Closure of Little Stoke parkrun

 

It is with great regret that we are announcing the closure of Little Stoke parkrun.

This is a disappointing outcome for everyone at parkrun, the dedicated team of volunteers who have worked so hard on the event since 2012, and of course the participants who have benefitted so much from a free, local, accessible 5k every Saturday morning in Little Stoke Park.

Since the vote, on the 12th of April, by Stoke Gifford Parish Council to introduce a charge for Little Stoke parkrun, we have made attempts to engage with the council to offer alternative ways of contributing to the sustainability of the park. Every parkrun is a partnership between the landowner, the volunteer team and the local community, and unfortunately we were unable to convince Stoke Gifford Parish Council of the true value of the event. Our intention has never been to force parkrun onto the Council, but instead to demonstrate the benefits that weekly, free, fun, physical activity provides to their community.

Therefore, as the Council has now revoked our permission to run in Little Stoke Park for free, we have taken the difficult decision to bring things to a conclusion and, for the first time, permanently close one of our free, weekly, timed runs.

Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer for parkrun, said:

"Over the past 12 years parkrun has grown from 13 runners in one park to 150,000 runners at 900 locations around the world, every week. Key to this success has been our determination to remove as many barriers to participation as possible, with cost being one of the most critical. Stoke Gifford Parish Council's initial request for us to charge our runners £1 per week went completely against our most fundamental principles and, as a free event, their subsequently revised requirement for parkrun to contribute financially to the maintenance of the park is also something we are unable to do. From the outset, and despite significant efforts from many people inside and outside of parkrun, we were unable to convince them of the true value that a parkrun event provides to its local community.

“Personally I feel a great sense of sadness, however I also feel a phenomenal sense of pride in how the Little Stoke parkrun community have dealt with this extremely challenging situation. From start to finish they have gone above and beyond what I would ever have expected from a volunteer team, and they could have done no more.

“If there is a positive to be taken from this experience it is surely that we have all been motivated to consider what our wonderful areas of open space mean to us, and how important it is that we do everything we can to ensure they remain fully accessible to their local communities. It is also critical that we do everything we can to support our local authorities and landowners, ensuring our parks are there for future generations to enjoy just as much as we do.”

Becky Bushnell, co-Event Director of Little Stoke parkrun, said:

“We are all really disappointed that Little Stoke parkrun has found itself in this position. The past eight months have been a difficult time for the volunteer team as all we have ever wanted to do is run, jog and walk in the park with friends. We are feeling the huge sense of loss of the community that has built up over three and a half years.”

 

 

 

 

Event Cancellation -Saturday 28th May

Dear Little Stoke parkrunners

As you know, when Stoke Gifford Parish Council made the decision to charge parkrun for use of the park in April, they gave us until 28th May to reach an agreement with them or leave the park. During this period parkrun UK have been in discussion with Stoke Gifford Parish Council who have now asked for more time to answer some of the issues raised.

Whilst we wait for their full response in order to determine the long term future of the event, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this Saturday's run (28th May) on safety grounds.

We appreciate that this will be frustrating to our runners and volunteers, but the last thing we want is the strength of feeling to boil over from either parkrunners or local residents. We have been taking things week by week and been very grateful for the wonderful atmosphere and friendly parkrun spirit at the events that we have been able to hold.

We hope to provide you with a further update next week. In the meantime, we really appreciate your understanding of the difficulties Little Stoke parkrun has been facing. Please take the Little Stoke spirit with you wherever you are running this weekend.

The Little Stoke Team

 

Little Stoke parkrun team

 

 

Event Cancellation – Saturday 21st May

We are really sorry for the short notice, but we have just been made aware of another event in the park that means we have to cancel this Saturday's run (21 May).

A fun fair has arrived in the park which combined with the new football pitch fence and our lack of a summer course mean we won't have a run this week.

We loved the tourism photos from your parkrun adventures this Saturday and look forward to seeing more Little Stoker's out and about on the 21st.

The Little Stoke Team
#lovelittlestoke

 

Time For A Big Spring Clean!

