Petition Launched After Richmond Park Bans Cross Country Event

Royal Parks says larger races need to avoid sensitive areas

Races are held regularly in Richmond ParkRaces are held regularly in Richmond Park. Picture: Belgrave Harriers

February 9, 2023

Nearly 1,500 people have signed a petition asking Richmond Park not to ban cross-country running. After Royal Parks turned down an application for an event hosting 350 runners, residents feared the sport would not be allowed to continue at the popular green space.

However, it has now been confirmed cross-country running events have not been banned altogether. Royal Parks said one event was rejected as spectators would walk across ecologically sensitive areas of the park, but it would be happy to work with the club who applied to design a different route or a smaller event. Royal Parks said it had accepted all other applications to date.

A petition launched on Tuesday, 7 February, calling for cross-country events to be allowed at Richmond Park was signed by more than 1,400 people. The petition says, “Richmond Park has a long history of hosting various cross-country events. These races have inspired thousands of people to get into a healthy lifestyle, to enjoy the outside and to connect with our local environment.

“The benefits to physical and mental health of spending time in nature are well documented. At this time of climate change and biodiversity crisis, it is more important than ever that we encourage people to engage in local parks, not put up barriers to them.”

Londoners threw their support behind the petition. One commenter wrote, “Cross country events are loved by many and have taken place here for many years, inspiring people to run and benefiting health, wellness and community. The clubs that take part are all community based and to lose these events would be a backwards step.”

Another said, “Cross country is a sport open to anyone and everyone, provides mental and physical well-being and leaves minimal evidence behind… if anything it promotes increased gratitude and respect for open green spaces. It also helps the local economy (coffee shops etc) with an influx of visitors.”

A third wrote, “Richmond Park should be for everyone to use. Cross-country running is important for the community and encourages individuals to get active while in nature.”

A spokesperson for The Royal Parks said, “We welcome all runners to Richmond Park, we host numerous running clubs, such as Parkrun and we consider all event applications.

“However, Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific interest, which is host to a rare acid grassland environment. For large events, especially during wetter weather, we assess the potential damage from mass groups of runners and spectators to ecologically sensitive areas, in order to protect valuable wildlife habitats such as ancient ant hills and off-path zones hosting declining numbers of skylarks.

“We will work with large-event applicants to discuss attendance numbers and to co-design a running route across paths and less sensitive areas of the park. We ask all runners to ‘tread lightly’ and respect the nature under their feet and we are investing heavily in improving paths and bridal paths to provide routes for everyone to use.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter