Businesses accused of exploiting Brighton and Hove parks

Councillors are concerned that a growing number of businesses are operating in local parks without paying for the use of public land.

Green councillors Hannah Clare and Phélim Mac Cafferty are bringing up the issue at the next meeting Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday (9 July).

They have written to the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw to raise their concerns that the voluntary licensing scheme for exercise groups in public spaces, introduced in 2014, has been discontinued.

They described a “proliferation” of exercise groups and food and drink businesses using local parks and, in particular, Hove Lawns which is in their electoral ward, Brunswick and Adelaide.

And they called for the scheme to be revived and enforced in recognition that businesses are “depriving the public using publicly owned land”.

They wrote: “This is something we’ve also seen for ourselves, where companies are putting down heavy equipment and driving vehicles on to the grass on Hove Lawns, for example, which is causing further damage to the drought-damaged lawns.

“Some groups have strung exercise ropes from the Hove Lawns railings – and with chunks of the railings falling away, we would question whether this is linked.”

On one evening they spotted four separate groups using different parts of the lawns between the Peace Statue and Adelaide Crescent.

Their letter said: “There is an increase in businesses using open spaces, without providing funds to the council at a time when the city is trying to recover from the pandemic, and access to the outdoors is important for residents.

“While we recognise that in the recovery from the covid-19 pandemic there are competing priorities for the city council, we feel that a modest charge for the use of public land reflects what personal trainers or traders expect when they buy things like highways licences or they hire space in halls.”

As well as reintroducing the scheme, the two councillors want the council to look into making a licence fee mandatory, as it is in London’s Royal Parks.

The Policy and Resource is due to hold a “virtual” meeting from 4pm on Thursday 9 July. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. saveHOVE Reply

    Send video evidence to cllrs that tells the who and what of these abuses & ensure context identifies sites.

    Making money out of what counts for me as criminal damage is so casually done & with obscene levels of entitlement.

  2. bradly23 Reply


  3. Argusnot Reply

    It’s public land, and the public are using it? Whatever next! But hey, why stop there? Do I see a ‘Dog walking Tax’ on the horizon, or even a walking tax, with a higher rate payable if you break into a jog!

    • Martz Reply

      It is public land & businesses who charge their customers are using it without paying the Council a penny.

    • Clive Reply

      Seems to encourage exercise outside which is safer and may reduce heart disease which costs taxpayers a mint

    • Peter Reply

      If your a dog walker walking dogs for profit yes you should pay the council take your shit bags away and supply the facility your making a living pay up and register as a business ..

  4. Billy Reply

    The gyms are shut and so personal trainers are working outside where it’s safe to do so.
    It’s quite nice to see, actually.
    And we have councillors complaining about this?

  5. Luke Reply

    This is a case of self employed people trying to make ends meet while their regular places of work are shut. Stop trying to tax people into poverty. These are not normal times.

    • Rolivan Reply

      So what are the Enforcement Officers employed for?

  6. Heather Reply

    So many people are struggling to pay bills. Many people have fallen through holes in the furlough system and are doing what they can to survive. How can the council consider charging people when they are actually being ingenious and creative in trying to survive by moving their businesses outdoors. If the council need money maybe they should reopen Madeira Drive and get some parking venue in and help local business by allowing space for tourists to park because they won’t come on public transport. Don’t allow them to add another tax oh sorry “licence” to already struggling working people. So much for a labour council helping the workers thought it was the tories who raised taxes.

    • saveHOVE Reply

      So many selfish comments totally ignoring the problem of DAMAGE that taxpayers have to pay to very expensively repair! Since when is damaging property acceptable?

      • Luke Reply

        What is selfish, is placing higher value over a piece of grass and some shabby railings than the lives of hard-working people trying to make ends meet and feed their families at a time of need. If I have to pay higher taxes because of some minimal damage caused to a piece of public land then so be it, I will rest easy at night knowing that those people did what they needed to survive and made it through these difficult circumstances. You should be ashamed of yourself @saveHOVE. Hove is more than a place, more than a scrap of land. We are Hove and we look out for each other.

      • Billy Reply

        There is no damage occurring to Hove lawns. If there was, it’s certainly not by those using it for exercise.
        Note that the Police cars have been driving all over it recently. Luckily it’s hard-wearing grass and conditions have been dry.
        The other van you may have seen there recently is the one with builders reconstructing the chair storage ‘beach huts’ used by the cafe.

  7. Rolivan Reply

    If these people have a registered business and pay tax and business rates then there should’t be a problem operating in a safer environment.

  8. Dave Jones Reply

    the councillors are right to say that others should not be “depriving the public using publicly owned land”.
    However, I find this pretty hypocritical as the council – under all political parties – has fenced off part of Preston Park & St Anne’s Wells gardens for use by private businesses.
    At a time when the population is rising & more people are using the parks than ever, its disgraceful that the council stops residents using their parks

  9. Rufus Reply

    They should absolutely pay to make money from public spaces. Every business needs to pay rent of some sort, why shouldn’t these trainers?
    and to be really grumpy, a lot of them.hsvr started setting up actual gym equipment, which seems rather dangerous.

