The land beyond this gate is access land in the Peak District National Park and the public have the right to walk here. There was a proliferation of these signs in the area. Most did refer to private property but not this one. I’d only walked this way because the footpath I intended to use was blocked!
A good slice of this popular path has been washed away over the past two weekends of heavy rain. But are Ciara and Dennis really responsible?
The network of walled footpaths and bridleways in this area provided access to a number of small farms and settlements prior to the construction of Digley Dam and reservoir. At that time, some 70 odd years ago, all the tenants were evicted by the new landlord – the water board.
Had the water board, now Yorkshire Water, and possibly Kirklees Council continued to maintain the extensive network of open land drains and culverts which drained the footpaths,bridleways and adjoining land perhaps these routes would be in a better position today? Another example of not spending a penny to save a pound? Certainly another good example of how unconsolidated stone aggregate laid and rolled in on these steep upland paths is not the answer.
This limestone was thrown down by Yorkshire Water contractors and made a cosmetic difference while masking as serious underlying drainage issue which was not tackled.
PathWatch can exclusively reveal the all new Kirklees standard for structures on public rights of way! The standard known as Not To Standard But Acceptable (this is not a joke.Ed) has recently been launched on a Holmfirth path.
Most Highway Authorities in the UK use BS5709 which is the British Standard drawn up and agreed by representatives of Natural England, CLA, NFU, OSS, BHS, Disabled Ramblers, IPROW, Highway Authority and a gate designer in a long process involving opportunity for public comment . It has been around for 40 years and was recently updated in 2018. BS5709 allows the widest range of users to access public paths and is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. The Kirklees Not To Standard But Acceptable standard appears to be based on…er…keeping certain councillors happy!
Councillor Nigel Patrick has previously expressed his opinion on BS5709 and his displeasure with officer decisions granting authority for structures (gates) on public paths to BS5709. As recently as 16th November 2019 Councillor Patrick wrote to Karl Battersby ( a strategic director at Kirklees) saying he thought BS5709 was “only advisory and not law” He also said to Mr Battersby on 18th November 2019 that “a complaint that it is not to British Standard is not a complaint that needs to be addressed if it is usable” The whole point of BS5709 is that these structures can be shown to be “usable” because they meet certain accessibility criteria laid out in the standard. The Kirklees Not To Standard But Acceptable standard amounts to nothing more than subjective opinion.
However Mr Battersby has recently agreed to authorise a number of Not To Standard But Acceptable structures on a Holmfirth path following Councillor Patrick’s intervention. In a 13th November 2019 email Mr Battersby advises Councillor Patrick that the council will be contacting a landowner to advise “their structures are not to standard but acceptable.”
This raises a number number of genuine concerns. Firstly this decision has been taken behind closed doors and out of public view. It shows Kirklees Council ditching a widely recognised British Standard on accessibility in favour of something completely unspecified and unauthorised on a public highway. Who decides what is an acceptable structure on a path? Is this a decision in the public interest? Will the Not To Standard But Acceptable standard be rolled out to all other landowners in Kirklees? Why is a Strategic Director on a £125,000 per annum salary making decisions about gates and water troughs on public footpaths? Is that the best use of public money? The decision would seem to undermine the work of front line council staff and their efforts to keep paths free of unauthorised structures and obstructions. How does this decision fit with the councils statutory obligations to assert and protect the public’s rights to use public paths and to keep them free of obstructions?
And finally how does the Not To Standard But Acceptable standard fit with Kirklees recently expressed aim to increase walking by 20% and its aspiration to “continue to develop and promote sustainable and active travel and ensure that Kirklees is recognised as a great place to walk and cycle, inspiring more people to walk and cycle more often as a mode of transport, for work, leisure or for sport expressed in its recently adopted climate emergency plan ?
Quite a popular run for mountain bikes…..but it is a footpath (Holmfirth 133). Painted sign has just appeared. Surely there must be equestrians and/or cyclists who’ve used this for 20 years?
Previously on PathWatch we’ve blogged about works to Holmfirth Footpath 133 being undertaken,washing away within weeks and having to be done again. See here and here. We’ve questioned the wisdom of using stone aggregate on steep Pennine paths with a history of drainage problems and acknowledged the need and difficulty of using a more sustainable method.
Sadly Holmfirth Footpath 133 has again failed over the weekend after the passage of Storm Ciara. Most of the stone aggregate is half way down the hill. The drains are blocked and there are deep gullies in the path surface. The path needs extensive repairs for the 3rd time in less than a year.
What Holmfirth 133 neatly demonstrates is the extent and seriousness of Kirklees Councils maintenance liability for rights of way, the false economy of using sandstone on such slopes and the lack of imagination amongst senior managers (to busy authorising “unauthorised” water troughs? Ed) in developing a sustainable maintenance strategy for the rights of way network. As an organisation the Council seem entirely content with making the same mistakes over and over again.
Footpath 133 was a decent job. Great attention had been paid to drainage and the second lot of stone put down was larger and less “clean” than the first, so bound together very well but it still could not handle the weather here.
What Kirklees are proposing to do on Ramsden Road (largely to keep 4×4 drivers happy.Ed) is the same technique used on Footpath 133 (and others) but with the added ingredient of heavy 4×4 vehicles using the route. The Council know this technique fails sooner or later (without vehicle use) and it also knows legitimate 4×4 use on Ramsden Road damages the unmade surface. It seems more than happy to ignore this information and potentially make a more expensive version of the same mistake on Ramsden Road. Go figure.
There’s been a noticeable increase in vehicular traffic on Ramsden Road over the past few weeks and the attendant surface damage is noticeable. Vehicles are now leaving the hard surface of Ramsden Road to create deep ruts on the adjacent verges. More often than not these verges are the only dry, even surface for walkers.
This type of use and style of driving is clearly unsustainable,costly and anti social. How will Kirklees Council’s proposed repairs in Spring 2020 stand up to this abuse?
Any reputable Highway Authority would survey use prior to spending public money on such a sensitive project. As it is Kirklees have no idea how many vehicles use Ramsden Road, what time of year is busy/quite or direction of travel for instance, which is particularly relevant with regards to vehicles on the hill section. They therefore cannot come to any defensible position on using a Traffic Regulation Order to mitigate the damage being done nor any understanding of an appropriate solution. They have no data on usage by walkers,cyclists or riders and no idea what the main traffic or usage of the road is. Essential information for any successful scheme.
Whilst it isn’t too late to do things properly it’s getting close.
PathWatch is pleased to report that Holmfirth Footpath 165 has had a significant short back and sides to the laurel hedges which just about met in the middle. A new footpath sign has been installed and surface vegetation cut back too.
Thank you to Kirklees staff for this.