The west London council boasts 48 parks and open spaces, many of which are used regularly by personal trainers and fitness organisations. These will have to pay £29 a month to procure a license to continue to use the parks. And the word on the grapevine is that other councils are poised to follow suit.
First of all, how can this fee be enforced? The council claims that increased park police (at a further cost to the taxpayer, please note) will be on the look-out for trainers operating without a license - but what's to stop these bootcamp organisers claiming they are simply a group of friends, out for a run?
And who will end up footing the bill for this 'license'? The consumer, of course. The cost will be passed down to the individual, disincentivising them from attending bootcamps - we do have a burgeoning obesity problem here in the UK - and placing yet more pressure on a general public already squeezed by cuts.
Additionally, where do you draw the line? If someone were to close a business deal on a smartphone, sitting on a park bench, does the council have the right to a cut?
Forgive the hyperbole. The point is this: Self-employed people face enough challenges without further bureaucracy and fees. These entrepreneurs already pay their taxes, giving them the right to use public parks as they see fit, as long as it does not damage public property or cause a nuisance.
Conservative councillor Greg Smith takes a different view. He defended the fee to BBC News, saying: "Taxpayers do not expect businesses who are trying to make money out of our parks to get a free ride on the back of their taxes and these businesses do need to pay for the necessary licence."
But not everyone agrees with Smith's point of view. One organisation that already pays for the priviledge of using London open spaces is the British Military Fitness organisation (BMF). Groups are primarily run by ex-servicemen and women, one of whom, avatar Lt Hawkins, posted this on the Army Cadet Force forum:
"Basically, BMF is like having a private fitness instructor, but the "gym" is a local park, paid for and looked after by the local council. The instructor is provided by the state, specifically a MOD trained instructor. So you're already paying for a guy who was trained with taxes you paid, to run you around a park that your council tax pays for."
Furthermore, parks should be encouraging more people to use their facilities. Increased footfall can only be beneficial for the parks, encouraging further enterprise to cater to a new audience and ensuring these open spaces do not lie unused and unloved.
But are there benefits to the licensing scheme? The council claims that licensing helps groups avoid clashing when they try to use the park at the same time.
This would make sense if the parks were all the size of a postage stamp. As it is, fitness groups sharing similar work-out areas naturally fall in to a schedule without forking out for a non-existant and expensive timetable.
Picture source: Lululemon Athletica