The article about Hammersmith and Fulham Council introducing charges for PTs using its parks and open spaces generated a heated debate with REPs members airing their views.
In response a council representative tells their side of the story:
“It’s possible to ascertain from the leading personal trainer registers that the number of personal trainers operating in Hammersmith and Fulham is well over 300. The increasing numbers operating from the parks has been observed and feedback from parks users, friends groups, park based council employees, grounds maintenance contractors, casual park users, sports team bookers and registered personal trainers.
“All personal trainers training clients in Hammersmith and Fulham parks on a 1:1 or 1:2 basis are charged an annual fee of £350. This enables the personal trainer to use all LBHF parks and open spaces. Payment is currently a one-off annual payment.
“All ‘Bootcamps’ or group sessions are charged an annual rate of £1,200. This agreement has been in place for a number of years and generally the response from Bootcamps is extremely supportive, understanding the need to remove the ‘cowboy’ operators:
It is good to see that you are taking a proactive approach to regulating and controlling fitness trainers and groups and then also promoting the various options to the residents of Hammersmith and Fulham via your website. British Military Fitness have always been proactive in terms of approaching councils and getting the required permissions and paying the required fees in order to be allowed to train – Simon Richman London Area Manager, British Military Fitness
“Any free classes still require a license to ensure that appropriate qualifications and Insurance is held but no fee is required. The license fee was calculated through a number of based benchmarking activities of similar service/license agreements. Tennis Coaches for example pay £960 per year and Bootcamps £1200 per year. Further research reinforces that most gyms in Hammersmith and Fulham that allow freelance PT’s charge monthly rental of anywhere between £300 – £1200 per month in contrast to the £350 annual fee offered. In order to effectively monitor such a scheme involves the Parks Constabulary to ensure its administered at park level. Sports Admin resources are required to effectively administer and organise paper work, renewals and office based roll-out. There’s a cost attached to processing through our Finance department. Finally and perhaps most importantly is our Parks & Gardens team, with a view to the grounds maintenance work and reinstatement that’s involved in the usage and wear and tear created by PT’s. This is obviously particularly important with larger Boot Camp sessions involving 10+ participants. Thus ensuring we can safeguard the future of Hammersmith and Fulham limited yet enviable parks and open spaces.
“I understand that in your opinion the fee is too high, however benchmarking was carried out and the fees and charges were agreed by the Cabinet at Hammersmith and Fulham Council on February 9th 2011. The fees and charges are reviewed on a 6 monthly basis and rest assured that many trainers believe that a charge of less than £30 per month offers good value for money. Particularly is most trainers in Hammersmith & Fulham charge £30 per hour minimum.
“All registered PT’s/ Bootcamps will also be included in the LBHF PT/Bootcamp directoryhttp://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/Leisure_and_Culture/Sports_and_leisure/Sports_facilities/154589_Boot_Camps.asp enabling residents to locate approved licensed trainers in their area.
“Under the current Byelaws: Trading. 27. No person shall in the ground, without the consent of the Council, sell or offer or expose for sale, or let to hire, or offer or expose for letting to hire, any commodity or article or provide or offer to provide any service for which a charge is made. To date no individuals or organisations have be asked to leave or been removed from any of the parks or open spaces.
“Currently the only objections to the scheme are coming from trainers operating on a 1:1 basis. The main argument being that the parks are public space and ‘free’. Obviously this is the case to those using the parks for casual play or recreation, however those wishing to participate in an organised/commercial/profitable activity must seek permissions and the appropriate licensing from LBHF. The scheme is not new, although in the last 12 months a more pro-active approach has been taken to ensure its rolled out consistently.
“Ultimately those wishing to participate in an organised, commercial/profitable activity must seek permissions and the appropriate licensing from LBHF. It certainly safeguards reputable, qualified, insured PT’s and removes the cowboys operating substandard sessions. As I’m sure you understand we must have procedure in place to balance commercial activity in the parks. Simply to allow anyone to run a business from the parks does not safeguard the users or the parks future.
“Recently there has obviously been some media coverage regarding the License. H&F Conservative councillor Greg Smith, cabinet member for residents’ services, defended the fee, saying: “Taxpayers do not expect businesses who are trying to make money out of our parks to get a free ride on the back of their taxes and these businesses do need to pay for the necessary licence”. The motive behind the license is certainly not to discourage resident and the public from physical activity however private companies and individuals exploiting public resources for private gain without paying anything back is certainly not ideal.”