Personal Trainers charged to use London Parks

personal training in the  park

personal training in the park

On April Fool’s Day, April 1st, Hammersmith & Fulham Council decided to start charging personal trainers £350 a year to use public parks.

If other councils are crazy enough to follow suit, this will mean that personal trainers will have to pay a separate charge to each and every borough council whose parks they train clients in. That might mean £3,500 slapped on a trainer with park clients across 10 boroughs.

I can’t help thinking this policy is unfair, illogical, and unenforceable. It will discourage Londoners from getting help to get fit, it will force start-up personal trainers out of business, and it goes against the principle of public parks being free for all.

The reasoning behind this charge? Personal trainers make money out of the park, use it as their place of business, so they should make a contribution. And it will enable councils to vet personal trainers, weed out unqualified ones, and protect the public. All these arguments are false.

Personal trainers and their clients are already contributing to the upkeep of the parks through their council tax. They pay tax, national insurance, get no holiday pay or sick pay, and yet councils see fit to impose this additional tax on trainers.

It’s a tax on fitness at a time when Londoners should be encouraged for getting fit, not penalised.

And it’s not as if an individual personal trainer with one client is draining the resources of the park.

Are they causing any obstruction? No! Do they cause any annoyance or excess noise (apart from a few muffled grunts from the client)? No! Do they have a permanent presence, or leave rubbish or cause any wear and tear (apart from a few squashed blades of grass)? No!

It’s worth making a distinction here between individual personal trainers with a single client, and bootcamp organisations which train over a dozen clients at the same time. These bootcamps are charged £1,200 a year for training in the park, which is fair enough as they eat up lots of space and squeeze out other park users from the spot they train in. Totally different scenario from one personal trainer with one client.

How can such a policy be enforced? What’s to stop the trainer telling the parks police that he’s training a friend for free? And how can it be enforced fairly? Will a trainer who just runs through a park with a client a few times a week be expected to pay the same as a trainer who uses the park 5 hours a day every day?

Parks are public spaces, and personal training clients should be free to use the park to get fit, without an extra charge being passed onto them. All the pavements of a London borough are public spaces too, so what’s next, a charge for personal trainers jogging along the pavement with their client?

And the safety/regulation argument is nonsense. Clients are perfectly capable of checking qualifications, membership of the Register of Personal Trainers, first aid certificates, when they hire a personal trainer. Yet another layer of bureaucracy is the last thing anyone needs.

And if borough councils want to do more to promote the safety and wellbeing of people using the park, there are dozens of higher priorities they should focus on: dangerous dogs, gangs, drugs, dog litter, discarded syringes, drunks, rogue fast-food traders. A personal trainer is hardly a risk to the public when compared to this list.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below…..


  • Ben Plenge says:

    I am a PT and train my clients mostly in Ravenscourt Park (H&F) and also run a small bootcamp a few times per week. First of all I was surprised by this story as I have been paying this charge for the last 6 months, so it is hardly new to me! What I have discovered is that is administered very poorly by H&F borough council. I met all of their deadlines and produced copies of al the paperwork and the license took over a month to materialise. 2 weeks before my renewal I got in contact with the council as I had not recieved any renewal notice or similar, and have been told that they will be in touch with me – 6 weeks later – still no new license! I feel like I wasted my money for the last 6 months as my license was checked only once by Parks Constabulary and none of the other trainers in the park had one.
    Is it justified? It is good to regulate some of the cowboy trainers out there and the public does also have a duty to check qualifications for themselves, but they often don’t realise what they should be checking, and very few of my new clients ever ask despite being well educated, intelligent people.
    You have slightly mis-understood the £1200 license as this is for organisations with multiple instructors, rather then multiple clients, so I do my bootcamp with just a £350 license. If I was a bootcamp company with different instructors from week to week I could buy a £1200 license to cover all bootcamp activities under my company name.
    The main thing that grates me as a PT is that I really care about and look after the park, unlike the people who leave litter everywhere after a sunny afternoon, and the people who let their dogs crap everywhere and so on. Rather then checking licenses the PCSO’s and Parks Const should be on top of the petty antisocial behaviour that totally spoils the beautiful parks across the borough.
    In principle it does not bother me too much although I don’t support it, however £350 is way too much money!

    • Dom says:

      Thanks Ben for this comment, I totally agree it’s annoying to see other people leave the park in a poor state. One thing that really freaks me out is the pit bull terriors off the leash and making a beeline for me and my client mid-session.
      Your comment about clients not checking qualifications/insurance etc is so true. I’ve had personal training clients who are solicitors and barristers, and they don’t ask for proof (but maybe they conduct their own due diligence without me knowing!). I think having a good website, and being good in one-to-one interaction, count for a lot when it comes to trust.
      Thanks for the clarification on the £1,200 fee.

  • screwie says:

    I think the date the policy was introduced is pretty apt. Unfortunately it isn’t funny.

    Personally I very strongly question and resist any money making scheme touted as “public protection”. Quite frankly, if a solicitor, a barrister and whatever other professional, intelligent, well educated person fails to check credentials, I don’t think someone else should be charged for their failure to run a few google hits and maybe a couple of phone calls. Especially since their failure is then exploited by a council like H&F to give a false sense of security that they are covering your back, as evidenced by Ben’s statement that his licence was checked once in 6 months and none of the other trainers even having one.
    Maybe if public bodies stopped being patronising gits, people would start taking personal responsibility for their own safety and well being.

    Pardon rant (and I’ve deliberately omitted mentioning AS behaviour)!

    • Dom says:

      Agreed screwie!

      Personal trainers who do legitimate courses, keep their first aid skills up to date, take out public liability insurance, and join the National Register of Personal Trainers (or the Register of Exercise Professionals) , can provide evidence of all of these to clients. No need for local authorities to get in on the act as well (and charge for it).

  • Anthony says:

    I am disgusted by this government and another way to get money out of people trying to earn a living, a park is free space how can they charge for usage when two friends could be doing the same as what a personal trainer is doing , they need to police dog poop on the parks more as this is a bigger issue.
    Also with people becoming more and more obese the government should be encouraging exercise in parks not targeting those who want to exercise making personal training only for the rich as the costs the personal trainer occurs will be passed on to the client.

    • Dom says:

      Agreed Anthony – London councils shouldn’t be standing in the way of personal trainers and their clients, they should be encouraging Londoners to exercise more.

  • James says:

    Trainers are making money out of a public space therefore should pay for this right!!!!!! by that rationale does this not also apply to anyone in a similar decision – 2 businessmen meeting for a lunch doing a deal, the nannie walking her baby, a professional artist paiting a picture!!! I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. This is just a local authority tax at a time when the purse strings are tight. I will not be paying for a licence to train my 2 clients 4 times a week in the park!

    • Dom says:

      I agree James, plus the fact that personal trainers with individual clients are hardly draining the resources of a park or taking up much space.

  • David says:

    Seems that the charge misses the mark. It would be good to have more people interested in the parks, and out using them for things like fitness. Doing so improves the health, and in turn allows the population to be more productive, hence an excellent way out of the financial crisis. Along these lines, the parks could be paying personal trainers to be getting people into the parks, and getting them fit. It might also motivate some of the others to rethink how they are using (or misusing) the park.

  • vic says:

    It’s just another con to get more money!