Back in February we signed up to take part in South Gloucestershire's Big Spring Clean picking Saturday 23rd April as our event date. April is known for its rain showers and we didn't know quite what the weather would hold in store when we plumped for the 23rd... With sunshine and blue skies it couldn't have been a better day for it!

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Little Stoke parkrun volunteers got kitted up and once we'd finished playing with familiarising ourselves with the equipment we split up into small groups and started looking for litter.

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After an hour or so we had filled a fair few bags with general waste and also managed to fill a big bag of recyclables. Great effort team!

 

#loveparkrun #lovelittlestoke

 

#lovelittlestoke

The support we saw on Twitter and Facebook last weekend was phenomenal. We loved everybodies #lovelittlestoke posts and pictures and got messages of support from all over the country and the parkrun world! We're sorry that we haven't been able to respond to everything.

As HQ say here the best way to continue to support us is to show us how great your parkrun is. Please go and enjoy your local parkrun, run, jog, walk and volunteer in the sunshine this weekend. We know we have your support.

The Little Stoke team.

 

Event Cancellation: Saturday 16th April

It has been an exceedingly odd 24 hours and we would like to thank you all for the messages of support and kind words that you have continued to send through to us. It has been and continues to be, overwhelming and the Little Stoke parkrun team really appreciate them all. As you might expect, we are not likely to be able to reply or get back to all of you personally but we really cannot put into words what it means to us.

We would however ask you to keep things positive and constructive. Negativity levelled at the Parish Council will not help matters.

Given the huge strength of feeling heard from you directly and seen from a wider audience on social media we have had to consider the implications of this on Saturday's run (16 April). The safety and wellbeing of parkrunners and other park users is paramount and we are very concerned that this might be jeopardised by the volume of people wishing to run at Little Stoke on Saturday.  This could easily exceed the safe limit of the park itself.

To that end we will be cancelling the event on Saturday 16th of April.

The Little Stoke parkrun team, the local parkrun ambassadors and parkrun UK will need to consider where we go from this point. At the current time its very unclear but do keep an eye on our website, Facebook and Twitter pages which we'll make sure are updated as soon as we have any more news.

What can I do to support Little Stoke parkrun/parkrun UK?

parkrun started from a simple idea and has grown into the phenomenon that we all know and love. Do what parkrunners do best and support your local parkrun!

The parkrun will not be taking place in Little Stoke park but there are several other local parkruns to choose from locally and further afield. Go along to a parkrun and enjoy it as it has always been intended right from the very beginning: a run in the park with friends. Every parkrun relies on volunteers to put on the event so why not make this Saturday the parkrunday to help out and support your local event event in that way.

Once again, thank you all for the INCREDIBLE support you have shown the Little Stoke parkrun team during this difficult situation. We are all parkrunners and parkrun is part of us all.

The Little Stoke parkrun team

 

Thank You

We are extremely disappointed that Stoke Gifford Parish Council have voted to charge for the use of Little Stoke Park, therefore withdrawing permission for parkrun to use the park. It is a fundamental principle of parkrun that there should be no barriers to participation and events should always be free. All we were asking the Council for was shared use of the park for a short period early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The Council's decision will inevitably increase numbers at other parkruns in the area and we will work to secure an alternative venue and establish new parkrun events to cater for the growing number of people who are opting to get fit by running regularly.

parkrun HQ have already released this statement. We should also like to thank every single Little Stoke parkrunner and the wider parkrun community for sharing what parkrun means to them, through the petition, by writing to councillors and in their many kind messages of support. We have heard so many moving stories of how parkrun is changing lives and seen just how strong the parkrun family really is. There have been literally hundreds of messages today and we can't reply to them all - Thank you.

parkrun - its so much more than just a run in the park.

The Little Stoke Team

 

No Baptist Church Parking: 2nd April 2016

A quick message to make you all aware that there will be no parking available at Little Stoke Baptist Church for parkrunners this Saturday, 2nd April 2016, as they have an event taking place at the church.

If there is no space in the Little Stoke park car park when you arrive we would ask that you park elsewhere is a sensible and legal manner, avoiding parking on grass verges.

Please allow a little extra time this Saturday and think of any distance that you might need to walk to the park from your car as a warm up.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Little Stoke Baptist Church for their continued support, it is very much appreciated.

