Kirklees Council continues to tie itself in knots over Huddersfield Byway 231. The recent planning applications at Nether Moor Farm illustrate the council’s duplicity on the issue.
Back in October 2015 the Director of Place, Jacqui Gedman suggested in an email to one of the 50 members of the public who have reported the byway blocked that –
As you are aware the status of this route is disputed by the landowners, who have not accepted the classification of Byway Open to All Traffic, and feel that it is in fact a permissive route that they now wish to withdraw permission from.
As such the land owners have put up a number of obstructions and placed signage that supports that view.
This has been the Council’s position for the past two years and has been relied on as an argument for permitting the closure of Byway 231.
Surprisingly the council also hold the view that Huddersfield Byway 231 at Nether Moor Farm does in fact exist and is not in dispute. This has been shown through the planning consultation process and is available for anyone to see at Huddersfield Byway 231 Planning process
As can be seen in the Planning Notice below (signed by the very same Jacqui Gedman, Director of Place) there is a clear and unambiguous footnote which refers to Byway 231 and advises the applicant that “public byway 231 must not be interfered with or obstructed”.
Here’s an extract from the Notice –
Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 PLANNING PERMISSION FOR DEVELOPMENT
Application Number: 2016/62/92802/W
Note:Public footpath HUD/233/10 and public Byway HUD/231/20 must not be interfered with or obstructed, prior to, during or after development works. The Council’s Public Right of Way unit may be contacted at Civic Centre 3, Huddersfield or by telephone no.
Jacqui Gedman Director of Place
The information which this footnote is based on comes from advice from the council’s public rights of way section . This is what they said when consulted on 17th October 2016. Again it is very clear and unambiguous – Huddersfield Byway 231 at Nether Moor Farm does exist and should not be obstructed. No mention of any doubt as to its status.
2016/92802 & 2016/92803 Nether Moor Farm – PROW
No objection from public rights of way to the development proposal, please add to any consent the usual PROW FOOTNOTE regarding obstruction and interference of public rights of way (public byway open to all traffic Huddersfield 231 and public footpath Huddersfield 233).
PathWatch has contacted the council to ask for for an explanation regarding how the council can hold these two opposing views and in particular where has the council obtained information which proves the byway does exist? And why is it spending up to £10k of public money with Leeds City Council to investigate a status issue it seems to know the answer too? We didn’t just ask anyone we asked Jacqui Gedman (now Chief Executive) who has said the route is in dispute ( email of October 2015) but has also said categorically the route exists and should not be obstructed (Planning Notice October 2016)
As is the council’s way our questions were passed to someone more junior who had not written the email of October 2015 or signed the Planning Notice in 2016 and so perhaps was not the ideal person to answer. This first response largely ignored the questions asked but instead answered imagined queries which justified the status quo –
“There is no irreconcilable conflict between the current temporary abatement of enforcement action and the standard informative footnotes provided in planning decision notices”
Eventually the council owned up to the following.
“KC PROW would appear to have considered Hud/231 to be a BOAT over some decades. It has been referred to as a BOAT over many years. Officers were advised that it was appropriate for the council to consider it a BOAT. The way is described as a BOAT in the definitive statement. This is part of the legal advice received which we have already identified to you as privileged.”
NB BOAT is a byway open to all traffic
Clearly the Council has legal advice (which it will not make public) which states that the council should treat the Huddersfield Byway 231 as a byway. There is no element of doubt or challenge in that advice. The Council appear to be accepting that advice for purposes of the planning process but ignoring it when asked by the public to reopen the byway.
The Council should be far more transparent with the public on it’s dealings with Huddersfield Byway 231. It should –
- Publish all costs to date associated with the case.
- Publish the legal advice it has received on the matter.
- Explain fully why it holds two opposing views on the status of the byway.
- Agree an action plan with the public and user groups to reopen the byway quickly and at minimum cost.
- Investigate the landowners claims of status in a timely and efficient manner.
- Apologise for it’s performance to date.It’s worth noting that the taxpayer has footed the Council’s bill to date on this case to the tune of some £19,000 to £24,000 which we think is likely to be a fairly conservative figure. The landowner at this site has received some £12,776 of public subsidy for the years 2015 and 2016 whilst the byway has been obstructed. Cap Payments 2015