Run Free: Councils face ban on charging ParkRun

The Government has proposed a ban on councils charging organisations hosting weekend fun runs.

A parish council in Bristol last year controversially proposed charging entrants to Parkrun £1 each, citing the cost of upkeep of paths.

Parkrun organisers cancelled the event saying that the proposed charge “went completely against our most fundamental principles”.

But under new proposals currently under consultation by Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, it would be illegal for local authorities to charge Parkrun for use of a public park.

The consultation will also consider whether the plans should be extended to other organisers of fun runs, and to different users of parks such as professional dog walkers and personal trainers.

The consultation says that “local authorities quite legitimately charge for a variety of different events and specific activities that take place in local parks”.

It continues: “However, the government does not consider it appropriate for a local authority to charge a volunteer community seeking to provide a free weekly event for the use of a public park, overturning our long standing convention of free access to parks for their everyday use.”

Tom Williams, chief operating officer for Parkrun UK, said not being charged for access was key to sustaining the runs set up by the group, which started in South West London.

He said: “It’s fantastic to see the government committed to protecting the principle of free community access to public parks.

“However, it’s just as important that local authorities receive the support required to ensure these wonderful areas of open space are available for future generations.

“This consultation represents a fantastic opportunity for us all to consider the most appropriate strategy for increasing engagement across our parks whilst protecting their future.”

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James is the founder of LUCA.