Portsmouth road to close to become city's first 'Play Street'

Children playing in Francis Avenue when it was closed for traffic calming measures earlier this year. L-R Hattie Preston-Diggles, Coco Preston-Diggles and Robyn Mellor. Picture from Laura Mellor
Children playing in Francis Avenue when it was closed for traffic calming measures earlier this year. L-R Hattie Preston-Diggles, Coco Preston-Diggles and Robyn Mellor. Picture from Laura Mellor
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CHILDREN and families in one Southsea street will have the chance to play outside their homes and 'strengthen' community spirit with the trial of a street closure.

It is planned that Francis Avenue will close on the afternoon of July 21 for three hours to allow children to take part in street games and activities.

Residents who live in the section between Delamere Road and Devonshire Square will still be able to drive in and out, and will be escorted through by one of the event's voluntary wardens while another makes sure the road is cleared.

Known in other parts of the country as Play Streets, the scheme is set to be trialled after Francis Avenue resident, Laura Mellor, lobbied the council.

Mum-of-two Laura believed it was an important way to bring the community together. The 42-year-old said: 'It's really valuable for everybody in the community to have something they can all do together. 

'Children are criticised often and as a parent you do feel guilty because they spend a lot of time on their phones or on their Xbox's. They need to have an alternative. Especially in somewhere like Portsmouth where there are a lot of hazards.' 

Her daughters Eve, 13, and Robyn, 11, are looking forward to roller-skating with their friends as well as drawing with chalk on the road for games of hopscotch.

Ward councillors Steve Pitt and Suzy Horton visited residents with Laura to gather feedback that will be considered before a final decision is made.

Councillor Steve Pitt said: 'The response was overwhelmingly positive and people were quite excited.

'It's not just about how this will benefit the children and families who take part but it could have a knock-on effect for communities. We might see neighbours talking to each other more.'

Parents of all children will have to attend as well and all wardens will be volunteers from around the area.

There is scope for other roads in Portsmouth to be considered for Play Street events as well as a regular slot in Francis Avenue.

If approved the Play Street will take place from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday, July 21.