Hopes of Harrogate Parkrun's return boosted by new Government legal advice

The battle to bring back Harrogate's weekly Parkrun on the Stray has been boosted by an intervention by Government ministers confirming it is legal for the 5k running event to return nationally.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 9:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 9:34 am
Hopes have been revived of the popular weekly Parkrun being resumed each Saturday morning on the Stray in Harrogate.

Despite having the agreement of both Harrogate Borough Council and Harrogate Parkrun volunteer organisers, local hopes of restarting on June 5 received a setback when Parkrun's national headquarters said it had been forced to delay its planned reopening in England on June 5 because not enough land owners had given permission to go ahead on that date.

Harrogate Borough Council had said previously it supported the return of Parkrun on the Stray in Harrogate each Saturday morning if organisers confirmed all Covid safe measures were in place.

Coun Stan Lumley, Harrogate Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Culture Tourism & Sport, said: ""I strongly believe that exercise is essential for physical and mental health and people want to get back doing the things they love.

"Parkrun is well-established in the Harrogate district and it is also an important social event."

One of Harrogate Parkrun's organisers Ted Welton confirmed it had been looking good until the most recent announcement.

He said: "We do have permission from Harrogate Borough Council to restart on the Stray on 5th June, as does Conyngham Hall in Knaresborough.

"But, at a local level, we are in the hands of parkrun HQ natiponally who I know are keen to get people active again."

Parkrun's national headquarters says it 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 problem is, at the moment, although 250 locations in England have given them permission to run on June 5, around 150 landowners, including a number of local authorities, have either refused permission for Parkrun to return, or not yet replied to correspondence from the organisers.

It's this which has triggered the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, to send a letter to all councils in England.

In the joint letter, the ministers say: "We strongly urge local authorities to ensure that they are applying their powers in a consistent and proportionate manner and progressing Parkrun's applications at pace in order to allow these events to return as soon as possible."

The ministers add they recognise the pressures local councils are under to consider requests for organised outdoor sports safely but, they say, Parkruns are exempt from legal gathering limits and can take place with any number of participants as long as they are held in line with Covid guidance.

Free-to-enter and marshalled by volunteers, since Harrogate Parkrun started in 2012, a total of 16,670 runners have completed the 5k course on the Stray.

The arrival of the Covid pandemic in March 2020 not only stopped all Parkruns everywhere in their tracks but also had a devastating impact on club championships and regular races nationwide.

The message of support from the Government follows a recent plea by World Athletics president Lord Coe for decision makers to back the return of Parkrun "or risk losing it forever".

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