    • Carol Reply

      Unbelievable. Personal trainers who cannot work in the gyms as those are closed, have a cheek to go and work in public space in a park. They walk all over the grass without paying for it! What this world has become!
      Seriously, are those councillors have no better things to do?Trying to get money out of the PTs who mostly are self employed and this is their only income in many cases?
      There won’t be any more damage to grass than from anyone else who will use park.
      What I do wonder, who exactly is paying for all the damage made to grass in parks and lawns when travelers decide to park their caravans there? And let’s be honest, it’s not only grass that is getting damaged, they often break fences to get there. Not to mention piles of rubbish around. PT who is training people will not stop me from using public space, unlike 10 caravans parked on the lawns.
      Get your priorities right.

  10. Joshua Reply

    Sad and pathetic. Oh dear! I recently went to Hove park and witnessed a number of people breathing. Absolutely disgusting! I also caught a young family red handed enjoying a picnic. This behaviour needs to be clamped down on. Go on the green party, keep up the good work!

  11. Ian Reynolds Reply

    It’s good to see that so many of our residents are willing to pay more Council tax for the repairs to these areas. I am a firm believer in sarcasm but i think some people are missing the point. Families using public spaces, well that’s what they’re for. Businesses using public spaces and preventing the public spaces to make money(hmmm). It would be acceptable for free exercise classes not making money. It’s amazing how people didn’t see these paid for classes taking place BEFORE the pandemic. It’s businesses cutting down on paying rents and then the rest of us can pay to make good after. A nominal fee is not too much to ask. I also wonder if their insurance companies are aware where the classes are taking place.


    Just leave it alone Brighton Council!! If you are so worried about lack of funds, let’s start really investigating how much waste of public funds can be found and how much we ae paying our concillors

  13. Joe Reply

    Local businesses being used by local people on local land. Can’t see the problem. People keeping fit outside. They don’t get in the way of others and set a good example of healthy living. Let them get on with it.

    • Mitch Ogrady Reply

      Also this is a very biased article and making false claims they can not back up we are the only ppl using ropes…
      And there no where near the fence and have been no where near the fences we have ppl either end using them and we are in the middle of the lawn to give runners and dog walkers space either sid of us not to mention we are directly infront/underneath the camera on hove lawns if you want video evidence there u go.
      0 damage has been caused by us. Stop trying to make us look bad and create bad blood and animosity towards us those fences have been in disrepair for years I should know I live here and see them everyday.

  14. Mitch Ogrady Reply

    As a Personal Trainer myself.
    I’d be happy to pay if we have really have to provided it’s not a rediculos charge for use of a 10 meter square of grass.
    But given the current climate we find our selfs part of I do think the council should take into consideration we haven’t been able to work at all for 8-9 weeks. Alot of us pay and have been paying way more Tax than your average person for many many years. I dont have the luxury of working in a gym/indoor space right now. I’m following the government guidelines to the letter. Provided hygiene stations with 70% isopropyl alcohol for each person attending. Alowing ppl access to one of 6 stations so there not sharing equipment and providing ethanol hand gels for b4 and after training.
    We’re The Fittest. Small group training launched 3 weeks ago and cost me over £4000 to set up and brand. All of my savings and £2000 on a credit card.
    I offer a free trial class and then charge for the classes but have been alowing the public to use a fitness station with hygiene kit free of charge outside of our class times.
    We are never gonna please everyone but ask yourself this is it not beter we provided a safe space to work out in and start to prop up the economy rather than sit indoors and take hand outs?
    I also live on Holland road I can see the lawns I run my small group training classes from my doorstep.
    (We dont hang anything other than a sign off the fence which is made of paper)
    We have made a conscious effort every morning to clear the rubbish off the lawn we are using some mornings it’s takenme 20mminutes and an entire full carrier bag to do so.

    Gym restrictions and indoor Personal Training isnt going to happen/work for a good few months yet and we are all doing our best to survive.
    If 10 PT and 10 clients go to the gym when they re open at peak hours that’s the gym full with 2meter rules. We realy dont have any option other tha being outside until restrictions reduce or weather takes a turn for the worst..

    Thanks for taking the time to read this.
    Ukactive said on the BBC website at the start of the lockdown we are going to loose 2500 gyms across the uk and 100,000 leisure jobs if gyms stay closed for 13 weeks well we are on week 15.

    8th of april UKActive are the government body of fitness within the uk.
    The restrictions and furlough kill most office/commuter/group ex gyms.

    We are just trying to survive and not rely on hand outs. 10 years I’ve worked in fitness and this is the unknown. 2020 is a write off for PT indoors.

