More than 19,500 people have now signed a petition to keep the Little Stoke parkrun after the Stoke Gifford Parish Council voted to bring in a charge for parkrunners to use the park near Bristol

Paula Radcliffe, Kelly Holmes and the London Marathon are among those to have voiced their support for parkrun following the decision by Stoke Gifford Parish Council to charge parkrunners a fee for the use of its grounds.

Over 19,500 people have signed a petition asking that the parkrun near Bristol be allowed to continue at Little Stoke Park but on Tuesday the parish council voted six to four in favour of Little Stoke parkrun contributing financially to the park, becoming the first – out of 850 events worldwide – to charge parkrun a fee for use of grounds.

parkrun organises free weekly 5km timed runs around the world. As stated on the parkrun website, “They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.”

Stoke Gifford Parish Council said it was “unfair” to expect residents who do not run to pay for the upkeep of paths used by the parkrunners. The parish council’s full statement can be found here.

In a parkrun statement, chief operating officer, Tom Williams, said: “We are extremely disappointed that Stoke Gifford Parish Council has voted to impose a charge at Little Stoke parkrun.

“parkrun has had unprecedented success in engaging the least active and encouraging them to exercise regularly. Providing free weekly access has been fundamental to this and we are disappointed that this opportunity is to be removed for the residents of Little Stoke.

“Our aim is to break down barriers to participation in, and delivery of, physical activity and this is consistent across 850 parkruns worldwide, which are all delivered by volunteers and are free to take part in. Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future.

“As a nation we must make a decision about whether we want to be healthier or not. The costs to all of us of inactivity and poor health are immense. parkrun has had enormous success at bringing communities together and promoting physical activity in safe and welcoming social environments.

“The past six months have been an uncertain and difficult time for everyone involved with Little Stoke parkrun and our entire global community of more than two million parkrunners is behind them as we discuss our next steps.”

An average of 186 runners take part in the Little Stoke parkrun each week. In a statement on the event’s parkrun page, organisers said: “It is a fundamental principle of parkrun that there should be no barriers to participation and events should always be free. All we were asking the Council for was shared use of the park for a short period early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

“The Council’s decision will inevitably increase numbers at other parkruns in the area and we will work to secure an alternative venue and establish new parkrun events to cater for the growing number of people who are opting to get fit by running regularly.”

Describing the decision made by Stoke Gifford Parish Council as “short sighted”, marathon world record-holder Radcliffe went on to reinforce her view that parkrun events should be free.

Holmes, who has taken part in parkrun events this year as she works towards running her first marathon in London later this month, wrote on Twitter: “Have I missed the whole reason park runs exist and are free? Stoke Gifford Parish Council decision is a disgrace.”

London Marathon also tweeted that it would “stand behind” parkrun as “free to all”.

The petition, which at the time of publication had been signed by 19,609 people, can be found here.