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TALKBACK everyone’s talking about . . .

paying for parks T

he decision of a growing number of local authorities to levy a charge on personal trainers using their parks

seems a bit mean, doesn’t it? Or does it? Even though PTs might

feel like one-man bands scrambling to make a living in a diffi cult economic climate, they are, nonetheless, using the parks to run their businesses. This is increasingly the feeling among councils, who believe PTs should pay up – just as they would for using any other council- run facility and in line with other commercial organisations that organise activities in parks. The fee will pay for a licence to use the parks, and will include

a background check to ensure the PT is properly qualifi ed and insured. British Military Fitness conducts most

of its business in council-run spaces and supports the introduction of a fee for PTs. COO James Preece says: “From the outset, we sought permission and paid a fee for using public spaces, because we believe in contributing to the upkeep of the environment. We also want those using outdoor space to be regulated and are working with the FIA to introduce minimum standards for outdoor fitness.” That’s OK for big business, but for

PTs who are just trying to establish themselves, might this prove one cost too many? Premier Global started a

greg smith hfc • cabinet member for residents’ services


ammersmith and Fulham Council (HFC) introduced a

new annual fee for public park usage in April. PTs now have to pay £350 a year, and large commercial sports organisations £1,200 a year, to use all our 48 parks and open spaces. This only applies to organised sports and fitness companies and businesses.

Of course anyone can use our parks for free, and we

encourage people to enjoy our many open spaces. However, as soon as PTs start charging for their services and making money out of the park, they’re running a business and will need a licence. Taxpayers don’t expect them to get a free ride on the back of their council tax. If trainers were to hire space elsewhere in a club, for example, they would spend much more than if they buy a licence from us. This is about ensuring that residents using the park are

safe, as the licence guarantees that the relevant insurance, liability and qualifications are in place – all of which are important, particularly should anyone get injured. The fees also help us pay for the upkeep of the parks, including picking up litter and making sure the grass is well maintained.

” 28

kath hudson • journalist • health club management

Local authorities introducing charges for personal trainers to use their parks has resulted in some indignant PTs. Are the charges fair, or do PTs have just cause for complaint?

lively discussion on LinkedIn on this subject, which raised a number of points: PTs are encouraging people to be fi t and healthy, and so less likely to be a burden on the NHS; PTs operating out of more than one borough will have to buy more than one licence, which gets expensive; and PTs already pay their taxes, as do their clients, so isn’t that enough? Meanwhile, others acknowledged that

it’s impossible to run a business for free, and that a licence works out at less than a £1 a day – a cost that’s tax deductible. So are the charges unfair? Should PTs

get special treatment, or should they accept the commercial reality of running a business? We ask the experts...


innes kerr énergie • group operations director


o me, this fee seems like a bad case of disconnected thinking,

especially at a time when the NHS is being rapidly cut back and the state in general is shrinking. Smaller government – or Big Society,

if you’re a fan of PR – isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but isn’t the whole idea of reduced state interference that citizens

should be encouraged, if not forced, to take matters such as their health into their own hands? Or, better yet, into the hands of enterprising, tax-paying individuals such as PTs? Introducing what essentially amounts to a tax hike for

small businesses that are boosting the nation’s fitness seems mad when you consider what their endeavours must save on public spending further down the line – their efforts will help reduce the likelihood of their clients drawing on the NHS for conditions that could have been avoided with more exercise. Not only that, but doing so visibly, in a public space, will

further boost the growing national culture of fitness. As a society, we should applaud any enterprise that encourages individuals to take responsibility for their health, and seeing groups exercising outdoors may be the inspiration that some people need.

” Read Health Club Management online august 2011 © cybertrek 2011

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