“Equitable Way Forward” How’s That Working Out?

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It is some 7 months on from Kirklees Council’s unexplained decision to drop plans for an experimental traffic regulation order to restrict motor vehicles on Ramsden Road for 18 months. The plan, agreed with senior managers and councillors, was to allow for repairs to be undertaken and then bed in whilst being protected from vehicles for a short period.

So 7 months on how is the “Equitable Way Forward” getting on? Well it’s looking rather potholed as you can see from the photos. Despite the dry summer of 2018 and the equally dry winter that followed Ramsden Road continues to deteriorate and is particularly bad for pedestrians (traditionally the lowest of the low here in Kirklees). The flat top section of Ramsden Road is pitted with potholes and developing inland lakes despite the unusually dry past 12 months.

Repairs carried out by Kirklees in June 2018 have noticeably suffered from damage by vehicles. Even now in late June there is a large new pool which has developed this year and which walkers now have to deviate around. This damage is caused by legal use of Ramsden Road by vehicles. This sort of  thing  and this sort of thing for instance. It’s hard to see how the current surface or any future repairs will hold up to this type of usage or to understand why the council have now chosen to ignore the issue.

Of course the council know exactly what the issue is as can be seen from the following correspondence

From: Rob Dalby Sent: 22 August 2018 17:45 To: Cllr Nigel Patrick <nigel.patrick@kirklees.gov.uk> Subject: RE: Ramsden Road – Experimental TRO

Dear Cllr Patrick,

I do take this seriously, and this is not a decision taken lightly. You raised the decision process previously and as you may recall I CC’d in the portfolio holder Cllr Mather, I subsequently discussed the matter with her and she advised this was an operational decision, and as such rested with officers.

These actions are to address some long term issues that I have inherited, and have been in response to a s.56 notice . The upper section has been repaired, but as I have previously advised the lower section with the significant degradation that is the result of both damage caused by recreational off road vehicles such as land rovers and that damage being exacerbated by the water ingress and action within the non sealed surface and damaged substrates, is beyond an easy remedial fix, and will require significant intervention.

I do fully appreciate your points raised previously that relatively small scale actions to maintain the route earlier would have forestalled the need for this more drastic and on the face of it draconian response, but given the present condition of the route, the way forward of putting in place an experimental – and so by its nature time limited restriction of use, and then comparing that against another route of similar character that does have the earlier water management intervention possibly opens up more routes longer term, as it will demonstrate the cost benefit of those works.

This was gone into following talks with the national park, and how they are looking to address similar issues, and it is my intention to meet with and discuss the various merits and objections with as many groups as possible once we have all the interventions in place.

And

From: Rob Dalby Sent: 19 July 2018 11:25 To: Cllr Nigel Patrick; Cc: Elizabeth Twitchett; Jacqui Gedman; Cllr Donald Firth; Cllr Kenneth Sims; Cllr Naheed Mather; Karl Battersby Subject: RE: Ramsden Road, Holmbridge Attachments: RE: Meeting with Rob Dalby and Will Acornley – More suggested dates and times
Dear Cllr Patrick,

I do appreciate your viewpoint, and this was why I understood after the conversation with yourself and your ward colleagues ( notes sent afterwards attached) that the experimental notice would be put in place and that we would then identify similar routes that could have drainage work undertaken to see if this would preserve the surface. The reason it is a time limited notice is that the matter can be subject to some rigour to come up with a longer term solution to allow sustainable access to our routes.

You have mentioned enforcement, but the issue at Ramsden road specifically is that the route is not being used illegally, there is a legal right for 4×4 usage, but it is that very allowed usage that has certainly contributed and exacerbated any issues with surface degradation. The issue of illegal use would be more in the realm of the Police if the driving was dangerous.

This issue was discussed with the previous portfolio holders but I have including the present portfolio lead Cllr Mather so that she can if she wishes comment on this.

 

Meanwhile …

 

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Deliberate damage by a vehicle
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The type of damage caused by current legal usage. This was repaired 12 months ago.
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More of the damage caused by legal vehicular use. Again this was resurfaced only 12 months ago

 

It’s plain to see that any repairs are vulnerable to damage by legal vehicular use and that the council know this is the case. Why then would they permit any future works to go ahead without mitigating this risk?

 

The Nettles Are Stinging This Year.

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Footpath to Cartworth.

PathWatch has inadvertently provided a useful public service by walking the nettle infested path to Cartworth. We can assure you,ramblers, that the nettles of 2019 are well and truly stinging! You’re welcome.

