Wandsworth runners hope petition urging council to drop community run charges makes it out of starting blocks

Wandsworth runners are urging the council to scrap charges for free community-based runs in the borough’s green spaces.

Parkrun organises free, weekly 5km runs around the world and are now facing charges from Wandsworth Council to run through council parks and commons.

There have been efforts to get parkrun started in the area since last Christmas but the community’s appeals fell on deaf ears.

Tooting MP and marathon runner Sadiq Khan, who is backing the petition, explained that now was the time to drop the charges.

He said: “The council needs to wake up and listen to local residents.

“Parkrun would not cause the council to incur any extra cost. It does however help bring communities together, encourage new people to try running and has obvious health benefits.”

Since parkrun was founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004, its participants have gone from the original 13 runners in Bushy Park to more than 70,000 throughout the world.

A total of 49,000 Britons line up every Saturday for the 5km run in 294 locations across the country.

The races are free and open to all levels of experience and in the last four years junior parkruns have been added to the series of events.

Tooting councillor Ben Johnson explained he is supporting the petition both as a runner and a councillor.

He said:  “Parkrun is a free benefit to the local community.

Sadiq Khan and Ben Johnson

“It helps improve local health, build community ties, and provides local runners – both experienced and new – a fun and free opportunity to take part in a well-organised and sociable race.

“Wandsworth Council should be getting behind volunteer-led schemes like this which only do good for the community instead of looking for ways to raise revenue from them.”

Andy Bullock, keen runner and petition organiser, said:  “I saw junior parkrun unfolding and saw how children benefit from having the sense of community in the outdoors.

“That really made my mind up to pursue this with Wandsworth because it just is such a good thing, obviously for adults, but definitely for four to 14-year-old children.”

“We want to thank Sadiq Khan for publicly supporting our efforts and Dan Watkins for warmly engaging in the issue.”

A Wandsworth Council spokesman said: “We have been happy and willing to talk to the organisers of Park Run to try and find a solution to this issue, but the real problem here is their reluctance to reach any kind of agreement with us about safe stewarding of their event, their public safety procedures and the question of who should be responsible for picking up the litter their event will no doubt generate.

“We have twice previously offered the organisers the chance to run test events to gauge their impact on our parks and open spaces but they have rejected these offers.

“We have been in touch with them again recently and offered them further meetings to see if we can find a way forward, but we cannot ignore our very reasonable conditions about public safety and litter or waive the council’s very modest fees for the large scale organised use of its park and open spaces.”

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