See you on parkrunday!
Little Stoke parkrun team

 

A Statement On Behalf Of Little Stoke parkrun and parkrun UK

On Wednesday 23 March 2016 the chair of Stoke Gifford Parish Council wrote an open letter to residents regarding the future of Little Stoke parkrun. In it he put forward the Council’s reasons for insisting that parkrun should pay for the use of Little Stoke park.

At every meeting and in every communication since this issue was first raised in September 2015 we have explained why parkrun is free to participants and, without a local revenue stream, why it cannot pay for the use of the parks where our events are held.

We believe that parkrun has a light footprint in the parks it uses, imposing little or no cost to local communities while bringing substantial benefits in terms of health, community building, support for active lifestyle, and personal development through volunteering.

parkrun has been lauded in the press for its provision of free to participate community-led running events to every community that wants one. It has won numerous awards and its founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt received a CBE for his contribution to grass roots physical activity. It has been cited in the government’s recent Sporting Future strategy for its exemplary model of volunteer-led sports provision, and is supported by local authorities across the UK. In October 2015 Little Stoke parkrun and junior parkrun, together with neighbouring parkruns, won the West of England Celebration of Sport award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sport and Physical Activity’.

We respect the right of Stoke Gifford Parish Council to grant or withdraw permission for parkrun at Little Stoke Park. We believe that Councillors have a simple choice to make: do the community benefits that parkrun brings outweigh any costs associated with hosting the event.

A decision will be taken on 12 April 2016 and we urge Councillors to make a decision based on the facts of the issue. For that reason we have responded in detail to Cllr Brown’s open letter which we believe misrepresents parkrun in a number of important respects. The letter is reproduced below with our responses in italics.

 

Letter from Stoke Gifford Parish Council (with response from parkrun in bold)

 

parkrun UK

parkrun organise weekly 5km timed runs around the UK, they are open to everyone with no limitation to the number of runners that can participate. The Parish Council has hosted parkrun for the last three years and with the increased wear on the park has requested parkrun to contribute a small monetary amount towards the upkeep to which they have refused stating they are free of charge and cannot pay.

Why should parkrun UK contribute towards Little Stoke Park Maintenance?

  • parkrun are an organised group with paid directors and staff and attract over 300 runners using the park & facilities each week.

parkrun UK is a not for profit limited company. There are no shareholders and any surpluses are devoted to creating more community-led free parkrun events. It has a small staff of 12 but parkrun events are delivered entirely by volunteers - approximately 8000 people every week.

 

  • There is no limit to the number of runners that use the park.

To keep parkrun as simple and inclusive as possible, anyone who has registered as a parkrunner can come along and run. However we monitor numbers carefully and would not allow a run to go ahead if large numbers made it unsafe for runners or other park users. As numbers grow at an event, new parkruns are started elsewhere which relieve the pressure: this has been the story in South Gloucestershire and Bristol where there are now 7 parkrun events with more in the pipeline.

 

  • They are sponsored by national companies.

parkrun has a small number of national sponsors and it is their support that allows us to bring free running events to every community that wants one. Little Stoke parkrun and junior parkrun were jointly funded by parkrun UK and South Gloucestershire Council and brought to the Stoke Gifford community at no cost to local residents.

 

  • They monopolise the park paths and car park between 0830 & 1030 each Saturday and Sunday.

We do not recognise this description of parkrun monopolising the park.

We are in the park from around 0830-1030 on Saturday and 0830-0945 on Sunday. Much of this time is used for set-up and clear-down and does not interfere with other park users.

The average number of runners on Saturdays in 2015 was 235 and during the pre-run briefing and in the early stages of the run parkrun is a large presence on the footpaths around the path. However, the runners quickly thin out when the run gets underway. Results vary from week to week but we would expect over 33% of runners complete the course in under 25 minutes and over 66% in under 30 minutes.

The average number of runners (children of 4-14 years old) on Sundays in 2015 was 84 and they generally all complete their run in under 22 minutes.

We actively marshal the car park and reserve approximately one-third of the spaces for other users, which is currently more than enough. We have organised overflow parking at Little Stoke Baptist Church and encourage parkrunners to walk, jog or cycle to the event.