  15. Mitch Ogrady Reply

    As a Personal Trainer/group exercise instructor. We are just trying to survive not frive.
    1. We do not have the luxury nor the options of working indoors
    2. We have to work outside. (Following the guidelines from the government
    3. Gym reopening doesn’t help us until the restrictions are reduced.
    The restrictions are currently to much for gyms based around a Group exercise membership/commuter memberships/office worker memberships to even remotely work financially.
    Even when gyms re open Personal Training and group exercise will be so restricted and in many cases not allowed.
    For example 10 pt’s with 10 clients will fill most gym floors with 2meter rule no room for members. Gyms wont allow this we wont be going back indoor for every long time as fitness professionals.

    UKACTIVE are the government body of fitness in the uk.

    8th of april
    We are set to loose 2500 gyms across the UK and 100,000

    We set up:
    “We’re the Fittest”
    We are happy to pay if we realy have provided the cost is not rediculos for use of a small area of grass. I do think the council need to take into consideration many of us have not been working for 8-10 weeks and have not recieved alot in the way of help from the government. We just want to support ourselves and not rely on hand outs.

    Our small group training company launched 3 weeks ago at great personal cost £4000+ was all my savings and £2000 on credit cards. We have followed the government guidelines to the letter.

    1.No sharing equipment
    2.Providing 2 meter+ space apart
    3.Providing hygiene equipment. And cleaning before and after use.

    We offer a free class to everyone and unlimited free access to our equipment stations and hygiene stations to our members and the general public outside of our class times.
    All at personal cost to me our hygiene stations which contain 70% isopropyl alcohol and ethanol hand jells for the classes and the public to use free of charge outside of our class times are not cheap nor is the equipment they have free unlimited acess to

    I’d also like to mention I live on holland road and I can see the lawns Im using for exercise classes from my doorstep.

    This article is terribly bias’dly written.

    WTF(we’re the fittest) are the only group exercise group using battle ropes and they are no where near the fence and have been nowhere near the fence. If you want proof check the camera which is right next to us on the lawns.
    We have a person each side of the rope using it so the idea that we have damaged the fences is just nonsense. We have how ever provided a safe space for people to train and socialize in we are using max a 10 meter square of grass
    With space around us for door Walkers and runners alike which is un impeded.

    Every morning we set up without vehicles I dont even drive. We use trolleys to cart the equipment down from my flat 200 yards away.
    I then spend between 5-15 minutes picking up rubbish from the entire square of lawns surrounding us. I have filled an entire shopping bag some morning with rubbish. All of which should be on camera if you’d like proof.
    I have done this not for recognition but because I live here and I look after my area I pay my council tax and I have spent years operating as a freelance self employed fitness professional and I speak for us all when I say our future/industry is uncertain and going to be one of the sectures of industry most heavily affected by this pandemic and we are just trying to survive and keep our heads above water.
    We do not want hand out we love what we do and we just want to keep doing it but we have all had to adapt to survive the council need to take this into consideration we are all surviving not thriving.
    We do what we do because we love it regardless of the financial gains. We are all happy to pay if we have to but be reasonable alot of us are trying to keep put heads above water. Taxing us to heavily for access to afew meters of grass seems alittle extreme given the current pandemic struggles we have had to endure.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this.
    Ps those fences have been is disrepair for years blaming us instead of the lack of funding for their upkeep is a joke. I’ve lived on the lawns for over 5 years please dont use fitness professionals as your scape goat for poor allocation of funding in regards to upkeep.
    The world of fitness/leisure we left behind us is gone please take this into consideration before you cast judgement on us. I’ve been doing this 10 years and I can not see the light at the end of the tunnel for gyms/pt/group ex happening anytime this year.

  16. allimac Reply

    I can see both sides. YEs, fitness trainers and co need to make money, and currently, indoor premises are a nogo.
    However, the “publik outdoor spaces” that the council are responsible for are for all of us, and specifically NOT for businesses. So, we may each be sympathetic to business a, b or c, but what about other busineseses that then claim they should also be allowed? To put an extreme example, compare a genteel coffee, or lifestyle advice quiet chat style enterprise with an enterprise allowing people to run around screaming, excersing, and letting out frustrations, as a privately organized mental health “cleansing”. Or perhaps allowing people to drive motorbikes all over parks etc? The same arguments come into the discussion. Therefore it is not a simple thing.

  17. Rob A Reply

    What a pair of planks. Are the greens becoming the kill joys of Brighton & Hove? Dont exercise here, don’t drive here, close Madeira Drive. I cycle past all the exercise classes in the morning and its great to see people use their initiative and use the space.

  18. Simon Laraman Reply

    Councils need to differentiate what they’re targeting here?
    What happens when a karate club has a local camping trip and works out on the beach?
    Where do we decide what is a business or a club or just some friends playing football?
    Shall we charge joggers per mile they run? Charge dog walkers for footsteps?
    Perhaps signage requesting not to tie a battling rope to a railing?
    I assume someone from the council had their view ruined by some people trying to get fit….
    This reminds me of the ‘no ball games’ in the park when I grew up.
    How about creating a public outside gym space like Australia, Israel, Spain etc…. ? And not some half baked British budget attempt, a full size area with a nice warning covid sign saying bring your own alcohol gel and wash your hands before you touch your face…

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