Hammersmith and Fulham Council extends commercial park fees

Hammersmith & Fulham brings in annual licence charge for sports organisations and business use by personal trainers.

Fee revenues to be channelled back into general maintenance - image: LB Hammersmith and Fulham
Fee revenues to be channelled back into general maintenance - image: LB Hammersmith and Fulham

People using London's Hammersmith and Fulham parks as their office will have to pay a fee for the privilege after the local council implemented a new charging scheme.

Organisations using the parks for large group activities such as fitness classes or school lessons are already required to pay hourly rates and hold a licence to operate.

But under the new scheme introduced last month by London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham a £1,200 yearly fee applies to large commercial sports organisations such as British Military Fitness and personal trainers using the parks for private lessons have to pay £350 for an annual licence.

A council representative said the scheme would not extend to people such as dog-walkers: "We simply want to make sure there is balance of use in the parks and that the taxpayer isn't subsidising other people's businesses."

Revenue from the licences would be channelled back into the borough's parks to pay for general maintenance and repairs, she added.

Director of London Parks and Green Spaces Forum Tony Leach said it was a bold step that would most likely be followed by other councils. "The issue of businesses being run in parks has been overlooked for many years. It's only fair that where someone is operating a business in a park they should pay for the privilege," he said.

But Leach warned that enforcing the new licences and monitoring park use could strain council resources and become counter-productive. He also questioned whether the income generated through licence fees would actually be spent on park maintenance as new spending flexibilities given to councils meant ring-fencing was not as effective. "If it isn't spent on the parks it would be galling," he said.

SERVICE DEBATE

Dave Tibbatts, general manager, GreenSpace

"It's sad that councils are being forced to consider income generating initiatives that may have an impact on their contribution to national issues such as public health, social cohesion and inclusion. Hammersmith and Fulham's actions have sparked a fascinating debate. It is forcing people to reconsider their personal priorities and local community needs and compare these with strategies of political leaders. We can expect more incidents where free services provided by urban green will be lost or only available to those who can afford to pay."


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