We Can Do It awards 2019: Best Street - Francis Avenue, Southsea

IN years gone by, when the streets of Portsmouth weren’t filled with cars and parking zones were a distant fantasy, children could often be found playing in the middle of the road.

By David George
Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 1:23 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 5:02 pm
Lauren Mellor accepts the award for best street (Francis Avenue). Picture: Duncan Shepherd
Lauren Mellor accepts the award for best street (Francis Avenue). Picture: Duncan Shepherd

But as congestion built up, more and more youngsters spent their free time indoors, to the point where the only street football they played was on an Xbox.

Now, one street in Portsmouth has changed that by transforming itself into a play street – and winning The News’ We Can Do It award for Best Street in the process.

Residents of Francis Avenue in Southsea worked with Portsmouth City Council to close the road to traffic for a day, allowing youngsters to go out into the street and enjoy themselves in the great outdoors.

Lillie Rogers, 8, and Blaze Rogers, 6, playing in Francis Avenue. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (210719-56)

It was this determination to do something different that helped Francis Avenue win the award.

Receiving the award on behalf of the street was resident Laura Mellor, who has lived there for around 13 years.

She said: ‘The children absolutely loved the play street – if you asked them they would want it to happen every week.

‘It was great to see how well they grasped the idea, they really took ownership of it.’

With Francis Avenue being a fairly long road, the day also gave youngsters the chance to make new friends up and down the street.

Lasting friendships were made and games were played throughout the day.

‘At the end of the day, it's their street too,’ said Lauren.

‘It’s great to see the kids having fun and it doesn’t cost residents a penny – we were so grateful to the city council for helping us to arrange the day.’

Laura says it was a surprise to win the award, but wants to use it as an opportunity to encourage other streets to do the same thing.

She said: ‘It’s brilliant to win the award for Best Street, because we really weren’t expecting it.

‘There are so many streets in Portsmouth that do great things every year.

‘My message to other people is if they’re interested in becoming a play street, get in touch with the council – you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to set up.’