Sadly my pen pal relationship with the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for enforcement has turned out to be a little one sided. Having contacted Councillor Mather back in January about the lack of any public rights of way enforcement in Kirklees I was a little disappointed to say the least that she got someone else to reply ! I’m not entirely sure of pen pal etiquette but this just didn’t feel right.
So I wrote again in February and then followed that up with a polite reminder in early April. All I’ve had in return is a blank email ! I suppose you could say I can’t take a hint. Clearly she’s trying to tell me something. But unless the good councillor uses words it’s hard to understand just what it is.
Anyway I’ve decided I need a new pen pal at Kirklees and I like the look of Councillor Pandor ,the Deputy Leader. I shall write and ask him about his foray to Cannes in March and see if he’ll tell us how much we paid for it and what benefits are likely to be forthcoming for the residents of Kirklees as a result of his continental expedition. I’m sure it’ll go down well.
A bit of rural evolution visible here. As you can see from the two upright stone posts this was originally a gateway. Long before my time back when the land was enclosed for agriculture. I do however recall the second stage of evolution which was the part walling up of the gateway to form a gap for the public footpath between the right hand post and straight line of stones a third in from it. The gap was there for decades until a few years back when it too was walled up and a very steep stone through stile put in for the footpath.
The stile was never easy to cross and is even worse now as one of the stone steps has broken off requiring a pretty tough gymnastic movement by the walker to reach the wall top.
The state of Ox Lee Lane, Holmfirth Bridleway 154 was highlighted previously here and here .Predictably, and for similar reasons to yesterdays bridleway disaster , it has deteriorated rapidly with extensive water erosion washing gullies into the surface.
Kirklees eventually resorted to the Ostrich technique on this one and have had their corporate heads stuck deep in the sand since last October. You might recall a development arm of Yorkshire Water attempting to put a road in over the bridleway to a potential development site at Bartin and Greave Farmsteads. A brief flavour of the sad saga is here
Rather than take prompt and effective enforcement action when the bridleway was resurfaced without permission Kirklees opted to allow the company to carry out more inappropriate works, to a poor standard and with inappropriate materials. Predictably this prompted many more complaints from the public and user groups – all of which have been ignored by deploying the Ostrich technique to an exemplary standard.
After only six months sections of the bridleway are now in a shocking state as a result of the works carried out and seemingly approved by Kirklees. The effect of laying a compacted smooth surface over the sandstone has accelerated water run off leading to some deep gullying and washed out areas. Not just of the new surface but the lovely old sandstone beneath it too. Open drains which used to flow freely adjacent to the bridleway are choked with the washed off materials.
Kirklees could have taken a firm approach last October and got Yorkshire Water to reinstate the bridleway or served notice, done the works themselves and recovered the cost of doing so. No costs to the taxpayer on this option. But it was all too much trouble and they went for option B – “let them get away with it”. They now have a bridleway in a remote location that needs repairing. Left as it is it will only deteriorate further becoming more expensive to repair as it does so.They’ve managed to generate a financial liability here where six months ago none existed.
It is an excellent example of how the council works on public rights of way. Too timid to do things properly, in the public interest and cost effectively. Time and again it attempts to mix oil and water by accommodating the problem into the solution. It never works. They never learn.
The Washpit Mills planning proposal for 50 plus houses and a gym in this peaceful Holme Valley backwater was predictably waved through by councillors on the Huddersfield Planning sub committee of 8th March. The Labour chair of the committee did the deed with his casting vote condoning continued obstruction of a long established public right of way through the site along with a requirement for locals to hang onto their wellies for the foreseeable future if they wish to paddle along Footpath 195.
In stark contrast to the cynicism displayed by labour councillors, yet again dumping on the Holme Valley, local residents who spoke to the committee were eloquent in their arguments against the proposals. Their considered words were of course completely ignored by our democratic representatives who only obey the Red Lord from Heckmondwike,Darth Sheard. He wishes to build, build, build -not affordable houses that are needed by local people but, in effect, a “council tax farm” to keep his empire afloat.
Local tory councillor Nigel Patrick had something of a “fight them on the beaches/Winston Churchill” moment calling out his own Highways officers who he suggested (with some justification) of “not looking at the same roads as me.”Describing how he worked closely with planners and highways officers Cllr Patrick described the report as “a slap in the face” and said he felt “let down”. Clearly the implication was that in all his meetings with planners and highways officers they’d not bothered to mention they were going to do the dirty on him when it came to committee.
He had a very telling point regarding a proposed footway which will have a dropped kerb to allow vehicles and HGV’s in particular to …er…. drive over it! “It’s total and utter nonsense,it’s pure fantasy a fairytale ” he continued. And he is right.
The problem with such committees in Kirklees is that they vote on party political lines and if Jones Homes or Wimpey came in and wanted the first born of every family in a tory ward before building so much as a garden shed our gormless labour councillors would oblige.
This approach is leading to the disregard and ruin of a significant proportion of the local rights of way network and countryside.If a local councillor of whatever persuasion can say in public that “I’m embarrassed to be associated with this council” then there really is something seriously wrong.