Regular readers may recall that this path was cleared by  Path Watch Fairies  this time last year in connection with England’s World Cup campaign. It would seem that the women’s team aren’t having the same effect.

And just to show that nothing ever gets better in the world of Kirklees public rights of way here’s a photo of Hilda’s steps looking like …..well a lost world with uncontacted tribes like they always do in the summer.

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Hilda’s Steps,Holmfirth

Link To Order Decision Huddersfield Byway 231 Nether Moor Farm

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A link to the  Order Decision  for the Inquiry opened on 29 January 2019 by Mark Yates BA(Hons) MIPROW an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Decision date: 17 June 2019. Huddersfield Byway 231 in English 🙂

Inspector Confirms Order In Huddersfield Byway 231 Case

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News has reached the PathWatch office that the planning inspector has confirmed the order in the long running  saga of Huddersfield Byway 231. The way is now a bridleway and confirmation of the order will shortly be advertised in the press and on site.

Huge congratulations to  Kirklees Bridleways Group for  their persistence and hard work which has made this happen and also to  the public who gave evidence at the  inquiry in January.

It is still possible for the order to be challenged on procedural grounds but not on the evidence.

More on this in due course.

 

Ramsden Road Kirklees V Jacob’s Ladder Derbyshire

 

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Both these Byways are located within the Peak District National Park (in the case of Ramsden Road the section of byway most out of repair & problematic falls within the park boundary) . Both have very similar  long standing issues relating to damage by vehicles, water damage and conflict between vehicles and other users.  However both byways have different Highway Authorities responsible for them. Ramsden Road has Kirklees Metropolitan Council whilst Jacob’s Ladder has Derbyshire County Council.

The difference in the decision making processes regarding the future of each byway by its respective highway authority  is striking.

Officers at Derbyshire County Council have compiled a 19 page  report which will be presented to the County’s Highways Committee later this month. The report contains results of an extensive public consultation on the proposals for the byway which involved over  1000 responses. Various Defra policies on byways are referenced along with the councils policy on green lanes and a detailed officer analysis. Financial and legal considerations are explained in detail and there is a list of referenced background papers. There’s much in this report applicable to Kirklees and Ramsden Road and it is well worth a read. Most of what it covers has never been taken into account  properly by Kirklees in respect of  Ramsden Road.

In contrast there is no transparent decision making process here in Kirklees, no report on Ramsden Road, no traffic survey, no reference to Defra policy, no local policy, no site survey, no consultation and no record of any legitimate decision making process for the council’s current course of action.  Kirklees Council as Highway Authority for Ramsden Road have said on record that its decision on Ramsden Road was “was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward”. No date of when this decision was taken, no details of who was involved, what information it was based on, absolutely no record of it whatsoever.

Again it is well worth reading the Jacob’s letter report as an example of how these matters should be properly dealt with.

 

This report concerns Jacob’s ladder which is a byway at Stoney Middleton rather than the bridleway in Edale of the same name.

 

Holmfirth Footpath 60 Diversion Back Out For Consultation.

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Wolfstone Heights

In an unwelcome sequel the proposal to divert Holmfirth Public Footpath 60 Wolfstones has been resurrected and is now out for public consultation. The diversion is connected to  planning applications here and here. The application is made under the Town & Country Planning Act and does meet the criteria as being necessary for the development to go ahead. However there is no obligation for Kirklees to make such an order and given the level and quality of public objection during the first (withdrawn) consultation in 2018  they should not be entertaining a second bite at the cherry.

For anyone walking from Holmfirth, Netherthong or  the valley and heading for Wolfstone Heights the proposed diversion takes you away from your destination just as you are almost there.  It would be a much less commodious path compared to the current long established direct route of Footpath 60.

Kirklees Council were unaware of  the public status of the land at Wolfstone Heights trig point (which Footpath 60 links to directly) when the original application was accepted. For clarity the land belongs to Holme Valley Land Charity whose sole trustee is Holme Valley Parish Council. The purpose of the charity is “To promote such charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Holme Valley”. The land at Wolfstones (WYK821600) has been retained by the charity for the benefit of the community for informal recreation. The details can be viewed here .(There is a claim made in the diversion application that access to the charity owned land can be closed at anytime.This does not appear to be the case). Arguably Kirklees would not have accepted the original application had they known this as the proposal makes access to Wolfstone Heights more difficult. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process but this obligation has not been discharged correctly in this case.

