BBC Radio 4 investigates PTs being charged to use parks

REPs Registrar Jean-Ann Marnoch joined the team of BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours on Friday January 20th to talk about the issue of fitness instructors and personal trainers being charged by councils to use parks and open spaces. An investigation by the BBC discovered that more than a third of local authorities in the UK charge for fitness classes in their public parks.

A survey by Radio 4’s You and Yours found more than 40% charged personal trainers a fee to run exercise sessions in their parks. In north-east England, 72% of councils charge, while only 14% in Wales charge. The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) says it is disappointed with the findings.

Jean-Ann commented: “This issue has prompted the biggest response we have ever seen from our members. While some appreciate the need for a nominal fee to pay for wear and tear on parks and open spaces many are finding themselves charged for multiple licenses for individual parks and by neighbouring borough councils.

“Often our members are having to find hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to use parks – costs that they often don’t feel they can justify passing on to their clients. One of our members said they wouldn’t be able to justify the £350 cost for the few clients they train in the park. So what then? Do we tell clients to forget a healthy lifestyle and go back to sitting in a chair all day? That’s certainly not what we want.”

She added: “If there has to be a charge the Register would like to see councils working together on a cohesive and reciprocal approach that would mean each instructor pays a one-off fee allowing them to using any park in their borough and maybe parks in neighbouring boroughs too.”
Jean-Ann also expressed concern that charges would be passed on to clients and make exercise less affordable. She argues that classes in parks are often a cheaper way to achieve an active lifestyle.

Nine out of 10 councils responded to the survey, a total of 354 local authorities.
Of them, 150 confirmed that personal trainers had to pay a fee to run exercise sessions in their parks. To read more, or to listen to the broadcast click here:

8 responses to “BBC Radio 4 investigates PTs being charged to use parks

  1. Please can somebody tell me what the outcome of the meetin Jean-Ann was going to have with Government on this issue. To make a finer point, do commercial dog walkers pay to use a park, they are receiving an income from walking dogs professionally, do driving instructors have to pay to instruct clients on roads, which is over and above the normal tax, insurances etc. No they don’t. I know there has been a debate that local residence take umbridge to PT’s using the park and it’s all about the tax payer’s money, in my opinion a very poor excuse. Needless to say, I also pay tax, national insurance, and I am fully insured to exercise clients, plus being self employed brings its own pitfalls and the cost of running a very small business is costly and hard work. Furthermore, it is not at all surprising that PT’s leave the insdustry because there is a lack of support in the business area, lack of funds and they are squeezed every which way. I stongly oppose the parks charging large sums, if there is a system it should be across the board and not just targetting PT’s, it should be dog walkers, who often leave the park in a disgraceful state as they do not clear up after their dogs as they are so often chatting and care to notice. Beverley at

  2. Great, good to see this issue is being brought before a wider audience!

    Well done Jean!


  3. Great post, glad to see this being talked about. Parks should be promoted by councils for fitness not discouraged by charges.

  4. i think this is a disgrace. we as pts should not have to pay to use public parks.. why are you targetting just pts??? can u explain.. you should encourging people to join boot camps or fitness clubs outside etc… not just sitting at home eating themselves silly.

    • I was contacted by the BBC a few days ago, asking me to comment on the situation with PT’s being charged to use parks. I think there should be a nominal fee, the charges being applied in some parks are excessive. My main concers are as follows: Unless there is a park warden, similar to a traffic warden, you simply cannot manage the process of charging. Furthermore, do commercial dog walkers pay to exercise dogs in the park, do driving instructors have to pay additional charges to take people on the road for lessons?

  5. Debbie End

    I had a similar problem, I requested to use Heaton Park in Manchester, the largest park in Europe, and was refused as Military Fitness had exclusive use of the Park. This was about two years ago, a vast park available yet not allowed to use it, I was also told in a letter that if I was”caught” using the park I would be punished!! financially a fine to pay…..
    I was hoping to bring my clients to the park for training , also I approached various other councils with other park areas and the process of application was lengthy, dependant on number of clients that it made it very difficult to proceed.
    I often see small pockets of people being trained in the park and I think good luck to them,just get on with it in the fresh air, they pay their council tax so they should have free use of it, and not be barred by exclusivity.
    Very unfair

  6. It is so interesting to hear everybody’s thoughts and I totally agree with each and every one of them! I have been paying park licence fees in the Richmond and Twickenham boroughs for the past 3 years now and sadly I feel it has been the ruination of my business! I was holding outdoor training classes for post natal mums of up to 20 to 25 at times so the introduction of licence fees was a nuisance but financially not too damaging. However as outdoor training has become so much more popular the numbers per class have diminished to three to six maximum and consequently the licence fees are now untenable! I was using three different parks and consequently being charged by Richmond council and National Heritage. My fees amounted to £750 per year! I did want to use Richmond park but was told they already had a post natal group one morning a week and so could not use the park. The fees were crazy anyway, £600 for the year for two classes per week! I have now stopped training in two of the parks and only use a National Heritage park whose fees are £300 for the year! Sadly I have lost a lot of business consequently and for me I’ve lost enthusiasm to work in the mud and rain and dodge the dog walkers mess also! I think the whole thing has a lot to answer for! And do dog walkers pay licence fees yet??

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