PERSISTENT problems with parking have led to criticism of a popular park run.

Every Saturday morning, crowds of joggers descend upon Darlington’s South Park to enjoy a five kilometre timed run.

Darlington’s parkrun has grown in popularity since its inception in 2012 and now regularly attracts more than 300 fitness fans every week.

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On the event’s website, organisers urge participants to be considerate to the park and other park users at all times while encouraging runners to arrive“by foot, by pedal-power or by public transport” to reduce impact on the park.

However, concerns have been raised by local residents who claim runners are parking irresponsibly along surrounding streets.

During the run, Parkside – which runs adjacent to South Park – is regularly full of cars, with drivers blamed for blocking residents into their driveways.

Andrew Burgess, who lives close to the park, believes the congestion could cause issues for emergency services.

He said: “The road along the park is a dangerous nightmare to cross before, during and after the event.

“If the emergency services had to go down there while all of these supposedly fit people are there they would get stuck like the buses and other road users.

“If they are so fit, why don’t they jog there instead of driving?

“For me this event has outgrown the area and should be stopped on health and safety grounds.”

In a letter to The Northern Echo, John Brant urged runners to be considerate and said: “I sympathise with the residents over parking and I wouldn’t like to be blocked in, even if it’s only for a short time.

“The Park Run has grown over the years in a positive way – incidents like these happened at Middlesbrough when the number of runners grew.

“The South Park event is a great fun get-together which is run by brilliant volunteers so please don’t do anything to spoil it.”

Darlington Borough Council has not received any complaints but a spokeswoman has urged runners to park their cars responsibly, be considerate of other park users and follow the Parkrun code to ensure everyone can enjoy the park and its facilities.

Writing on The Northern Echo's Facebook page one local resident refuted the claims.

Donna Gilmore wrote: "Not fair at all, I live opposite the park and you accept that people will park there (sic) cars all the time to use the park for different events. 

"Most of us residents have at least two car spaces on our drive, so I can't understand who's complaining ... it's fantastic how many people turn up to take part."

On Thursday evening, the Darlington parkrun Core Team posted the following statement on the group's Facebook Page.

"In response to comments made in The Northern Echo on Thursday, 10th November 2016, in which it is claimed that parkrunners are parking irresponsibly in streets surrounding the South Park, we do recognise that there is a high level of on-street parking around the South Park between 8.45am and 10am on a Saturday morning, and can appreciate that this is frustrating for residents," they wrote.

"Whilst many of the cars may belong to those attending our parkrun event, many people also attend the park at a similar time on a Saturday to walk their dogs, undertake football training and participate in the organised football matches that take place on the show-field, attend the regular boot camp that takes place, or just enjoy recreational use of the park.

"Another running group regularly use the field on the other side of Parkside for training too, and all these activities will also contribute to the volume of traffic around the park.

"In our experience, we believe that the vast majority of those parking around the park at this time are parking responsibly, and, whilst it is busy, are not violating any parking restrictions.

"There are double yellow lines in places on Parkside, however these appear to be adhered to. We would note that is the first occasion that it has been suggested to ourselves that parked cars are obstructing drives, however it is not something that we, as a Core Team, have witnessed.

"Our website does request that parkrunners 'wherever possible walk, jog, cycle or use public transport when attending the event. If you do have to drive, please consider car-sharing to reduce our impact on both the environment and other park users. Please also watch out for other park users when arriving and leaving. Parking may be limited so try to arrive early.', and we do regularly remind those attending our event to give due consideration to the area and other park users, however we can only encourage individuals to do this.

"Our parkrun event is completely run by volunteers for the benefit of any member of the community who wishes to take part, and we feel that our parkrun has become a really positive event in the town.

"Obviously, we are happy to continue working with local residents to ensure we can all enjoy the park and the surrounding area."