Councils’ Guide to street parties
A Guide to help residents to organise street parties to meet their neighbours
This Guide applies to simple street parties organised by residents in a single residential street without external publicity. Larger public events in more streets require other arrangements.
Why have a street party?
Street parties are a good way for residents to meet their neighbours. This is the rock on which communities are built. The events can be held anytime, not only for national celebration days. Most people attend, mixing all ages and backgrounds, and the events are usually self organised and funded.
Street parties build communities by:
- supporting social cohesion between different backgrounds and ages
- reducing fear of neighbours
- reducing fear of crime and may reduce crime through watchful neighbours
- giving children a chance to meet and play together in their street for a day
With busy, independent lives people have fewer chances to meet. It feels good to know the people around you, rather than being strangers. Council tenant groups find street parties a good way to meet.
There is something special about having an event right outside your house. The street is a shared public space, open to all and normally the cars get in the way. With the road closed to traffic, people can mingle easily.
The role of Councils
The council services shown below can play a small but important role in making the task of organising the event easy for residents. This is important as in many urban communities confidence is low and small barriers can put organisers off, particularly for their first event.
This guidance suggests ways of simplifying procedures and providing limited support for street parties to be organised by residents. Our Guide for Residents helps them to keep their own arrangements simple, inclusive and safe.
Councillors can support street parties by encouraging the various services above to make things simple for residents. Also, not having any charges would encourage residents, especially from poorer areas and for their first event.
The council traffic management team responsible for road closures have a key role to play. Though building communities is not their task, their procedures are critical in supporting residents make the necessary arrangements. As a key contact for residents, they often deal with the needs of or pass onto the other relevant council services.
Best practice in the procedure would include:
- Simple and accessible road closure application form e.g. on your council website.
- Standardised Traffic Regulation Order procedure, limiting work by legal services.
- Reduce officer time by requiring residents to consult neighbours, as well as the fire and ambulance services, and to display the order.
- No charges for the road closure service. The income from charges are very modest for the council, but any charge for residents in a first time street party is a deterrent to confidence, especially in poorer areas.
- Require residents to provide, erect and supervise road signs and barriers. Suggest where they may borrow signs (eg from council contractors), or hire or buy them.
- Providing information about and signposting to other relevant council services.
Best practice examples
Bristol City Council uses the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 for about 85 street parties a year. Their simple application form requires only 6 weeks notice and they do not charge residents as each application only takes a total of about 2.5 hours of officer time. Their application form can be seen on their website here. They do not require insurance as they use a conditions clause in the application form.
Many Councils that use the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (Sec. 16A Special Events) do not charge for making the order or process; Lincolnshire CC, Hounslow and Camden boroughs in London. Their procedures are simple and also do not require insurance.
We believe that most small street parties should not ‘require’ public liability insurance, although the council may ‘recommend’ it. See our detailed advice which explains this. We recommend the use of conditions and disclaimer / indemnity clauses on the application form. The risks at a small street party are very low and the cost of insurance is a block for residents, though they may choose to purchase it themselves. Larger public events would need insurance.
In 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee about 2 million people took part in street parties. Some of them had insurance cover, but there were NO CLAIMS AT ALL made in the whole country, according to the insurance companies at the time.
Most small street parties do not require any type of license. First time street parties, especially in poorer areas, tend to be nervously arranged and the need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) and a fee would be an obstacle.
Sale of alcohol, food or anything, does not usually happen as they are usually provided free by residents on a bring-to-share basis.
There is sometimes some form of ‘performance’ by an amateur resident or by children. But this is normally ‘incidental’ to the event and there is normally no money involved and the public outside the street is not invited as there is no external publicity. There are no tickets and the ‘performance’ is not the main focus or the reason for the event and music is background for the day.
However, should the event include the sale of alcohol, food or tickets, or include a publicised programme of performance then appropriate licences/notices would be required.
If these issues are explained in conditions in the street party application then the residents can decide how to proceed.
Noise is potentially a problematic issue at even small street parties. Usually, this does not become a problem as residents manage to negotiate amongst themselves. We recommend limiting the time and volume and suggest ideally acoustic live music as tastes of music style, volume and lateness vary widely.
Best practice example
Bristol City Council Pollution Control team provide a guidance note on noise that is sent out as part of the Road Closure Application.
It is rare for the cleaning of the road after a street party to be a problem as it is on residents’ own door step, though sometimes there can be a short delay. However, awareness can be enhanced by including it as a condition in the road closure application. One particular issue we advise residents against is the use of household paints.
Housing officers and associations often have a role in promoting neighbourliness. Events in courtyards and greens, as well as street parties, can be very useful for people to meet and talk about local issues. The events may reduce isolation and fear and improve community safety. But achieving a high turn out over 50% is not easy and we can help you improve on this.
Councils with an Events Team can work with residents to find their way through other council services. A key role they can play is to adapt and minimise all procedures appropriate to the complexity of the event.