Ministers chase council leaders over Parkrun delays

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden have written to all councils in the UK urging them to permit weekly Parkrun events to resume in their areas.

Despite organised outdoor sport activity being allowed since March 29 without a cap on numbers, the 5km local fun runs still have not been started due to reluctance from councils and other landowners.

Parkrun announced on Friday it was delaying reopening the scheme until June 26 in England and Northern Ireland because not enough councils had given them permission to stage the events.

It said 250 locations in England had given them permission to run on June 5, but that this was not enough to prevent overcrowding and people travelling from other areas to join in.

The organisers said they hoped runs would resume in Scotland on July 3, and were waiting to confirm a date for reopening in Wales.

Mr Dowden and Mr Jenrick’s letter pointed out how vital physical activity is to the public’s mental health.

“Parkrun is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people each weekend and these hugely popular free events are much loved by communities up and down the country,” they said.

“We appreciate the pressures that local authorities are under in ensuring requests for organised outdoor sports, such as Parkrun, are carefully considered and run safely.”

They added: “Organised outdoor sport is exempt from legal gathering limits and can take place with any number of participants, as long as it is undertaken in line with published Covid-secure guidance.”

Mr Jenrick, MP for Newark in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Dowden, MP for Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, said public concern about delays to Parkrun “highlights how important these events are to people across the country”.

London 2012
Weekly 5km Parkruns have helped thousands of people in the UK to get fit (Gareth Copley/PA)

Around 150 landowners, including a number of local authorities, have either refused permission for Parkrun to return, or ignored correspondence from the organisers, the letter said.

It added: “Parkrun needs approximately 80% of Parkruns to be allowed to go ahead to prevent people travelling across the country from areas without a Parkrun operating, to ones which are.”

The letter said research has shown mass-participation events such as marathons and fun runs can take place safely, adding: “In the interest of public health they should now restart.”

“We look forward to Parkrun’s return, and hope to join some of the millions of active runners and volunteers personally at our local events in Aldenham and Newark respectively,” Mr Jenrick and Mr Dowden said.