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Talks over returning Newbury Parkrun to Greenham Common still ongoing



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EFFORTS to start up Newbury Parkrun again are still ongoing but there is no timeframe as to when the popular event will return.

Parkrun events across the country returned last month following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, but, as the Newbury Weekly News reported in June, Newbury's event at Greenham Common has some obstacles to overcome.

The common is managed by the the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) on behalf of West Berkshire Council.

28-1019 Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common pic chris forsey 6/7/19 (48108176)
28-1019 Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common pic chris forsey 6/7/19 (48108176)

It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the largest continuous tract of open heath in Berkshire and home to protected species of ground nesting birds, and the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission oversees its management.

The commission decided not to give Newbury Parkrun permission to return when it met last month, as it felt the application lacked detail.

Commission vice chairman Chris Austin said he could see no reason why Parkrun could not return to the common, which was established to promote air and exercise.

29-1019 Newbury park run pic chris forsey 13/7/19 (48108223)
29-1019 Newbury park run pic chris forsey 13/7/19 (48108223)

Mr Austin said that BBOWT had some reservations and the commission would write to Parkrun asking it for various assurances.

He said: "Personally I think it should be allowed to go ahead and I think we ought to remember why the common is there.

"I'm afraid at the moment the running of the common is schewing a little bit towards nature conservation and not towards the public right to air and exercise. You only need to look at the common throughout lockdown to see how vastly important it is.

"Their [Newbury Parkrun] impact in terms of nature conservation is about zero, so I think it should definitely be allowed to go ahead.

29-1019 Newbury park run pic chris forsey 13/7/19 (48108221)
29-1019 Newbury park run pic chris forsey 13/7/19 (48108221)

"I think recreational use and nature conservation can go hand in hand and we ought to do whatever it takes to get Parkrun up and running.

"I think BBOWT are being a bit dog in the manger. If they were running across the open common that might be different but congregating on a concrete track and running on gravel paths I can't see that does any damage at all."

West Berkshire Council's head of countryside Paul Hendry said the commission was supportive of Parkrun returning but it needed more information and reassurances over its impact on ecology.

28-1019 Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common pic chris forsey 6/7/19 (48108174)
28-1019 Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common pic chris forsey 6/7/19 (48108174)

He said: "We now find that between 550 and 700 runners on the common – that's bigger than some half marathons – every weekend.

"If you're a bird trying to find a nesting site, all you see on the horizon and the noise associated with it is a predator. It doesn't take much to spook these birds.

"How are Parkrun going to manage the numbers of people who come to the common and its potential impact on the habitats and the species that exist there?

"Parkrun in itself is not responsible for a reduction in these species, there are other things like uncontrolled dogs and the sheer number of people on the common having a negative impact.

"The concerns are, in a town that continues to grow, at what point does the number of people become unsustainable?"

Mr Hendry that said discussions over alternative venues and a children's Parkrun were being looked at, but the discussion needed to be lead by Parkrun.

He said that Parkrun had looked at an alternative site but "the door closed on that for a number of reasons".



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