Parkrun row could 'open up dialogue' between activity providers and local authorities
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Parkrun row could 'open up dialogue' between activity providers and local authorities

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The row between parkrun and Stoke Gifford Parish Council about maintenance charges for local facilities could inadvertently pave the way for more open dialogue between sports providers and local authorities, according to industry experts.

Last month, the Bristol-based council voted in favour of charging the organisation – which organises free mass-participation runs – a “small monetary amount” after claiming that runners had damaged paths and the car park of Little Stoke Park.

While parkrun has protested against the proposal and declared itself “extremely disappointed”, some in the sector believe the episode can create a positive reaction in terms of communication and collaboration.

Talking to Sports Management, ukactive executive director Steven Ward said the event had highlighted the “wider issue” of the protection of parks and open spaces in the face of challenging circumstances for local authorities and the need for an “open dialogue between providers, government, local authorities and the general public” to “build a robust forward plan” to protect parks.

Ward said that while ukactive “supports any measure” which proves successful at getting people active, he acknowledged the fact that “local authorities are facing very real pressures to keep their parks open”.

“The situation for some local authorities over the coming year – if we’re not very careful – is that they’ll have to make the harrowing choice between keeping parks maintained or keeping health and social care services functioning,” he added.

Toby Kingsbury, principle consultant for the Sport, Leisure and Culture Consultancy, agreed that the “incident could inadvertently deliver some greater longer term benefits to ensure a more collaborative and joined-up approach”.

He said that parkrun may have to undertake more research on the socio-economic and demographic make-up of its runner, then use the evidence to “attract funding from Public Health England and avoid future Stoke Gifford scenarios”.

“Parkrun route planners may need to work more collaboratively with park owners in future to ensure wear and tear is managed and routes are rotated,” added Kingsbury.

To read the full Talking Point from Sports Management 119, click here.

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The row between parkrun and Stoke Gifford Parish Council about maintenance charges for local facilities could inadvertently pave the way for more open dialogue between sports providers and local authorities, according to industry experts.
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