As published in the Daily Telegraph:
Hundreds of MPs have been asked for their “urgent help” to save parkrun amid fears it could be mothballed in a “national embarrassment” after less than a fifth of venues granted permission for its return.
David Davis, the Conservative MP and former party chairman, wrote to his House of Commons colleagues after Telegraph Sport revealed the scale of the plight facing the popular event’s bid to resume on June 5.
Government guidelines have allowed outdoor events like parkrun since the end of March, but the organisation have been trying to work responsibly with landowners and local authorities in coordinating its nationwide resumption.
And, despite presenting scientific evidence for the extremely low Covid risk of outdoor events, organisers are now being met with a combination of red tape, non-answers and even a potential six-month wait for individual decisions.
Parkrun needs local permissions from the vast majority of its venues by May 21 to move forward with their June 5 return date. This is to avoid the risk of overcrowding those sites which have agreed to come back.
However, out of the 589 venues which had previously hosted the weekly 5km timed event, only 110 landowners have granted permission to return on June 5.
Davis wrote: “Parkruns were legally able to return from Step 1 of the government roadmap in March.
“Yet, today, a significant number of landowners (a mix of local authorities and some private landowners) are putting unacceptable and potentially unlawful barriers in the way of parkrun returning.
“A number of the responses the charity has received from local authorities are embarrassing. Some cite the need for isolation tents. Some suggest waiting several weeks (or even months) for a Safety Advisory Group meeting. Others have asked for parkrun to assess and mitigate against variants of concern at a local level. All despite parkrun having a legal permission to return, a Government-supported COVID framework that has been developed in conjunction with Sport England and Public Health England, and despite all the evidence pointing to negligible outdoor transmission of Coronavirus.”
He added: “Personally, I would consider it a national embarrassment if we allow this situation to stop the return of public health initiatives like parkrun. At present, and as reported by Telegraph Sport earlier this week, it is likely that we will see the reopening of pubs, clubs, casinos, large scale indoor events, and others ahead of this national public health initiative. That is nonsensical.
“As a result, I am asking for your urgent help. Please reach out to your local government political representatives and chief executives to request that they urgently support the return of parkrun on 5 June.”