There are the sum total of 8 bridleways in the Parish of Holmfirth out of a total of around 200 public rights of way. In Kirklees only 8% of the 700 odd miles of public rights of way are bridleways. They are a rare and increasingly endangered thing. This is such a shame because their multi use status for walkers,riders and cyclists gives them added value to a wider range of users.
Unfortunately 4 out of the 8 Holmfirth bridleways have featured on this blog which as you know is the A&E of rights of way and for some paths being featured here is akin to having the last rites read to you a few puffs before you’re final breath.
Holmfirth Bridleways 68 & 189 are about to celebrate the first anniversary of a botched attempt to turn them into a road by Yorkshire Water. This time last year a limestone surface was laid over the existing sandstone which led to numerous complaints from users. Kirklees failed miserably to cure the problem by allowing Yorkshire Water to bury the limestone under a second concrete like foreign substance. More Harold Shipman than Dr Kildare from our local Highway Authority.
Up on Cheesgate Nab Holmfirth Bridleway 134 is on the slab awaiting some unnecessary plastic surgery to remove it’s natural good looks in favour of a wrinkle free but car friendly finish.
Our most recent addition to the ward is Ox Lee Lane – Holmfirth Bridleway 154 now a Frankenstein creation of rocks & road planings resembling a badly put together jigsaw of left over materials. Our Dr Shipman highway authority is lurking at the end of the ward probably about to administer a final dose of indifference to finish it off.
A characteristic of the Holme Valley is the extensive network of “white Roads”. Often if you’re not a local you might not know they exist and that there is public access along many of them. Although the OS are showing many more these days with little green blobs on their maps they do miss quite a few.
I always found the term “white Roads” rather poetic and mysterious but in fact the term is pretty mundane as it refers to how they are/were depicted on OS maps. A white road between two boundaries or pecked lines but with no indication as to whether it is public or private and hence the sense of mystery.
Cartworth Moor Road is one such white road which pulls up out of Holmfirth to head straight for the moors. It’s much used by locals and has many public paths and several other white roads running off it to form a wonderful network of circular walks of varying lengths.
I walked it’s length today in driving snow showers all the way to the moorland edge before escaping the wind and dropping back into the valley by little used paths to follow the River Holme back to Holmfirth.
This case demonstrates the enforcement capabilities of Kirklees Council. It must have been a difficult and complex case to prove before a court and prosecute successfully. The fine and costs come to £50 odd grand according to the paper which sends out an incredibly strong signal to anyone else thinking of operating in this manner. Of course this is what councils should be doing to protect the environment and public from harm and nuisance where they have the duty and powers to do so.
One of the other areas of responsibility Kirklees Council has is the duty to protect over 700 miles of public rights of way in the district. Compared to proving before a court the harm done to residents by noise from a nearby wind turbine I would argue that prosecuting and proving one of the many examples of wilful obstruction to a public right of way is much more straightforward. Clearly Kirklees has the expertise and resources to prosecute such a straightforward matter. A number of successful and well publicised prosecutions for obstructing public rights of way would send out an equally strong message and,I would argue, deter others from obstructing public paths making management and use of the network easier in the long run.
I can’t recall any recent examples of Kirklees prosecuting for wilful obstruction of a public path despite the many examples they have to choose from but perhaps they don’t publicise this aspect of thier work?
Without exception each local authority in West Yorkshire has cut rights of way budgets and staffing levels. Most of these councils did this early on as rights of way are undervalued and seen as an easy target by dim witted councillors and careerist managers.
The excuse that “we’re skint” and therefore off the hook about maintaining rights of way properly is now the default position of the West Yorkshire councils. The second string to this bow is “don’t bother us and fix it yourself” by forming a “friends of everything the council used to do group.”
This position is of course complete twaddle and will inevitably end up costing councils much more in the long run as the rights of way asset deteriorates and inevitably becomes much more expensive to put right.
These same councils continue to work in the archaic fashion of some 1950’s corporation with outdated procedures, management structures and attitudes which waste millions. No one will make a decision about anything let alone take a proactive approach or god forbid do something differently to how it’s been done for the past 60 years.
This revealing article in the Yorkshire Post shows how our glorious leaders really behave and how they spend our money. Whilst they may be no money for public rights of way there is no problem finding £750,000 for “networking events” in the South of France or a £100,000 for “executive coaching”.
But if you want a public footpath strimming, a sign fixing or an obstruction removing so that you and others can enjoy a public amenity you know what the answer is. “Feck off and do it yourself”.
Despite bringing the excavation of this path to the councils attention as it was happening some 9 weeks ago it remains as can be seen above a mud bath. We’ve had a fair bit of snow and frost over the past weeks at this altitude and as predicted it hasn’t done the path any good at all.
The padlock and chain remain on the new gate
It’s incredible how high the bar is set in Kirklees before the council will take some prompt and appropriate enforcement action. I’m told you can get 3 London double decker buses placed directly on top of each other beneath it and still have room to stand on top giving the finger to members of the public.
Rickety old Blackpool Bridge over Dean Clough is on its last legs. Walked up there on New Year’s day to find several bits of decking missing and more worryingly the cross beams on which the decking sits are rotten. The whole bridge needs replacing.
The bridge is on a very popular walking route within the peak park but Kirklees are the highway authority responsible. The issue was reported to them on 1st January 2018 as dangerous. No response to date.
Always found the name Blackpool Bridge intriguing. Talking to older residents it seems it may be a cartographers error. The pools below the bridge were known locally as black pools and I’ve spoken to many older people in the valley who were taught to swim here! The location was more properly known to them as Black Pools. Maybe the cartographer had been to see the illuminations and had another Blackpool on his mind?
Now here’s a funny thing. Funny peculiar not funny ha ha. In the planning consent for a development in the valley a note from the Council’s rights of way section stating the footpath through the site is illegally obstructed.
NOTE: Public footpath Holmfirth 666 is unlawfully obstructed on site. There should be no obstruction or interference of public footpath 146 without relevant written consent of the local highway authority. Planning consent does not stop up or divert public rights or authorise obstruction or interference of this public highway. Further information from the council’s public rights of way unit Flint Street, Fartown, Huddersfield, HD1 6LG
The funny peculiar thing about it of course is that the opportunity to get the illegal obstructions removed as part of the development is not mentioned let alone taken. A missed opportunity to put things right and get something done for nothing.
This isn’t the responsibility of front line staff but it is indicative of the management culture within Kirklees which happily takes the legs off their own players as they stand in front of an open goal with just a tap in required.
In this particular case the Council have been reluctant to do anything for 20 years or more but the planning consent is something of a game changer.Part of the path which is access to the site will be widened and surfaced and the domestic curtilage extended over the footpath. Just how the public right of way has been dealt with as a material consideration in the planning process is outside my comprehension and possibly anyone else on the planet.
The Council know the path is there. The Council know the path is obstructed. The Council approve a planning application which physically alters the path and also takes more of the path into the curtilage of this property. The Council completely ignore their statutory duty to keep paths open. And of course the Council are sending out a pretty clear message to the developer that all this is ok.