In response to consultations on the original planning applications which included moving the path Kirklees Prow unit responded saying –

” moving the terminus of path 60 to the north will take it away from the existing access to Wolfstones Height, by over 100 metres, however that access is not currently recognised as public and this rural road has a serviceable
verge for walking”

The premise that the access to Wolfstones Height is not public is incorrect. Wolfstones Heights is a place of public resort being reserved for public enjoyment by Holme Valley Land Charity. It is quite obviously very well used and known locally. Importantly Holmfirth Footpath 60 is the only public footpath (and off road route) which links directly to the Wolfstone Heights access. Unfortunately the whole diversion process has stemmed from this initial oversight in 2014.

Kirklees Council should have established the correct status of the access and land at Wolfstone Heights prior to accepting any diversion proposal to move the terminus of Footpath 60.

As previously mentioned there is no obligation on Kirklees Council to make an order to divert Footpath 60. Their initial decision to accept such an application was flawed because it was based on  incomplete and incorrect information regarding the link between Footpath 60 and direct access to Wolfstone Heights. The Council now have good reason not to make an order in light of this information but sadly they are taking a “neutral” position and sitting on the fence.

The consultation is open until 9th July 2019 and you can see the proposal and comment here

 

Kirklees Take Being Economical With The Truth To A New Level.

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Kirklees have gone into the Guiness Book of Records for the local authority most economical with the truth. PathWatch has spoken to the Councils Truth Zsar Ms Georgia Orwell-Trotter who has worked at the authority since 1984. “We are delighted to hold the world record for being economical with the truth. I can’t see our record being broken for a long time,if ever” said Ms Orwell-Trotter. “Only Council approved versions of the truth are permitted in Kirklees and we keep a close eye on how much is used. In these times of austerity we must make the truth go as far as possible by using  half truths, evasions  or better still just completely ignoring the public who fund us and expect us to answer their questions” snorted Ms Orwell-Trotter.

Meanwhile back in the real world they probably ought to go straight into the Guiness Book of Records for the latest answer to a series of legitimate and very straight forward questions concerning the decision to drop a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order and proposed repairs on Ramsden Road. Some £8k of public money was spent in 2018 securing the TRO and doing works on site.

The decision to make an order was a delegated officer decision agreed with senior managers and councilors at Kirklees and subject to a public consultation. However according to Kirklees the decision to drop the TRO was “based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.” Really? What does that statement actually mean?  If this was a delegated officer decision there should be a record of who took the decision, why,when and what other options were considered. This is a legal requirement under the openness in government regulations. If it was a Committee decision there should be a report, record of the meeting and decision and even a webcast! But there is nothing, just this meaningless statement. The contrast between the decision making process to secure a TRO and the decision to drop it is rather illuminating.

We also asked Kirklees if the decision was a result of any influence from Councillor Nigel Patrick and the now ex Councillor Sims. In answer to this they referred us to the previous answer  “The decision was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.” Another belting answer 🙂

We also asked how much it had cost Kirklees to go to court and rescind the order. They answered “We don’t have a figure”. More excellent management of public money there then! Was it a few hundred quid or 10 grand? Who knows?

Obviously PathWatch will not be fobbed off by this nonsense and we have lodged an internal appeal and will go to the information commissioner should our legitimate questions not be answered fully and honestly.

The Council’s thoughtful and considered response is below.

Ramsden Road, Holmfirth

  1. Please can you provide me with the notes of the meeting held on 14th June 2018 between Rob Dalby, Wll Accornley and Councillors Simms, Patrick & Firth (or whichever of the 3 attended.)

Notes were not made of this meeting.

  1. Please also provide details of the other items on the agenda at this meeting which are redacted in Rob Dalby’s email of 13 June 2019 (attached for information).

The agenda items were:

  • Information flow to Elected Members on volunteer activity
  • The sale and re-investment of funds for the land parcel behind the library
  • The Ex’ TRO on Ramsden Road
  • Concerns regarding the landscape standards within the ward in general
  • Agree a schedule of update meetings to ensure that any issues and activity is flagged early to ward members.
  1. Please also provide me information that shows who at Kirklees Council took the decision not to proceed with the ETRO on Ramsden Road and the reasoning behind this decision.

This decision was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.

  1. Please advise if this decision was a result of Councillor Patrick and/or Simms involvement.

Please see answer to question 3 above.

  1. Please also advise how much money withdrawing the ETRO has cost.

The Council does not hold a figure of the costs for withdrawing the experimental traffic regulation order.