and we hope the city council gives it some serious thought.