Within the outdoor fitness market there is some confusion for both the general public and the wider fitness community regarding park licence fees, with many believing that no fitness professionals pay any fees. British Military Fitness has been paying licence fees in Hyde Park, London, since it started in April 1999 (Startups, 2011); this is also true for many of the other parks and open spaces in which it operates.
The main argument against fees is predicated on the basis that parks are public space and ‘free’, and this is the case for those using the parks for casual play or recreation. Personal trainers particularly resent having to pay a licence fee but believe it is perfectly acceptable for ‘boot camps’ to pay. Regardless, those wishing to participate in an organised, commercial or profitable activity (such as personal trainers and boot camps) must seek permissions and the appropriate licensing from the relevant local authority.
This approach safeguards reputable, qualified and insured training providers, and removes the cowboys operating substandard sessions and balances commercial activity in the park. Simply allowing anyone to run a business from a park does nothing to safeguard the users or a parks future. The licence fee also pays for grounds maintenance work and reinstatement that is involved in the usage and wear and tear created by training providers.
With this in mind, licence fees vary considerably between local authorities with some charging £300 per annum and others charging £300 per month. Some local authorities also differentiate between personal trainers who may train on a 1:1 or 1:2 basis and larger training providers who may train on 1:15 to 1:18 basis by operating a two-tiered fee system. Training providers’ ability to advertise their business also varies between the local authorities with some imposing a nil-advertisement restriction, which has obvious implications for attracting new business. Other conditions of licensing may include but not be limited to:
- Specific areas being prohibited;
- Class size restrictions;
- Ensuring activities do not impact on council activities, other approved activities or the public in general;
- That training activities are conducted at all times upon the area in a manner which is not to the annoyance, nuisance or disturbance of other users of council facilities, including other trainers and nearby residents;
- Be conscious of keeping noise levels to a minimum, particularly in the evening;
- Ensure that the area and facilities used are left clean and tidy;
- Those involved in the fitness activities must not use picnic tables, seating, street furniture, fences, walls, shade shelters, trees or other structures as training aids, and must not damage any natural assets such as grassed areas, vegetation, trees/shrubs and the like;
- Training providers may provide appropriate equipment/fitness aids for fitness activities and such equipment shall be in good order and repair. Heavy equipment that may damage the environment in which it is used is not permitted; and/or
- Accreditation: all training providers and fitness instructors should have and maintain appropriate suitable qualifications with the following minimum qualifications:
- Accreditation as a fitness trainer specific to the type of activity to be conducted; and
- A current First Aid Certificate.
The overarching principle is that training providers who use parks and other open spaces for business purposes should ensure they are doing so in a safe and responsible way, with consideration given to land management and conservation, community access and enjoyment.
Startups (2011) Robin Cope: British Military Fitness: The Ex-officer Tells Us How He Used The Forces to Create a New Kind of Exercise Class. Available from World Wide Web: <http://www.startups.co.uk/robin-cope-british-military-fitness.html> [Accessed: 08 November, 2012].