Sports Instructors - Fitness Licenses For Parks in London

Sports Instructors – Fitness Training License And Fees For Parks

Many personal trainers and fitness professionals train their clients outdoors in local parks. They offer a variety of convenient locations, as well as a chance to be outside and reconnect with nature.

In 2013 London’s Royal Parks started to charge fees for fitness instructors to use park facilities. The fees depend on the number of clients per session, how many sessions you offer a year, and which park you train in. Currently, there are 87 licensed operators listed on the Royal Parks website.

The big debate is if people already pay taxes, why should personal trainers have to pay an use the parks? Under the licensing requirements dog walkers are also charged to use the parks. But as one personal trainer pointed out when the plans were first announced, what about nannies and horse riders?

This concept of paying fees has recently in the national news when Stoke Gifford Parish Council wanted to charge Park Run £1 per runner. The council's proposal resulted in the Park Run event's cancellation and general uproar. New legislation (Running Free) has been proposed to ban councils charging Park Run for use of a local park. There is a potential to extend these discussions to personal trainer and dog walkers.

Is it something our industry should be worried about?

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London's Council's are charging for a Fitness Training License to train in the Park

The Royal Parks fees have seemingly given a green light to other councils to start charging personal trainers and dog walkers.

In 2015, Southwark Council started charging personal trainers with its fitness licence scheme. The most recent rates, which went into effect on 1 April 2017, are;

  • £285.60 for an annual pass to train one to three clients, one to three sessions a week
  • An annual group exercise pass for £4,590.00 to train 41-60 clients four to seven sessions a week

If you plan on offering both one-to-one and group sessions, you need to pay for both licences. These prices already include VAT, but can also take a big part of a freelance personal trainer’s earnings.

But even if you pay the fee to Southwark Council there is no guarantee you that there will be space to train.

Southwark Council's small print

  • Space is limited to avoid high pedestrian activity. This means such as pathways, monuments and bandstands.
  • Sessions can only last up to 60 minutes (90 minutes in the Royal Parks) or until the clientele changes. Trainers can work under a licensee. This means a business would only need one licence for all employees.
  • All trainers and licensees need a photo ID armband which they are to wear during the sessions.
  • The equipment must be hand-held only and cannot be placed on the park’s property (such as TRX or resistance bands)
  • No advertising (such as boards, flyers, or flags) can be displayed or distributed in the park. Trainers can wear branded uniform
  • But the one that seems most challenging is that the trainer cannot collect money from clients in the park
  • Licensees have to maintain public liability insurance of not less than £2,000,000. But a level £5,000,000 is preferred!
  • Reports on attendance need to be reported to the council quarterly
  • Finally the Council also points out that the majority of the parks do not have any toilet facilities. This might make clients a little uncomfortable.
With all these restrictions, personal trainers and fitness professionals should calculate their earning potential before committing to a park licence fee.

A public consultation has been announced

The latest development is the Running Free consultation which went open to public comment this month. It aims to prevent councils from charging Park Run and Park Run junior events.

The document says The government considers that it is appropriate for the public to pay a reasonable sum for the exclusive use of a facility” giving the examples of tennis courts and golf courses.

But section 19(2) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 provides that local authorities can provide, and charge for, recreational facilities, but does not refer to parks.

Although the primary focus of the Running Free consultation is Park Run it also mentions dog walkers and personal trainers, as neither group requires exclusive use of public parks.

Hopefully, personal trainers (and dog walkers) will take this as an opportunity to voice their opinions on what is fair for small businesses trying to save on costs. It might not be important to personal trainers outside of London though as it seems like only London-area parks charge personal trainers. Perhaps Royal Parks have now set a precedent to charge fees that areas within the M25 will mimic.

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What do London's Personal Trainers think?

Anthony Mayatt personal trainer and owner of Breathe Fitness has been registered in the Royal Parks for four years. He said during this time, the Royal Parks have started to reduce the licensing fee, which he applauds. Yet he also feels"Council-run parks are supported by council tax and a small fee for upkeep might be more appropriate".

Sophie McKay a personal trainer at Fitology trains clients part-time. She uses parks as a way to keep her overheads low by eliminating paying rent to a gym. She trains in Hackney, which does not charge personal trainers.

Yasmine Say of Say Fitness Personal Training believes personal trainers should pay a fee to the council, as the trainers are making a profit. Her frustration is the limitations of where she can train clients with her own equipment. She understands that equipment can damage trees and benches, but she has been told not to use the exercise equipment in the park either.

What do you think? Should fitness professionals pay to teach clients in public parks? Do dog walkers need to pay too? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

This article is a guest post by our OffPeaks instructor PTMollie.

About the Author Mollie Millington

Mollie is the Happiness Personal Trainer and fitness writer. An American based in London, she takes a holistic approach to training her clients, looking for a balance of work, life, fitness, food and fun. Her writing can be found in PT Magazine and she has contributed to various websites on health and fitness.

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