Horsham Has Become The First UK Town To Ban Parkour, But Will It Do More Harm Than Good?

Straight outta Horsham

Parkour and Free Running are to be banned in Horsham, a small market town about half way between London and Brighton. A Public Spaces Protection Order – a legal mechanism usually used to stop children called Shane from drinking on the streets, and their older siblings, also called Shane, from racing cars around Morrison’s car park – has been used to prevent people from flipping and twisting off walls.

Horsham Council has issued the order to, as it says, “address a number of key issues raised by members of the Community Safety Partnership.” which sounds like the kind of cabal of curtain-twitchers that would have had Orwell reaching for his angriest biro.

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Reports suggest that, between March 2015, and February 2016, there have been 57 recorded complaints relating to Parkour and Free Running, most of which have happened in Horsham town centre.

Horsham is somewhat of a Parkour hotspot in the UK, thanks to the many low-roofed buildings, and architecture around the town centre – ideal terrain for Free Runners to practice their manoeuvres on. However, complaints of broken roof tiles from residents in the town have lead to the council taking action against the Free Runners

One shop owner with a comedy hair cut, who’d himself been the victim of youths doing backflips near his shop, did try to find some middle ground by suggesting that some sort of Parkour park, presumably akin to a skatepark, should be set up, thus saving the area from further damage, and still allowing the Free Runners to do their twisty-flips.

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But this rather misses the point, doesn’t it. The whole point of Parkour is to find new, fluid ways of traversing terrain. It’s about funding unconquerable spots and conquering them. It’s about not being restricted. Doing backflips inside a special backflip hall has already got a name. It’s called gymnastics.

Just look at street skating. The council can build all the skateparks they want. They can build bad skateparks, and they can build good skateparks, but street skaters are still going to want to hit that rail outside the civic centre. Parkour is no different.

Obviously, we sympathise with the property owners who have suffered financial loss because of damage to property. However, we rather suggest that there are laws, both civil and criminal, already in place to prevent this kind of action.

“This is using a sledge hammer to crack a walnut because the council can’t be arsed to use their walnut cracker”

These should be enacted to prevent damage to property, not a blanket ban on all activity. All that will happen is that kids will continue to practice Parkour, and will, eventually, be criminalised for it. History continuously suggests that the criminalisation of a sub-culture, does more long-term harm than good.

This smacks of the council using a sledge hammer to crack a walnut, when it already has a perfectly good walnut cracker, but can’t be arsed to use it.

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