Many of you will be aware of on-going discussions with Stoke Gifford Parish Council regarding the future of Little Stoke parkrun. At their next full meeting on 9 February the Parish Council will decide whether or not to withdraw permission for our 5k Saturday event at Little Stoke Park.
We are writing now to bring you up to date on developments and ask for your support as we try to persuade the Parish Council to continue their support for Little Stoke parkrun.
Please note that at the moment it’s only the Saturday 5k parkrun that is under threat. However this decision could have implications for the junior event in the future.
The current position
In September 2015 the Little Stoke parkrun core team was informed that the Parish Council’s Finance and General Purposes Committee had recommended that parkrunners should pay £1 per adult per run, to be collected by us and paid to the Parish Council as a ‘maintenance charge’, starting from 7 November. This decision was taken without any prior discussion with parkrun.
In subsequent discussions the Parish Council amended this to argue that parkrun should make a financial contribution to the costs of maintaining the park and asked parkrun to apply for community grant funding for this purpose. They also raised concerns about aspects of parkrun (including insurance and child safeguarding), and operational issues (car parking, relations with other park users).
For parkrun, we explained that it is a founding principle that parkruns should be free to participants. We are not in a position to apply for a community grant or similar funding, primarily because this would create a precedent that would undermine the fundamental principle of parkrun.
We offered to support the Parish Council in any initiatives they took to secure funding for park maintenance and to work with them to address any operational issues that arise from the presence of parkrun at Little Stoke. We also reassured them that parkrun events are insured through UK Athletics and have a rigorous child safeguarding policy in place.
We have continued to make these points at Council meetings and in correspondence but, while the Parish Council have acknowledged them, they are still essentially asking for a contribution to park maintenance.
A full Parish Council meeting on 13 October voted to defer a decision on the future of Little Stoke parkrun “for 6 months in order to find solutions to moving forward discussions in relation to this matter”. We subsequently received several emails from the Council insisting that we should be applying for community grant funding, but we were not able to secure a meeting with Council representatives until 8 January. As a result there was little progress to report at the latest Parish Council meeting on 12 January. At that meeting we were told that a decision on whether or not to withdraw permission for Little Stoke parkrun would be taken at the next full Council meeting on 9 February.
We remain hopeful that the Parish Council will accept our argument that Little Stoke parkrun imposes little cost and brings substantial benefits to the community, and is deserving of their continued support.
What can you do?
If you are a Little Stoke parkrunner, and particularly if you live in the BS32 and BS34 postcode areas, please:
- sign our online petition
- share the posts from the Little Stoke parkrun and Little Stoke junior parkrun on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness of this issue
- email the editors of the Bradley Stoke Journal (email@example.com), Stoke Gifford Matters (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Bristol Post (email@example.com) setting out the reasons why Little Stoke parkrun is so important to you as a local parkrunner.
If you live in the Stoke Gifford Parish, your voice is especially important and we would encourage you to:
- email the Chair of Stoke Gifford Parish Council and the Parish Clerk explaining why Little Stoke parkrun is a vital part of the local community (firstname.lastname@example.org and cc email@example.com)
The key points that we need to convey are:
- All 750 parkruns in the world are free to participants and, without local revenue, parkrun never pays fees for the use of parks.
- As parkruns are free events for the local community, delivered by local volunteers, we believe they should not be compared to other events that charge fees to participants and/or receive a service from the landowner.
- parkrun is the UK’s most successful and fastest growing provider of free physical activity and its contribution to public health, the development of volunteer activity and community building, has been widely recognised and endorsed in the UK and frequently praised in the government’s recent Sporting Futures strategy paper.
- The funding to bring parkrun to Little Stoke was provided by South Gloucestershire Council and parkrun UK, and the event is delivered entirely by local volunteers who contribute thousands of hours of their time over the course of a year.
- To date 6,000 different people have taken part in parkruns in Little Stoke and more than 700 people have volunteered to make that happen.
- We believe that the impact of parkrun on Little Stoke Park is extremely light. We acknowledge that parkrunners contribute to ‘wear and tear’ like all park users but believe any small costs are substantially outweighed by the benefits it brings to the community.
- The core team is committed to addressing any 'good neighbour' issues at Little Stoke. It has already established a marshalling system to reserve more parking spaces for other park users and secured overflow parking off-site for parkrunners, and works with grounds staff and other park users to minimise any impact of parkrun.
- The Parish Council is itself entitled to apply for community grant funding and parkrun will support this if our presence strengthens the case. We are also happy to support any other initiatives by which the Council might generate financial or non-financial benefits from the presence of parkrun (e.g. the establishment of a cafe).
We are extremely grateful for the way that Little Stoke parkrunners have conducted themselves during this difficult process and supported the core team. Throughout this uncertain period we have maintained good relations with the park users, local residents and the Parish Council, and everybody has pulled together to address the parking issues.
Now is the time to make your voices heard. Please support us to keep our Little Stoke parkrun in Little Stoke Park.
If anyone has any questions please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Little Stoke parkrun team