They are the back streets where generations of sporting greats first honed their football skills.
But an attempt in the North East to return to the days when children could kick a ball around outside have fallen foul of health and safety zealots.
The Play Streets scheme was launched on Saturday in Newcastle upon Tyne in a bid to improve children’s health and tackle obesity.
The idea is to allow residents to close streets for up to three hours so children can play games without worrying about traffic – perhaps in the hope of following football idols from the region such as Alan Shearer, Bobby Charlton and Jackie Milburn.
An attempt in the North East to return to the days when children could kick a ball around outside have fallen foul of health and safety zealots
But horrified parents say city council bureaucrats have scuppered the scheme by imposing impossible conditions. Anyone wanting to hold a play session has to submit a six-page application form at least eight weeks in advance. All residents must be approached for their written agreement and sessions must be supervised by adults wearing high-visibility jackets.
Marshals must be stationed at every entry point, with road signs and cones provided by the council put up at specified locations.
Organisers must also carry out a risk assessment and are advised to obtain public liability insurance of at least £5million. And every road closure must be advertised in the local press and on the street.
The Play Streets scheme was launched on Saturday in Newcastle upon Tyne in a bid to improve children’s health and tackle obesity
The Play Streets scheme is intended for quiet residential areas rather than routes with public transport. It will run until October before being reviewed.
On Newcastle’s Grange Estate, where former England captain Shearer learnt to kick a ball, locals were far from impressed.
Retired builder Alan Wilson, 68, said: ‘It’s a good idea but typical that they have created such a palaver. They’re just kids playing in the street, why does everyone in the neighbourhood have to be consulted? They’ve tied it up in red tape. Kids now are brilliant at football but they play it indoors in front of the telly. It’s only their thumbs getting any exercise.’
The idea is to allow residents to close streets for up to three hours so children can play games without worrying about traffic
Mother-of-one Sarah Manning, 21, said: ‘They’ve come up with a good idea and then they mess it up by making life hard for the people who want to do it.’
Defending the scheme, Arlene Ainsley, council cabinet member for transport, said: ‘Being able to play out in your street with your friends is a really important part of childhood but often mums and dads are understandably concerned about road safety. It’s not just about the children – adults can join in too.’
And resident Marigana Masic, 61, said: ‘I’m all in favour of kids playing outside but I’d rather they didn’t play in the streets. Our house and car got damaged so often I used to take the ball off them. Let them play on proper sports fields with high fences.’