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Softball players succeed in getting sports charges dropped in Hyde Park

Charges to play sports in Hyde Park suspended following legal action

Football played in Hyde Park on a bank holiday Monday

6 September 2013

The London Charity Softball League has succeeded in their efforts to have the decision to charge people to play sports in Hyde Park suspended, pending a full consultation on a new booking system and charging policy in the park.

Private company Will to Win had been appointed by the Royal Parks; the agency charged with looking after London’s eight Royal Parks, to manage, collect and enforce charges to access the Old Football Pitches, within Hyde Park.

In response, the London Charity Softball League launched a change.org petition calling for the charges to be dropped, since launching 25,000 people have signed.

The league also began legal action against the Royal Parks. In a letter before action law firm Leigh Day acting on behalf of the league, argued that the decision to charge for the use of the park was unlawful as whilst the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller MP, has the power to prohibit activities there is nothing in the regulations regarding a power to charge fees.

The Royal Parks announced today that they were suspending the fee charges and that they will begin a full consultation into the booking and charging for access to the Old Football Pitches, which have been used for decades as a focus for informal community sports without a charge.

The letter goes on to say that the process is expected to take 3 months and that an equality impact assessment will be undertaken as part of the process.

Private company, Will to Win, which had been appointed by the Royal Parks to manage, collect and enforce the fees will continue to maintain a booking system at its own expense.

The letter also argued that the decision to appoint a private company to manage, collect and enforce the new fees was unlawful as the decision and appointment was taken without any consultation with those members of the public who were likely to be affected by the proposal and without due regard to Department's duties under s149 Equality Act 2010.

Vanessa Furey from the London Charity Softball League, a grass-roots community organisation, said:

“My first response was simply, wow. We are all so proud to have stood up for what we believed in and couldn’t have imagined that this unfair and unlawful decision could have been reversed so quickly.

“The league exists to introduce large numbers of London charity workers to the sport of softball and provides a valuable opportunity for charity workers to meet, socialise and exchange contacts and ideas. We are delighted that it will continue and that any consultation will result in fees being disregarded permanently to play sport in a public space.”

Rosa Curling a lawyer from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said:

“Having asked the Royal Parks to reconsider their decision to introduce fees to access the Old Football Pitches to play sport, we are very pleased to get this result for our clients as we believe the Royal Parks should be open and free for all, supportive of the Government’s commitment to an Olympic legacy.

“We welcome the consultation but remain of the view that the Secretary of State does have the power to prohibit activities but that they do not have the power to charge and any future efforts to make a profit from the sporting activities in the park will result in further legal action.

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