Parkrun closes permanently over council charge

A running event has closed permanently following a council's decision to introduce a charge for the use of a park near Bristol.

Stoke Gifford Parish Council voted in April to ask organiser Parkrun to "contribute a small monetary amount" to the upkeep of Little Stoke Park.

The council said that it recently had to pay £55,000 to resurface the car park and expects to have to resurface the park's paths at a cost of £60,000, partly due to the additional wear from the 300-plus runners using them every week.

It argued it is unfair for residents to meet these costs when many of those taking part in the runs come from outside the area and Parkrun is "an organised group with paid directors and staff" sponsored by national companies.

But the decision was widely criticised, with former Olympian Paula Radcliffe calling it "short-sighted", while an online petition calling for the event to remain free gained over 56,000 signatures.

Parkrun had to cancel the event immediately after the council's decision citing safety concerns after an overwhemling number of people said they wanted to take part in protest.

The organisation has now announced that "with great regret" the event will end permanently.

"We have made attempts to engage with the council to offer alternative ways of contributing to the sustainability of the park," a statement said.

"Every Parkrun is a partnership between the landowner, the volunteer team and the local community, and unfortunately we were unable to convince Stoke Gifford Parish Council of the true value of the event."

Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Parkrun, said: "Stoke Gifford Parish Council's initial request for us to charge our runners £1 per week went completely against our most fundamental principles and, as a free event, their subsequently revised requirement for Parkrun to contribute financially to the maintenance of the park is also something we are unable to do.

"If there is a positive to be taken from this experience it is surely that we have all been motivated to consider what our wonderful areas of open space mean to us, and how important it is that we do everything we can to ensure they remain fully accessible to their local communities. It is also critical that we do everything we can to support our local authorities and landowners, ensuring our parks are there for future generations to enjoy just as much as we do."