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'It's created a community we didn't have before': Meet the Barkingside woman who helped bring play streets to Redbridge

PUBLISHED: 17:00 26 September 2019

Kids can get out and about on the streets in Redbridge without worrying about cars. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

Kids can get out and about on the streets in Redbridge without worrying about cars. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

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Some of Nargis Jahan-Uddin's neighbours are now her best friends, thanks to Redbridge Council's adoption of play streets.

Nargis Jahan-Uddin, centre, went about asking Redbridge Council to bring play streets to the borough. Picture: Nargis Jahan-UddinNargis Jahan-Uddin, centre, went about asking Redbridge Council to bring play streets to the borough. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

Play streets are resident-led - families close off their roads to through traffic for a few hours weekly or monthly to take ownership of their streets, to play hopscotch or football or to host a street party where neighbours can come together and meet their community.

Nine streets across the borough closed to cars to mark Car Free Day on Sunday, September 22, including Hastings Avenue in Barkingside, where Nargis lives.

But, like Nargis, some Redbridge residents have been hosting regular play streets since September last year and the results have been transformative for some neighbourhoods.

Hastings Avenue in Barkingside holds regular play streets every month, including on Car Free Day 2019 on September 22. Picture: Nargis Jahan-UddinHastings Avenue in Barkingside holds regular play streets every month, including on Car Free Day 2019 on September 22. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

"We were part of the pilot," Nargis said. "I met more neighbours on that day than I had in the three years that I have lived here. Some of them are now my best friends. It's created a community that we didn't have before.

"It's a great way to reclaim the streets and engage the community. One woman said it had brought life to the neighbourhood."

Nargis doesn't give herself all the credit for introducing play streets to Redbridge but she certainly helped bring them about.

Play streets in Hastings Avenue, Barkingside, started last September. Picture: Nargis Jahan-UddinPlay streets in Hastings Avenue, Barkingside, started last September. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

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"I came across an article about playing out in Bristol where they close off the roads and get the whole street out to play and I thought it was a lovely idea," she said.

"Kids don't really play out anymore - what a great way this would be to encourage our kids and neighbours to come out, so I asked for Redbridge Council to look at adopting the policy.

Nine streets in Redbridge went car free for Car Free Day 2019. Picture: Nargis Jahan-UddinNine streets in Redbridge went car free for Car Free Day 2019. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

"Now our permission is indefinite - we are allowed to close the street every third Sunday."

"It's been such a positive experience for everyone," she said. "It's not just for children, it's for everyone."

"We don't get any funding for any of this. All the equipment, food and drink are provided by neighbours.

Play streets are not just for children - they are for everyone. Picture: Nargis Jahan-UddinPlay streets are not just for children - they are for everyone. Picture: Nargis Jahan-Uddin

"For example, one neighbour had a bouncy castle which she brought out for the kids. It's the community pooling together.

"Hopefully we can have lots of play streets across the borough."

To find out more about play streets, visit www.redbridge.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-the-arts/play-streets/.

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