 

  • They use the parks toilets and washing facilities.

parkrunners use the toilets which we've been assured are available for public use. We do not seek to use changing or washing facilities, or make them available to parkrunners. (We understand that on a few occasions a shower might have been used with permission from the groundsman and we suggest that such permission should not be granted).

 

  • They use Council storage space.

We use a small storage area with permission from the Parish Council. We are grateful to the Parish Council for offering this facility, but if it is imposing undue cost we are happy to make other arrangements for kit storage.

 

  • A large number of runners are from outside the Parish of Stoke Gifford and come from all across South Gloucestershire, Bristol and further afield to use the facilities in this area (which are financed by Stoke Gifford Council tax payers).

46% of registered parkrunners are from BS32 and BS34, and approximately 60% live within 3 miles of Little Stoke Park. That is pretty local although we acknowledge that these postcodes extend beyond the Parish boundary. It’s in the nature of sporting and social facilities that their catchment is often wider than the local authority in which they’re located, particularly at the parish or town level. We imagine that many Stoke Gifford residents make use of facilities in Bradley Stoke, or further afield in South Gloucestershire or Bristol, financed by council tax payers there.

 

  • Little Stoke car park is too small for their parking use.

See our response on car parking above.

 

  • Complaints have been received from local residents relating to pavement & grass verge parking, park users and hall hirers regarding a number of incidents involving runners over the last three years.

As far as we are aware the number of complaints is very small, and if that is not the case we do not understand why they have not been passed on to us to address. Regarding these particular parking issues it's not clear that they are attributable to parkrunners rather than other park users.

We are committed to being a good neighbour to all other park users and local residents. We liaise regularly (generally weekly) with park staff, and other organised groups who use the park and community hall. We address complaints immediately and have an incident reporting system in place to ensure our response is appropriate and proportionate. We pro-actively manage the event to minimise the impact of parkrun on the park and its community.

We have been working with a small group of Councillors to develop a formal 'Good Neighbour Policy' that builds on our existing commitment to community responsibility and sets out a framework for partnership between parkrun and the Parish Council.

 

  • parkrun are an organised group and like any other group using the facilities should contribute towards the maintenance.

We are an organised group but operate on a different basis from other organised park events. We do not charge for participation, and we do not seek or receive a service from the Parish Council or exclusive use of any part of the park. We simply ask for shared use of the park for a short period on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

 

  • The Parish Council has only recently paid out £55,000 from public funds for resurfacing the car park and with the additional 300+ runners per week, will shortly need to replace / repair the path at an estimated cost of £60,000, so as parkrun are significant users of the path on a regular basis they should contribute towards the upkeep.

These headline figures are deeply misleading. The need to replace or repair the path is not due to use by parkrun. A properly made tarmac path or car park should not be adversely affected even by 300 runners using it once a week. There is a discussion to be had about the extent to which parkrun increases routine maintenance costs. However, as a free event (free in order to encourage active lifestyle and physical activity) parkrun is not able to make a contribution to routine maintenance.

 

  • As a Parish Council we are proud of our green open spaces and believe in giving ‘value for money’ to our residents and through stringent fiscal control this has been achieved by keeping the precept to a minimum over several years which is evidenced by the Parish Council being amongst the lowest tax rises across South Gloucestershire. Should we continue to support ‘free of charge groups’ then it is very likely the precept will increase each year resulting in residents funding additional maintenance / repairs caused by runners from outside our area.

The Parish Council have never quantified the cost they believe is attributable to parkrun or the precept that would be necessary to cover it. Their initial proposal to charge parkrunners would have netted more than £10k per year. Beyond that they have never explained what would constitute “a small monetary amount towards the upkeep” of the park.

parkrun respects the environment and an important aspect of our events is to encourage runners to appreciate the fresh air and green spaces in which they take place. We have offered to support the maintenance of Little Stoke Park by encouraging parkrunners to take part in occasional litter-picks or similar activities, but SGPC has failed to acknowledge or discuss this offer.

