Legal challenge faced by parish council

I am a complete newbie to running and actually did my first run (for many many years) a couple of weeks ago. My colleague, a former multi marathon runner who is recovering from a serious knee injury, offered to train me up whilst he is slowly recovering.

I have only been out a few times now, but my confidence and times are slowly improving and my breathlessness is lessening. So much so that I have been enquiring with friends and colleagues about a 5K run to do during weekends locally. I was referred to Parkrun and saw that they have a run at Heaton Park in Manchester only a few miles away.

What a fantastic idea I thought! Bringing the local community together and engaging in an activity which is healthy, safe, well organised and open to anyone. What is more, it is free!

But apparently not for the community of Stoke Gifford. Since the Parish Council have voted to charge runners in order to maintain the upkeep of Little Stoke Park there has been somewhat of a public outcry. It seems that not just the residents of Stoke Gifford are upset, but the Parkrun community have formed a collective and set up an online petition.

At the time I started reading about the story, the petition had attracted almost 35,000 votes and the Parkrun website reported that they were considering an appeal against the decision and were investigating “whether there is a legal basis to do so”.

It was then somewhat saddening to read an update on the story half an hour later that the event had been cancelled amid safety concerns that due to the positive publicity in favour of the event the number of expected participants is likely to exceed the safe limit of the park.

The nominal fee of £1.00 per runner doesn’t seem much and I’m sure on the face of it most people wouldn’t object and some may consider that this is a small Parish Council and needs to maintain the upkeep of the park and may consider that the local runners are being miserly. But this is simply not the case, it appears that Parkrun are taking the sensible, brave long term approach as Chief Operating Officer Tom Williams has explained in parkruns news page “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”.

I can only hope that a suitable alternative for this weekends event could be found, perhaps the nearby University of the West of England could help for this weekend and the Parish Council could come up with another commercial way of generating an income in order to save the plight soon.

If you would you like to sign the petition click here

Or if you have further comments or suggestions click here