Following on from last night’s decision by Stoke Gifford Parish Council to impose a charge at Little Stoke parkrun, we intend to appeal the decision and are investigating whether there is a legal basis to do so.
Every parkrun is coordinated by local volunteers, and participants do not pay a subscription or affiliation fee. In return we do not ask for exclusive access to any of the venues we use, rather we work with landowners, including local authorities, to share areas of open space with other members of the public. Over the past 12 years this strategy has been hugely successful in empowering local people to coordinate their own events, for free, for the benefit of their community.
Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer for parkrun, said: “As we look towards opening our 1,000th location later this year it is clear that a per-event or per-runner charge simply would not be sustainable and would threaten our free-to-participate ethos. By agreeing to a charge in relation to use of the land at Little Stoke Park we would be establishing a precedent that would put the future of parkrun at risk.”
It is well established that the UK is currently experiencing an epidemic of inactivity, with government figures showing the cost of physical inactivity to the UK taxpayer as £7.4 billion a year, with 48% of women and 37% of men failing to achieve the UK Chief Medical Officers' recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. parkrun has a significant role to play in promoting physical activity amongst people from all sections of society, has achieved unprecedented success in this field, and was recently described as “a new model for community sport volunteering” in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Sporting Future paper. Furthermore, any fee passed on to participants has been demonstrated beyond question to create a significant barrier to entry, particularly amongst those who are currently inactive.
Tom Williams continued: “parkrun has successfully moved nearly 60,000 previously inactive people into regular healthy activity. The key to this success has been a focus on removing barriers to event delivery as much as barriers to participation."
Graham Evans MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Running, said:
“parkruns provide an invaluable way of utilising public spaces and getting the whole community involved – young and old – in physical activity, which we all know is massively important for our health and wellbeing.
"I have written to this Parish Council with some suggestions of how they may like to fundraise towards the maintenance of the park if they have found that the costs are above and beyond that raised by council tax contributions.
"I am a huge fan of parkrun and regularly take part with my family – the children love it, and my wife and I love being out in the fresh air using our beautiful parks and countryside with them. I sincerely hope that a solution will be found to enable Little Stoke parkrun to continue.”
Neil Gray, SNP MP for Airdrie & Shotts, said:
"This is an incredibly shortsighted and disappointing decision. We need to encourage people into sport and I know so many parkrunners use their events as a first, relaxed and sociable, step towards a more active lifestyle.
"I hope Stoke Gifford Parish Council will reverse its decision and no other local authorities will follow its poor example."