What general election? We’ve just carried out a consultation on our play street…
I may have mentioned before that the first time we consulted our neighbours about having a play street, it didn’t go too well. This was back in 2013, and after three successful annual street party-type events with no complaints, we didn’t anticipate any objections. We even distributed a flyer with a tear-off slip at the bottom that had two boxes to tick – one for ‘yes I support the play street idea’ and one for ‘I’d like to help’.
One slip came back with a hand-drawn box, ticked, with ‘NO’ written next to it. That was from a lady who was convinced that play streets meant children would stop visiting the park and the council would therefore build houses on it. She rallied a handful of her neighbours against us, but she was small fry compared to the duo of mums who knocked on every door on the street and asked people to sign a counter petition. They argued that anyone who liked to see children playing in the street must have dubious motives. They were really quite insistent, and a lot of people signed it even though they’d already signed ours, just to make them to go away. In the end it had to be resolved with a council-run ballot – finally proving that most residents wanted the play street.
By the end of May our 12-month play street order will have expired, so it was time to consult again. The last occasion was high in our minds, and those of us willing to actually knock on doors somehow dwindled to three. This meant 50 doors each. Fortunately we now have a mailing list that covers a third of the street, and we got about 35 replies that way, including some nice messages of support. But the rest of the doors still had to be knocked. ‘They’ve all had flyers. They know how to get in touch. Can’t we just say they’ve been consulted and leave it at that?’ we whinged to the council, but they weren’t having it. So off we went to knock on doors.
I tried to choose a time when most people would be out, but ended up getting that completely wrong, and nearly every door I knocked on was opened. I came across three objectors, including the original lady of the handwritten tick box who has since thought of more reasons that children shouldn’t play on the street. However, the fact is that we got to know each other quite well through the original disagreement, we respect each other and have been saying hello to each other in the street for the last 18 months, so all I had to do was tick ‘no’ on my form and move on. I also chatted to an Asian pensioner who has lived on the street for 48 years; a young Asian couple expecting their first child in a week’s time; and a handful of Eastern Europeans with varying degrees of English, from a Bulgarian man who needed his daughter to translate to a Romanian woman who was more articulate in English than I am. I love our street. It would surely only be possible in London.
So, those results: 7 against (one was a man who told me that we never get more than three children playing out, and when I tried to give him the facts, he just talked over me) and a comfortable 84 in favour. In fact I think 7 even goes into 84, or it used to when I was at school.*
The surprising part about the list of objectors is who’s missing from it. It doesn’t include the duo who organised the counter petition. One of them totally surprised us by saying ‘yes’ (‘because the kids love it, even if the adults hate it’) and the other one’s husband has said yes on behalf of the household and now volunteers as a steward.
So, it seems the future of our play street is secure, and the council says we won’t have to consult for another three years. And we have more proof, if any were needed, that children playing together outside their own homes is the way to world peace.** This was followed by the warmest, sunniest play street of the year on Sunday, when no one bothered bringing their coats out with them, not even the adults. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t been so worn out by the consultation process, but I’d still say it was probably the best play street we’ve had. I know, I say that every time. But it’s true.
We had a professional photographer on the street this month. For more of Katrina’s talent see www.katrinacampbell.co.uk
* 12 times. I checked. Those were my worst two times tables.
** If someone could just tell Mr Farage…