Parkrun community unites against ‘fee’ decision

Pendle Parkrun
Pendle Parkrun

Pendle parkrun organisers have branded a Bristol council narrow-minded after it voted to become the first in the world to charge parkrun a fee for the use of its grounds.

Stoke Gifford Parish Council said it was “unfair” to expect non-running residents to pay for path upkeep in Little Stoke Park where hundreds of runners take part in the 5k Saturday morning event, organised by Parkrun UK. It voted six to four in favour of charges.

It’s feared the result will mean the Little Stoke parkrun event will now end.

Event Director of Pendle parkrun Paul Brown said he was hoping Stoke Gifford Council would reverse the decision especially after a petition set up against the vote hit 20,000 signatures in the first 24 hours.

“I believe all parkrun events should always be completely free to all participants,” said Paul, who is also chairman of Trawden Athletic Club.

“This council’s vote to charge is very narrow-minded especially given the lengthy decision making process they have been through. All parkruns rely completely on voluntary support and receive no funding, therefore they cannot absorb any external charge by a council or other body.

They not only provide a great avenue to get people up and active but all parkrunners will tell you that the sense of community that grows alongside each event is second to none

Pendle Parkrun director Paul Brown

“There are now almost 400 parkruns across the UK at 9am every Saturday. The parkrun ethos has always been to ensure these are free to all, something which depends on the commitment and enthusiasm of regular volunteers often drawn from local running clubs.

“They not only provide a great avenue to get people up and active but all parkrunners will tell you that the sense of community that grows alongside each event is second to none.”

Paul admitted there is a worry that other councils will follow suit.

“There is a fear in the parkrun community and organistation that other councils may now act in a similar way,” he said.

“Should the initial council decision stand, Little Stoke parkrun would be forced to close by parkrun HQ. This would be terrible and a huge blow to their team and local running community. I hope that any other councils considering this approach would be deterred if anything as they realise parkruns cannot be held to ransom in this way.

“However, given the incredible outpouring of mutual support across the web and social media, including a petition that had reached over 20,000 signatures at the last count, I am personally confident that Stoke Gifford Parish Council will reverse their decision.”

Paul says that due to the tremendous working relationship with Pendle Council and the regular runners and volunteers, the Pendle parkrun, based at Holt House, Colne, will not follow suit.

“If Little Stoke parkrun is anything like our Pendle parkrun, the regular runners and volunteers would be only too happy to help with path and park maintenance to ensure everything is up to scratch. This would be a far better way to ‘pay’ for using the park and, in line with the general parkrunning ethos, further enhance community involvement and spirit.

“Pendle parkrun is very fortunate to have the complete backing of Pendle Council, indeed they provided the initial funds needed to establish the event.

“Since then it has also substantially improved paths around Alkincoats Park and allow us to use the pavilion building at Holt House as a base, something which really adds to the community feel as people head inside for a brew and chat after completing parkrun.”

Find out more about Pendle parkrun at www.parkrun.org.uk/pendle