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Martha Bremser tells the story of how the residents of her normally traffic-blighted street, which runs between Bounds Green Road and the North Circular, enjoyed their first, highly successful, Play Street event.

warwick road play street people in street

After two previous failed applications to Enfield Council, Warwick Road was finally granted permission to hold a monthly Play Street, and local residents enjoyed their first session on Sunday 14th April.

warwick road play street balloonIt has been a long battle for Warwick Road. Once a relatively quiet residential street, where local children could play cricket or practise skateboarding in the middle of the road, it was transformed in 2012, when TfL’s changes to the A406 junction made it the rat-run of choice for drivers aiming to cut the corner on the North Circular. Warwick Road now sees up to 5,000 vehicles per day.

Our first play street application was made in 2017, but sadly, even after appeal, Warwick's supposed status as a "priority traffic route" in the borough’s "strategic road network" was cited as a reason for denying the play street.

Fortunately, however, perseverance has paid off – and in March 2019 Enfield Council granted permission for the section between Wakefield and Lancaster Roads to be closed to traffic for three hours on a Sunday. This obviously signals a huge – and extremely welcome – policy shift on the part of LBE, who by late 2018 were expressing their keenness to help the local community find a way to make a play street workable. And surely this is only in keeping with the philosophy of a council that promotes cycle lanes, active travel and public health?

warwick road over 60s hopscotchFrom the start, we wanted this to be a whole-area event, not just something for Warwick Road. The entire neighbourhood has suffered from the drastic increase in traffic, and the appeal of having an occasional break from the dominance of dangerous, noisy motor vehicles in their area was obvious. Local backing for the idea was high, with pre-application support on neighbouring roads at between 70 and 85 per cent, and families from the whole neighbourhood were encouraged to attend.

Another key aim was to involve the entire community, not just children – and one of the most gratifying results of the first play street was the participation of all ages, from local teenagers reviving activities (such as skateboarding) from bygone, safer days on the street, to multi-generation families playing cricket, to a group of over-60s getting involved in a highly competitive hopscotch match.

Many of Warwick Road’s elderly people, who rarely venture outside nowadays because of the hostile traffic environment, were to be seen coming out into their front gardens to observe the activities and to have a chat with passers-by. Home-made cupcakes proved popular with the children, but a real highlight was when a local resident, inspired by the scenes outside her front window, suddenly appeared with a bowl of fresh popcorn and a batch of delicious, newly cooked onion bhajis (which disappeared within minutes).

warwick road intergenerational cricketIt was hard to clear the road at three o'clock – children were reluctant to give up their newly acquired freedom, while adults, delighted by the chance to chat with neighbours they rarely see (or in many cases, had never met!), had to be moved onto the pavement to continue their conversations while, with real sadness, we removed the barriers and watched the cars and vans reclaim our street.

Afterwards, however, all agreed that this was a hugely significant event that celebrated a vibrant, cohesive community that will not be destroyed by traffic.

Warwick Road Play Streets/Neighbourhood Get-togethers will be held on the second Sunday of each calendar month, between 12.00 and 3.00.

warwick road play street child playing middle of road

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