Angry skaters plan legal fight over park ban

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The Independent Online
JOHN McKIE

Britain's main skating organisation is considering legal action against the ban on park skating - known more often as roller-blading - in all but two of London's royal parks.

The British Inline Skating Association (Bisa) is furious that the Royal Parks Agency has banned skating in four parks in London - Regent's Park, St James's Park, Green Park and Greenwich Park - and restricted its practice in the two remaining royal parks, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

The Royal Parks Agency took action last Wednesday after a coroner's inquest into the accidental death of Mark Welch, a 26-year-old cyclist, who collided with a skater in June.

On 5 October the coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, criticised the Royal Parks' "spineless acquiescence to minority groups". #By last weekend, notices were up on the four parks banning the sport. It has an estimated 500,000 devotees in Britain and is the fastest-growing sport in the UK.

Bisa's spokeswoman, Davina Weir-Willats, said yesterday: "We have been taking legal advice. Lawyers have told us the RPA has to go to the Secretary of State and the ban isn't enforceable for six months. They can't enforce it and should they arrest someone there's no bylaw for that person to be prosecuted. We are trying to get them to change their minds and accommodate rights for sensible skaters."

Bisa is angry that the RPA has rushed through the ban and gritted surfaces in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Skaters have been organising a petition of 1,000 signatures aiming to reverse the decision. The majority of signatures are from professionals over 40. They plan to continue skating but royal park authorities have warned that persistent offenders face arrest.

Tom Corby, a Royal Parks Agency spokesman, said it was acting within its legal rights. "Our role is to manage the parks for the benefit of all park users. We have not changed the regulations of the park [which would require permission from the Secretary of State]. We have just introduced new arrangements for rollerbladers. As I understand it, we have the power to do that."

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