Personal trainers ‘should be charged’ up to £1,000 a year to use Bristol Downs

Personal trainers could be facing a bill of hundreds for using the Downs (photo: HENNING KAISER/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)Personal trainers could be facing a bill of hundreds for using the Downs (photo: HENNING KAISER/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)
Personal trainers could be facing a bill of hundreds for using the Downs (photo: HENNING KAISER/DDP/AFP via Getty Images) | DDP/AFP via Getty Images
Advisers say there should be a charge for exercise classes

Advisers have suggested that personal trainers should be charged up to £1,000 a year to hold exercise classes on the Downs.

They said new licences to use the parkland in north Bristol could include rules to stop people from using park benches or trees as training aids.

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The Downs are a popular exercise spot for many people running, playing football, taking part in bootcamp classes, and even playing Quidditch. But some exercise classes can attract groups as big as 60 people, prompting complaints from the Downs Advisory Panel.

The parkland is run by the Downs committee, made up of Bristol councillors and members of the Society of Merchant Venturers. They agreed to set up a new advisory panel earlier this year, after complaints about a lack of democratic involvement in how the Downs are run.

Robert Westlake, chair of the new Downs Advisory Panel, said other cities charge licences for exercise classes in parks, and Bristol should do so too. Speaking to the Downs committee, on Monday, September 18, he said people “profiting” from the park should pay towards its upkeep.

Mr Westlake said: “Numerous bootcamps and fitness trainers advertise Downs fitness training schemes. They are completely unlicensed, unregistered and unregulated, operating a commercial enterprise free of any fee.

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“This recommendation is in no way wishing to discourage individuals from exercising or casual recreation. However, there is a case from those wishing to profit from the Downs to make some contribution towards their upkeep. Other cities manage to do it quite well.”

He added that other councils charge a licence fee between £300 and £1,000 a year. Conditions on licences could include rules on making sure participants avoid using park benches, picnic tables or trees in their training, as well as limiting excessive noise.

The idea was previously considered by the council’s park department, which failed to get the new licences signed off. But one council boss suggested that exercise classes in parks across Bristol should also be charged, raising extra income to help with recent budget cuts.

Jon James, head of service for natural and marine environment at Bristol City Council, said: “We have looked at this, not only for the Downs but across the whole estate, because we have numerous such organisations operating on our sites without any licences.

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“We did propose that we could generate an income from the Downs and other green spaces, but unfortunately that wasn’t supported. My view is that they’re there as a commercial business and they should be expecting to pay for the use of facilities.”

The Downs committee said they would consider the idea, although there were doubts about how to enforce the new licences. Another concern was about legal liability, if any accidents were to happen during classes.

Labour Councillor Kye Dudd, cabinet member for climate, said: “It sounds like a good idea but I’m wondering about the policing of it. You could get the bigger operators to sign a licence, but there’s a lot of smaller self-employed personal trainers. How would you get them to sign up? What if they say ‘I’m just not going to pay’, how do we deal with that?”

Mr Westlake replied: “In some ways it could be self-policing. Once a registration scheme is in place, those who are already signed up are not going to be happy about other people coming along and setting up and potentially undercutting their business.”

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