On a lighter note veteran Cllr Ken Simms described the sharp suited developers as “thinking we’re all daft and wear flat caps and clogs” He forgot the whippets and mine is rather offended.
Our three new training courses for the Spring of 2018 are all that is needed for the aspiring rights of way officer to launch a long and ineffective career in the discipline or if you’re an old hand brush up on some essential skills you’ve probably never had.
Platitudes for local government officers.
The definitive guide! An in depth view at the effective use of platitudes in local government and how they can be best used to avoid saying anything meaningful and to be sure of never committing your authority to ever doing anything ever! On completing this course you will be able to speak fluently in irritating platitudes and piss off your tax paying customers so much they’ll never bother you again!
Prioritising rights of way reports.
Yes here it is! The foolproof way to create a priority matrix so complicated it is actually impossible for any report made by a member of the public to ..well take any priority at all. Devised by the Institutes long standing President Simon Shirker it relies on an impossible combination of days of the week, underwear and sock colour and Friday afternoon flexi time to create a priority lottery none can win! With this system in place you can discard the public and spend your time at work more creatively doing those things you’d prefer to get on with rather than what you’re paid to do!
Llamas and bridleways
When fluent in platitudes and protected from the public by our priority lottery you’ll have time for the more esoteric side of rights of way work. This six week residential course in Peru with our South American member Juan Shakystylo is the perfect start to your new direction. Juan presents his controversial theory that Llamas are legally permitted not just on public bridleways but also as a “usual accompaniment” on footpaths too! Places are booking fast!
Despite the dire childhood predictions of “peak oil” and a subsequent dark Mad Max world due to start on or around the 1st January 1984 it never quite happened did it? We may however have reached Peak Parody with Public Rights of Way in Kirklees and are about to cross a humor free frontier into a new world where the jokes won’t work anymore.
The reason? The claimed public footpaths at Clayton Fields,Huddersfield and the perfect storm of comedy cock ups from our hapless council.
Back in the last century, 1996 to be precise, a couple of applications were submitted to Kirklees claiming a number of very well established paths across Clayton Fields. Shortly thereafter the Clayton Fields site was registered as a Town & Village Green by the council and the claimed path applications parked up at Her Majesty’s Pleasure on the Kirklees “Priority DMMO List” where they remain incarcerated to this day.
Sadly members of the public trusted the council and happily thought they ,their children and grandchildren would be able to enjoy public access over Clayton Fields in perpetuity. It was not to be. The land is ripe for development and the designation of Town & Village Green was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court where it was found wanting on a few technical cock ups.
Not to worry though as the public had lodged claims for public footpaths with the council and these would surely be dealt with in the legally prescribed manner? Er…well…no actually. The council “took a view” to leave these applications on it’s priority list for some 22 years without properly investigating or progressing them in that time. If only it had done the job properly back then the costs being incurred by the hard pressed austerity taxpayers of 2018 would not exist. Certainly a 6% council tax rise cannot keep pace with the council’s cock up to cash ratio at current levels.
Fast forward to the planning sub committee of November 2017 and you’ll see that the developer at Clayton Fields secured an order under s257 of the Town & Country Planning Act to extinguish the claimed public rights of way at Clayton Fields. Yes that’s those very same paths which have been sat on the councils DMMO Priority List for 22 years.
But that’s not the end of the story. The campaigners at Clayton Fields are an inspiration to us all in their efforts to save a public amenity from the clutches of private profit and council cock ups. A further application claiming public paths was submitted in 2014 and as ever ignored by the council in it’s usual way.
However the campaigners have sought help from the Secretary of State who has directed Kirklees to come to a decision. That application was heard at the February 22 2018 planning sub committee with a recommendation to make an order adding the 2014 claimed paths to the Definitive Map and also to go back to the 22 year old claims and consider them properly too!
Now I only got into XBBS (Extremely Boring Bureaucracy Sports) recently after becoming disillusioned with the ever decreasing challenge of watching paint dry and listening to grass grow so I’m at the edge of my endurance here but this is what I think it means !
The Council now have authority to close all the 1996 claimed public footpaths at Clayton Fields. The Council also have authority to add the 2014 claimed paths to the public record and the Council are going to have to go back to the 1996 claims to look at them properly whilst at the same time holding a valid committee decision to close them – see first sentence. So there are several parallel universes colliding here and we could really do with Dr Who and his sonic screwdriver to sort out all the crossed wires.
And why does any of this matter? Well Isn’t it odd that when members of the public seek to protect public paths for public use their legitimate claims are left on a shelf somewhere in Civic 3 for 22 years. When a developer comes along and wishes to close those same paths the cunning plan makes it to committee with the utmost expediency where an agreeable decision is made and everyone’s home in time for tea. It neatly demonstrates the disdain and contempt of Kirklees Council towards its very own population.
Another thing in these cash strapped times is how much is this costing? Tens of thousands would seem a reasonable ballpark given the amount of expertise, officer time,legal advice, court appearances, reports, numerous site visits with committee members and the public and of course potential public inquiries in the future etc etc. It does rather go to prove that somewhere in Civic 3 there is a magic money tree. Maybe it’s under The Chief Exec’s Leaves