Guidance issued last month makes it easier to close roads for community events.

New rules designed to make it easier to close roads for public events have been described as an “attack" on vehicle use by one drivers’ group.

Last month, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it was changing the rules surrounding road closures in a bid to encourage so-called ‘play streets’, where children could play outside safely and community events could be held. Previously, the DfT said such events had to be advertised in advance, creating a “costly barrier” to the closures.

Now, though, the DfT has issued councils with advice that will enable them to make “special event orders”, allowing roads to be temporarily closed. As a result, closures no longer need to be advertised, and although consent is needed for multiple closures, councils can now use a single application to close roads repeatedly over any 12-month period.

British road closed and diversion signs

At the time, roads minister Baroness Vere said the move would help to improve children’s health, allowing them to play outdoors.

“Play streets offer wonderful opportunities for children to get outdoors and for families and communities to get together,” she said. “A generation ago, it was common to see young people playing out in the street but today it can be a rare sight. That’s why I’m delighted to be making it easier for those who want to create play streets, boosting the health and wellbeing of children, families and communities.”

Play street symbol painted on asphalt

The rules were set to be used by Birmingham City Council for a closure of the A38 Aston Expressway on September 22, but the event was postponed. The council said the event, which would have been the first time the road had been traffic-free since it was built, could not go ahead due to “a number of outstanding issues”, and will now take place in the spring of 2020.

However, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has blasted the new rules, claiming that denying drivers access to roads for “spurious reasons” is “unacceptable”. In a strongly-worded statement, the ABD called road closures for ‘play streets’ and cycling events “frivolous”, and said nobody should have the right to “dictate how, when, where and if anyone else can travel”.

Road Ahead Closed road sign in Wales

The ABD also suggested that drivers could now face road closures caused by “ideologically and politically motivated protest groups”, created with “little or no meaningful consultation”. Furthermore, the ABD suggested the groups who close the roads could “potentially fit the UK definition of terrorism”.

“We have a long tradition in the UK of brief, localised road closures in towns and cities for events such as Carnivals or Remembrance, but extensive, day-long road closures are now being used to attack vehicle use,” said ABD spokesman Paul Biggs. “The now-postponed closure of the arterial A38 (M) Aston Expressway in Birmingham for Car Free Day on September 22 is described as ‘hugely symbolic and ambitious’ by anti-car zealots within Birmingham City Council. We need to remember what the roads are actually for and why it is vital that they aren’t unnecessarily obstructed. Roads are not a replacement for parks, gardens or the ballot box.”

Child playing hopscotch on playground outdoors