BRIDPORT Town Councillors don't want to promise they'll never charge volunteer groups or charities to use their public spaces.

The government is consulting on the use of public parks and one of the suggestions is to commit to only charging commercial operations to use its land.

Town clerk Bob Gillis explained to members of the environmental and social wellbeing committee that the exercise stemmed from negative headlines after a parish upset people by charging for a fun run.

Mr Gillis said: "A lot of people got very irate about it because it was a totally volunteer-run event.

"We haven't got the equivalent in Bridport but there is one in Weymouth and they are very popular with adults and children it just enables them to meet in the local park and run around.

"One of the questions [in the consultation] is whether we agree that local authorities not be allowed to charge for park runs

"There is nothing that would stop a council from charging anybody for this sort of thing so the government want a belt and braces way of stopping councils charging."

Mr Gillis explained the council already made a clear distinction with commercial operations - like Beyond Events which was charged £100 for the use of Plottingham for its run.

He also said now the food festival was so well established it was charged £500 for the use of Asker Meadows show field and the five-day circus paid £1,250 and after two free years there were plans to charge the Jurassic Music Festival this year.

These events, he said, involved the council in a lot of work and time.

Cllr Dave Rickard said giving a blanket 'no charge' policy could result in abuse.

He said it was also a question of degree.

He said: "If there are going to be 100 people running around twice a week causing wear and tear and if there is a health and safety issue - when we charge people we have a responsibility for that

"I am a bit concerned that it is so cut and dried. If there is evidence of wear and tear and extra work having to be done by the council then I would have thought it would have been legitimate to charge.

"But to have it so cut and dried I think might just tie our hands."

He said it didn't seem like a good idea to pass legislation that would open up more problems than it would solve.

Cllr Julian Jones said: "I think it probably a mistake to react to a few newspaper headlines with a whole consultation. There should be flexibility."

Cllr Anne Rickard said the council would not want a hard and fast rule but should reserve the right to charge.

She said: "We are not saying 'yes we must charge' and we are not necessarily saying 'we will never charge'."