Bristol parkrun faces park usage charge

UPDATE: 13/4/16

Olympians Paula Radcliffe and Dame Kelly Holmes have joined the backlash against Stoke Gifford parish council, who are trying to charge runners for taking part in their local parkrun. The former Team GB athletes spoke out on Twitter, voicing their outrage. "Have I missed the whole reasons park runs exist & are free? StokeGiffordParishCouncil decision is a disgrace .com" [sic] said Holmes, while Radcliffe said she agreed with the local parkrunners, tweeting "free for everyone, always."

Tom Williams, chief operating officer of parkrun, said “Providing free weekly access has been fundamental to this and we are disappointed that this opportunity is to be removed for the residents of Little Stoke.

“Our aim is to break down barriers to participation in, and delivery of, physical activity and this is consistent across parkruns worldwide, which are all delivered by volunteers and are free to take part in.

“Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future. As a nation we must make a decision about whether we want to be healthier or not.”

This Saturday's Little Stoke parkrun has been cancelled, with organisers saying “The safety and wellbeing of parkrunners and other park users is paramount and we are very concerned that this might be jeopardised by the volume of people wishing to run at Little Stoke on Saturday. This could easily exceed the safe limit of the park itself.”


A group of 300 adults and children regularly take part in 5K and 3K timed runs organised by parkrun UK in Little Stoke Park, near Bristol every Saturday. The Stoke Gifford event, that has attracted 4,083 registered runners, are completely free to anyone who wants to take part.

Stoke Gifford Parish Council argue it is ‘unfair’ to expect non-running residents to pay for path maintenance. Since parkrun are an organised group using the park facilities, they believe they should contribute towards the maintenance. The council have suggested that runners are charged £1 each to help maintain the paths and counteract the increased wear caused by runners.

A not-for-profit organisation, parkrun's ethos is for the event to be free and open to everyone. They currently hold 850 runs in 12 countries around the world and they are all completely free of charge. If Stoke Gifford Parish Council go through with the charge it will make Little Stoke the first park run in the world to have to pay to run.

Parkrun UK organisers say it will be forced to end if a charge is imposed. Helen Hood, head of event delivery, said: ‘Every parkrun worldwide is built on a few fundamental principles - led by the local community, free to participants, and accessible to everyone who wants to take part. If Stoke Gifford Parish Council decides to impose any type of charge or levy on participants to run in the park then the event would sadly not be able to continue.’

The parish council said in a statement it 'cannot and will not stop people from using the parks for exercise and running but when it comes to an organisation with paid directors, fundraisers and sponsors it would be unfair to expect the residents to pay.'

In September the parish council deferred a decision to charge runners the £1 fee after a petition against the park run charge reached more than 8000 signatures.    

A final decision will be made tonight.