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Parish council votes to charge parkrun for local park use

By Matthew Campelli    13 Apr 2016
Stoke Gifford will become the first local authority to charge parkrun to use public facilities / Parkrun

Parkrun – the body which organises free 5km runs for the public – has criticised a parish council which is trying to impose a fee for runners using a local park.

Stoke Gifford Parish Council in Bristol has voted to charge parkrun a “small monetary charge” towards the upkeep of the Little Stoke Park, claiming that participants have damaged the path, monopolise the car park on Saturday and Sunday morning and use the toilet facilities.

The council also said the fact that parkrun is sponsored by national companies was justification for extracting fees. According to a council statement it will need to spend £55,000 (US$78,350, €69,248) in taxpayers’ money to resurface the car park and £60,000 (US$85,473, €69,248) to repair the path.

“The parish council cannot and will not stop people from using the parks for exercise and running but when it comes to an organisation with paid directors, fundraisers and sponsors it would be unfair to expect the residents to pay,” said the statement.

Physical activity advocates have expressed dismay, with parkrun describing the vote as “extremely disappointing”.

“Our aim is to break down barriers in participation in, and delivery of, physical activity and this is consistent across 850 parkruns worldwide, which are delivered by volunteers and are free to take part in. Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future,” said a parkrun statement.

A petition against the council’s charge has been signed by almost 20,000 people and the move has drawn responses from high profile critics.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch tweeted that she “completely agreed” with parkrun’s stance, and the position of the council was “contrary to the government’s sport strategy” and “creates a barrier to participation”.

Dame Kelly Holmes added: “Have I missed the whole reason Parkruns exist and are free? Stoke Gifford Parish Council decision is a disgrace.”

Founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004, parkrun provides free weekly 5km running events to two million people around the world and has more than 800,000 members in the UK alone.

Parkrun  Dame Kelly Holmes  Tracey Crouch  Stoke Gifford 
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