Response from Hammersmith and Fulham Council

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 directory 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.”

14 responses to “Response from Hammersmith and Fulham Council

  1. Hammersmith and Fulham council along with Royal Parks charge extremely large license fees. Taking BMF as an example is like taking Virgin Active as an example. BMF are a nationwide business and if I am correct they pay a percentage of their income to parks.

    Tax payer’s money. Personal Trainers have to pay tax too so why should they pay to use the park, they also pay tax! I pay £1008.00 per year to nordic walk in Bushy Park. What do I get for my license fee? I cannot advertise, I cannot post a leaflet to make people aware that I am in the park, in fact they do not offer any way of promoting my business within the park.

    I have huge arguments about the fairness of license fees. Police in parks trying to spot Personal Trainers who are actively promoting health is ludicrous and a waste of tax payers money. Shouldn’t police be fighting crime and not chasing off the innocent personal trainer? If the average PT is charging £30.00 per hour it must take an idiot to think it goes in that PT’s back pocket. PT’s have to plan lessons and they work for their money, manage their business, pay their tax and national insurance, update websites, pay hosting fees, equipment, advertising, run a car in order to get to the venue. So if you work it out it does not equate to a healthy £30.00 profit per session. it is so convenient for Councils to comment but they do not see further than their noses and do not want to know about the single Pt who like everybody else is trying to make a living.

  2. What a load of bollocks! Safeguarding from cowboys, reinstatement due to wear and tear!!? Come on!
    What about the many small businesses set up by enterprising PT’s who’ve all paid 5k plus to obtain their qualifications? How is it financially viable for a new business, starting out with 2 or 3 attending a group session, only operating during term times, to fork out 1200pounds per year? How is this helping local business / women back to work / fighting the obesity problem this country is faced with?
    If you”‘re going to start comparing the park to the gym, you better start offering comparable facilities – toilets, changing rooms, outdoor gym equipment – its not as if there are any utility bills to contribute towards! I already pay my taxes for park upkeep – why am I being doubly taxed!?

  3. Michael Cowen

    Can we assume from the above (Byelaw trading 27) that the council will also be making similar charges to dog walkers and chilminders?

    • Colette

      Wear and tear froma bit of jogging round the park and a few press ups against a bench??? You’ve got to be joking! I think you’ll find dogs and children cause a bit more mess in a park. You can’t compare the facilites offered at a gym to the park, makes no sense whatsover. There is no comparison. This is just councils trying to squeeze more money out of people. I’d also like to see hard evidence that all this extra money is being spent on the upkeep of the parks, which I don’t believe for a second.

    • Nadia

      That’s quite an interesting point. I also know of commercial creches and commercial playgroups that take children on masse to parks etc. local to them. Surely they should also be included amongst this byelaw.

  4. it’s such a scam. i’m pretty sure BMF are very happy with the arrangement as it further squeezes out the independent competition.

  5. sam

    Next you’ll be charged for breathing around the parks ! Unfit councilors are making all the stupid decisions !

  6. I thought it was bad in the North East paying £300 but £1200 is absolute madness. Obviously when starting up a bootcamp class, the numbers will be low and getting just the cost of the licence back is bad enough, you’re breaking even if that.
    Maybe the wear and tear they mean is the 25 blades of grass we get our clients to kneel on when doing pushups!! Or the concrete paths we bound across vibrating the whole park like some sort of seismic quake!
    Hey, councils are all the same – London, North East, wherever. In my local park where I teach on a Sunday, there is broken glass, empty beer bottles, pizza boxes, dog crap etc etc. I have to pay the council for that? Come on councils, get real and encourage local businesses instead of punishing them.

  7. Personal Trainers are offering a service to help get the nation fit and healthy which in turn could reduce NHS costs etc. To be charged when we already pay council tax and costs thousands of pounds to get the qualifications is a joke. Hammersmith and Fulham you are a joke of a council and am glad I do not live there sort yourselves out!!

  8. Tobyone

    Cynical profiteering from councils. It will not allow new trainers to enter the market faced with large start-up costs and no real guarantee of work. Its fair game with the big schools who teach more than say 10 people at a time because they make much more revenue and may ‘wear’ the park. As someone who has fewer PT clients and primarily runs classes it will no doubt push me out of the market as it will make it pointless for me. If they are allowed to role this nonsense scheme out, whats to say they cant charge you for walking down the street with a client? Ridiculous.

  9. Daniella

    Looking at these prices, when I return to the UK, I will use my local gym which will be more cost effective (charging a fraction of the above) and give me more services for my money (advertising, toilets, showers, a friendly receptionist, equipment, a consultation room, secured parking…). This means I can keep my prices for my clients reasonable, affecting a healthy change in more people, rather than making exercise exclusive. I wouldn’t be able to absorb these costs without a price hike for my clients. Additionally I will use the public spaces that they currently don’t charge for. Look about PTs, there are plenty. I have used parks as an alternative for clients who have admitted they simply can’t afford the full cost and its been a compromise.

    Personally I can’t see how they can justify the wear and tear as parks are only usuable in fair or mild weather, meaning that in the UK I have few clients who will workout in a park for more than 100 days per year, if even that. Most PTs need to pay for additional indoor space and may use a park as a motivational workout on a sunny day. Individuals and non-profit organisations cause as much wear and tear, if not more. A local school uses our park and when they have finished, the litter is astounding. I have never seen them atempt to clean up nor do I believe they pay anything for the use of the park. Dog walkers who don’t clean up after dogs are a far greater nuisance, and its not unusual for dog to attack and chase people. Surely the police should be dealing with this first?. I understand that the council doesn’t want commercial businesses on their sites, but as stated above by several people PT doesn’t neccessarily equate to huge amounts of money. Myfirst year of PT I only scraped even after all the costs of training, equipment, space rentals, PPLs…. From what I have observed, PTs charging £80 and above seem to work in the larger chain clubs or have their own spaces. They too are paying out large sums of money in space rental, etc so its not all profit. Councils are meant to be encouraging exercise as part of the governmants change4life and yet our local council gym has become so exclusive in price that low income households can no longer afford it. They are turning to clubs and PTs outside of the main system for help. Even one session with a PT every month in a park can motivate someone to keep going at a lower cost than this gym offers. Ironically it is opposite the park and yet never uses it itself.

  10. Simon Hazel

    I’d rather see one flat fee for a London Park licence otherwise if I have 3 or 4 clients in different boroughs I’ll be required to make £1400 (at the current H&F charge) just to break even. Hardly encouraging me to build up a business at all. But preferably I rather see a lower fee or no fee as at present I don’t seem to be getting much for my money, do I?

  11. Zbigniew Mucha

    It’s a real shame that REPs don’t do anything to help fitness professionals. Publishing this letter on your website won’t change anything. We have to pay REPs to maintain our qualifications and parks to check them again. ????????

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