 

  • To conclude, parkrun maintain it is their ethos to remain ‘free of charge’ and have repeatedly stated they will not pay towards the upkeep even when the council offered to complete a grant application on their behalf and all that was required was their signature.

parkrun cannot pay for park use and therefore will not apply for grant funding for that purpose, or allow the Council or anyone else to make an application on its behalf.

The Parish Council insisted for several months that they could not apply for grants but this turned out to be entirely false.

Subsequent discussion with South Gloucestershire Council confirmed that in reality there is no source of grant funding that will support routine park maintenance, whoever applies.

parkrun has suggested ways in which its success could be harnessed to develop a potentially fundable 'project' to establish Little Stoke Park as a hub for wider community-led physical activity (possibilities include outdoor circuit training equipment; volunteer opportunities in association with the youth club and local schools; exploiting synergies with recreational running groups, Nordic walkers, seniors groups, mums groups, etc). We would happily assist the Council in making grant applications of this kind with supporting evidence from parkrun. Sadly these positive suggestions were dismissed out of hand by the Council chair.

 

  • The Parish Council cannot & will not stop people from using the parks for exercise & running but when it comes to an organisation with paid directors, fund raisers and sponsors it would be unfair to expect the resident’s to pay.

We believe the decision that faces Parish Councillors and the Stoke Gifford community is whether any costs attributable to parkrun (and these have never been identified) are justified by the benefits that parkrun brings to the community. Those benefits include:

  • Contribution to physical and mental health
  • A truly inclusive and supportive event which encourages more people to take part in regular physical activity
  • An opportunity for families to participate together in a non-competitive sporting event
  • A vehicle for building skills and contributing to community cohesion through volunteering
  • Pro-active engagement with the government's Sporting Future strategy in partnership with a successful and multi-award winning organisation committed to delivering grass roots physical activity at little or no cost to local communities.
  • The volunteer effort that makes parkrun happen. On a conservative estimate, the delivery of Little Stoke parkrun and junior parkrun have involved over 2000 hours of volunteer effort in the last year (which, applying South Gloucestershire Council’s formula for valuing volunteer activity, should be valued at over £27800).
  • In the words of the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, "parkrun and junior parkrun is community led, and community facing, allowing local authorities to benefit the health of their population by simply supporting parkrun with a location and helping it to be visible".

 

 

What’s Great About parkrun?

What’s great about parkrun?  We've been given some fab facts and figures about parkrunning in South Gloucestershire:

• It’s bringing new people into physical activity every week – in a survey of new-to-running runners recruited to Run England in South Gloucestershire during 2015, none of the questions were about parkrun but 34 of 110 respondents said that parkrun motivated them to take up running;

• It’s growing – the figure above is dwarfed by the total number of different participants in South Gloucestershire parkruns: 11,924 (this will be well over 12,000 by the time you read this);

• It’s free – parkrun removes cost as a barrier to participation;

• It’s local – local people support their local parkrun: e.g. at Little Stoke 1,831 (46.6%) of registered parkrunners are from BS32 and BS34 and over 60% live within a 5k radius;

• It’s inclusive – anyone who has ever been to a parkrun can’t help but notice the wide range of ability and age;

• It’s helping people to improve – 14,718 pbs at South Gloucestershire parkruns since 2012;

• It’s enabling sustainable community cohesion – over 1400 people have volunteered to ensure that parkrun takes place every week, the majority being South Gloucestershire residents;

• It’s ‘mentioned in dispatches’ – a key priority for action in the South Gloucestershire Physical Activity Strategy is ‘Promoting partnership working on programmes including Walking for Health programmes and local parkruns, school gates running, recreational running groups and routes within South Gloucestershire’;

• It’s helping us achieve government targets – parkrun can be part of our (at least) 5x30mins per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity - note the reference to walking above: if you leave a little more time to walk (or cycle) at least part of the way to parkrun you’ll be increasing your activity total and also easing pressure on parking;

• It’s the Best in the West - local parkruns won the Outstanding Contribution to Physical Activity and Sport award at the 2015 West of England Celebration of Sport;

• It’s an Olympic legacy – all of this has happened since the London Olympics and Paralympics;

• It’s fun – just look at the happy, smiling faces of families and other participants in any parkrun.

 

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