Welsh councils urged to back initiative allowing children to play outdoors and help towards net-zero

  • Nick Smith reports on the latest initiative

More Welsh councils are being encouraged to back an initiative aimed at giving children a chance to play outdoors and help towards net-zero targets.

Play Streets, or Playing Out sessions, are neighbour-led temporary road closures, popular across the UK, creating a safe space for children to play freely together on their doorstep. 

Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Vale Play team has been working with Play Wales and residents to implement street closures for outdoor play at two locations in Barry. 

As part of a pilot scheme, two streets are closed to through traffic for two hours on one Sunday a month, so children can cycle, scoot, socialise and play.

"It really is a community building thing," said local resident Aoife Blight, who works for Sustrans Cymru, a charity which aims to make it easier for everyone to walk, wheel and cycle.

While this pilot scheme in Barry is coming to an end, residents hope to keep it going. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

"We have grandparents coming their grandkids, we have neighbours with tiny babies who can't play but they come out because they really just want to connect.

"Beforehand you'd walk down the street and you might see a neighbour and you'd do a quick hurries nod, but now you see a neighbour and you'll say 'how's it going?' - we didn't have that community before and now we do."

One of the children said: "All the children we can come and play and relax, but also sometimes people like to bring their friends from different streets which is really good for connecting the whole town."

It is hoped Play Streets will help improve on air quality by reducing carbon emissions during the road closure period, contributing to the council’s Project Zero initiative to become carbon neutral by 2030.  

It comes as the Future Generations Commissioner has launched calls for all councils in Wales to be net zero.

Derek Walker told local authorities they have the power to create significant collective change, if they enable and remove barriers from some of the passionate people and groups making a difference across Wales. 

Speaking at an event with Nigel Topping, UNFCCC Global Race to Zero Ambassador and member of the Climate Change Committee, Mr Walker urged all local authorities to sign up to the UN-backed Race to Zero initiative which aims to halve harmful global emissions by 2030 and to build a better future which is healthier, greener and fairer.   

Net zero will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed - meaning climate change is no longer caused by human activity. 

Play Streets involves closing off roads for activities in built-up areas. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Around half of Wales is on a path to join Race to Zero including Cardiff Capital Region, the three Welsh national parks and some larger local authorities.  

Out of 22 local authorities in Wales, 19 have declared a climate emergency, with 14 of these having a climate action plan. 

 The commissioner brought together local authorities to explore how Race to Zero can help Wales achieve the 'globally responsible Wales' goal at the heart of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and be a practical framework to support positive change in every part of Wales. 

Mr Walker said public bodies were in a unique position to shape and influence the future of Wales by working with local communities and businesses and attracting investment tailored to local needs. 

 He said: “Reaching net zero, which is crucial for a liveable planet for our children and grandchildren, is going to require a team effort.

“How we move around our local area, how we feed ourselves and our families or heat our homes, all have a significant impact in the kind of Wales and world we’ll have in the future, and everyone must be ready to collaborate, and involving people in Race to Zero is key to finding solutions that work. 

“I consistently hear from communities that want to be empowered to act on the things that matter most to them – and climate change is up there at the top of that list, and they have the projects and ideas that can support the increase in scale and pace that we need across Wales."

He added: “Public bodies including local councils are stretched, so my message to them is to flex their muscles and encourage climate-friendly action to happen in our communities - whether that be providing an area of land for nature recovery or food growing, enabling community energy schemes, supporting safe, accessible active travel or engaging with local business networks to support a greener, local economy.” 

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