Personal trainer prosecuted after refusing to pay for park licence

A personal trainer is being prosecuted after refusing to pay for a business licence to work in the Royal Parks.

Alexis Ajavon Baron Cohen is due to appear at Highbury Magistrates Court next month after being found operating a business in the parks’ without permission against Royal Parks regulations, a criminal offence.

The Royal Parks has required businesses who wish to use six of the parks it runs to apply for written permission since 1997.

It brought in mandatory licences for fitness trainers, costing up to £600 a year depending on usage - in January 2013, one of a number of revenue-raising initiatives introduced by the organisation to try and plug a funding gap caused by falling Government grants and increasing costs.

Dog walkers, commercial photographers and filmmakers must also apply for licences to operate in the parks.

A Royal Parks spokesman said Ajavon Baron Cohen was caught by police who patrol the parks and that he was not aware of anybody else who was being prosecuted.

"We welcome anyone who wants to use the parks to get fit but we must strike a balance between individuals using the parks for recreation and relaxation and businesses operating for commercial gain.

"It costs around £32 million each year to run the Royal Parks, more than 60 per cent of which is self-generated.  It is only fair that someone using the parks to run a commercial operation makes a contribution."

Ajavon Baron Cohen told the Evening Standard newspaper that the Royal Parks was trying to penalise those who were trying to address the obesity crisis and that the decision to prosecute "was ludicrous" and that he felt like a criminal.

He also said he had been using the park for more than 10 years.

The Royal Parks uses the income raised to pay for maintenance. By 2015-16 it will need to generate 75 per cent of its income as Government grants decrease.

The agency, which comes under the direct supervision of the Departure for Culture, Media & Sport, currently generates £18m a year from charges, corporate hires and big events such as British Summer Time, Winter Wonderland and Taste of London.

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