One thing you can say with confidence about local highway authorities in West Yorkshire is that the standard of path obstruction is regular,long standing and of a very high quality. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing but at least there are few surprises.
Here’s a selection from the smorgasbord of problems on a 4 mile walk in Calderdale.
A public inquiry is to be held next week into the soup of claims and stopping ups on the paths at Clayton Fields,Edgerton,Huddersfield. A flavour of this particular disaster can be read in Clayton Fields – Peak Parody? There have been further developments since that article but even PathWatch lost track (got bored?Ed) of the councils tortuous efforts to deny public access to a popular urban greenspace and build houses on it instead.
If you are having trouble sleeping the Inquiry starts at 10.00am on 21st January 2020 at Brian Jackson House,New North Parade,Huddersfield. HD1 5JP.
In the topsy turvy upside down world of Kirklees Public Rights of Way, the Council, who have a legal duty to stop public paths being obstructed and to assert the public’s right to use rights of way, are going to great lengths (and expense?Ed) to ensure a water trough can stay on a public footpath rather than just ..well…move it.
It would appear that moving it to keep the path clear and avoid potential damage by animals visiting the trough is far to simple a solution for our hapless highway authority. Instead they will “monitor the situation and reserve the councils position regarding trough siting and operation” (we’re not making this up! Ed)
The matter has been dealt with by Karl Battersby, Strategic Director of Economy & Infrastructure. Mr Battersby recently wrote to a local ward Councillor regarding the trough and advised that the “water trough placed on the route is not authorised but again we will not take action”. (Has austerity cut so deep at Kirklees Council that the only person left to deal with such a minor public rights of way issue is a Strategic Director? .Ed)
Is Mr Battersby condoning the obstruction of a public footpath here? The councils footpaths officer has advised Mr Battersby that the trough “may be an obstruction” and that “siting of troughs on/near public rights of way is not encouraged and its placement and use may cause problems”. How is the the public interest and the councils statutory duties to keep paths open and to assert public rights being met in this case? How are the councils wider obligations as a service provider under the Disability Discrimination Act being met by allowing an “unauthorised” structure to sit on a 1.2 metre wide footpath? Did Mr Battersby take any of these points into consideration when making his decision?
Permitting paths to be obstructed or partially obstructed in this manner does not seem to fit with the councils recently stated aim contained in it’s Climate Emergency Plan that “The Council will 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”. The Council also have a target of increasing walking by 20% in the plan. Will putting water troughs on footpaths help achieve this? Or will it make paths unattractive and difficult to use? Or impossible to use should you have a disability?
Sadly there is no detail in Mr Battersby’s correspondence regarding how the unauthorised trough will be monitored. Will it be visited daily,weekly or monthly by Mr Battersby? Perhaps the Prow satellite can be redirected to orbit the trough on a regular basis to see what it’s up to? Will ramblers be encouraged to befriend the trough when they can’t get down the path because of it?
After a quiet period chart wise the path became a Christmas no.1 for 2019 and hits the new year at the top of the charts. As you can see from the photos the public path has been obliterated by works associated with a nearby development. The legal line of the path has gone and so to the proposed diversion (new path) approved by kirklees as a splendid idea at committee in July 2019.
This could be top of the path pickers charts for months to come…. Whatever you do don’t try to walk it.
One of the small jobs done by Kirklees as a result of input from Councillor Paul Davies was the clearance of long standing vegetation from a flight of steps on Holmfirth Footpath 85. As you can see from the final photo in this piece the steps were so overgrown you’d hardly know a public footpath existed. This type of long term neglect is typical in the Holme Valley.
The steps need some TLC themselves now that they are back with us. As you can see from the photo above there is a longstanding drainage issue at the bottom of the steps completely obstructing further passage. This still needs addressing a year after making the Highway Authority aware.