Royal climbdown allows skaters a new park life

Click to follow

London's park authority yesterday backed down to pressure from rollerbladers and called a halt to its resurfacing work in the royal parks.

Gravelling had already been completed on a pathway near Bayswater in Kensington Gardens and work was beginning this week on another. Both pathways were popular routes for rollerblading, officially known as in- line skating.

Concern over the sport has been growing since a cyclist died earlier this year after a collision with an in-line skater.

The parks authority agreed that there would be no more tarring and chipping of paths in the parks - which prevents rollerbladers using them - until after further talks. The agreement was reached after a meeting between the Royal Parks Agency and British In-Line Skating Association (BISA). However, it looked increasingly likely that there would be moves to segregate skaters to certain areas of the parks.

After the meeting in Hyde Park, Davina Weir-Willats, spokeswoman for BISA, said: "We're very pleased today but obviously there will be a further meeting and we will try to see that in-line skating is accommodated with other park users ... We are looking at a limitation of areas where skaters are allowed."

This summer has seen an explosive growth in rollerblading with up to 2,000 skaters in the parks over the weekends.

"We've seen pressure on the parks this year which is not simply a problem for park users but skaters. There is a need for other areas to be made available," said Ms Weir-Willats.

The BISA will be investigating the possibility of skaters using large open areas such as under the Westway - the Hammersmith flyover in west London. "Local authorities need to start looking at areas where the sport can be enjoyed and rather than simply passing it off as another fad," she said.

Viviane Robertson, in charge of surfacing and maintenance work for the parks agency, said the resurfacing plans had been in place for some time. However, she said the popularity of in-line skating had forced the agency to reconsider its policy.

Jason Tremain, 33, a qualified in-line skating instructor, took part in the protest against gravelling this week. Yesterday he insisted that the new surface would drive rollerbladers on to the streets. "The streets are a very dangerous option because the drivers treat us as pedestrians."