A vote made by Stoke Gifford Parish Council to charge parkrun for its event in Little Stoke Park, near Bristol, has provoked national outcry. Over 30,000 people have signed the petition against council plans and thousands more have took to social media to express their disgrace.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Stoke Gifford Parish Council said it was “unfair” to expect non-running residents to pay for path upkeep at Little Stoke Park. In their pre-vote statement, the council argued that they didn’t want to discourage residents from using the park for exercise, however it wouldn’t be fair for non-parkrunners to chip in for “paid directors, fundraisers and sponsors” required for the event. The vote, in favour of £1 charges for park maintenance, was six to four.
A not-for-profit organisation, parkrun holds 850 events in 12 countries, offering free, weekly timed runs that are accessible for all. The hundreds of runners who take part in Little Stoke Park’s parkrun every Saturday morning are the first in the world to be threatened with charges and, like many other disgruntled runners, have not taken this lightly.
The council has received hundreds of emails expressing criticism of the council’s plans, and the petition has now attracted more than 30,700 signatures.
Athletes, celebrities and runners alike have taken to social media to express their criticism, with sports icons Paula Radcliffe and Dame Kelly Holmes voicing their indignation on Twitter.
Am totally against this short sighted decision. I fully support the right for this event for children to be free https://t.co/TnwMN9lFrF
— Paula Radcliffe (@paulajradcliffe) April 12, 2016
Have I missed the whole reason park runs exist & are free? StokeGiffordParishCouncil decision is a disgrace .com ?? https://t.co/AkGTApmM7E
— Kelly Holmes (@damekellyholmes) April 12, 2016
Despite the national outcry, the Parish council appears to stand resolute in its decision. Parish council chairman Ernie Brown said to the BBC:
“Since last night I’ve had 500 emails – I can’t say what they say – but they are slanderous and they’re aggressive. It’s just not acceptable,” he said.
“The football club, they pay £60 for the hire of the pitch.
“We’re not proposing to charge £60 but at the same time as an organisation they should contribute towards the upkeep.”
The council has given parkrun until 28 May to apply for a community grant as a contribution towards park maintenance.