Runners trying to bring free, community-based races to Wandsworth’s green spaces for nearly a year feel let down, after a council meeting on Thursday ended in another disagreement.
As reported by SW Londoner, petitioners striving to establish weekly 5km runs in the borough have clashed with the council in the past over its policy to require a fee for park use.
But a council spokesman has told SW Londoner money is not the issue, and there is positive feeling that an agreement will be reached.
The council is now offering to allocate a part of its heath budget towards the standard fee, provided that emergency plans and littering arrangements are agreed on.
Tooting MP and marathon runner Sadiq Khan, who is backing the petition, said it was hugely disappointing that Wandsworth Council refused to do what 300 councils across the country have supported.
He said: “I share local disappointment that again the council have been shown to put profit first over what is best for our community.
“I will continue to work with campaigners to keep the pressure on the council and bring Parkrun to Wandsworth.”
The Conservative-led council, however, feels more positive about the future of parkrun in the area.
Wandsworth’s community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “The decision paves the way for an agreement to be reached which will enable Parkrun to start organising races in the borough.
“We support their aims and ideals and are keen for them to start arranging events in Wandsworth.”
He added: “Our proposal to fund this healthy initiative mirrors the type of financial arrangement that allows Parkrun to operate in neighbouring Richmond.
“This should mean there is no financial obstacle to them organising runs in Wandsworth.”
But petitioners feel charging a fee is against parkrun’s ethics – even if it is not paid by participants or organisers.
The team behind the campaign to bring parkrun to Wandsworth tweeted:
No deal. parkrun can’t accept a fund mechanism. Precedent wld alter entire concept Risks everything. It’s free, it must stay free to prosper
— parkrun4wandsworth (@parkrun4wands) November 27, 2014
Parkrun organises free, weekly 5km runs in thousands of locations around the world.
It is a volunteer-led, not-for-profit initiative founded by Briton Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004 and today it counts more than 2,000 clubs in the country.
An online petition organised by Wandsworth runners has attracted more than 2,700 signatures.
You can view the petition here.