In July 2016 Kirklees Council issued a works order to Leeds City Council engaging Leeds as consultants to “investigate” the status of Huddersfield Byway 231.
To date Leeds City Council staff have spent 92 hours on this work and charged Kirklees Council £5000 plus VAT. (FOI 19455).
Kirklees Council has a shortfall of £28 million in the current financial year and the financial reserves which it relies on to keep going will run dry by 2021. In addition residents council tax bills rose by a whopping 10% this year. You’ve got to wonder at the wisdom of taking the unprecedented step of hiring consultants on an issue such as this.
Leeds City Council had not completed the work 12 months after the order was issued and no definite date was known for completion the last time I asked in June. I asked again last Friday but have had no response.
Either Leeds were a poor choice of consultant or Kirklees has been happy to let time tick by content in an ongoing “definitive map process” with no end.
In hiring consultants Kirklees has gone against its own local procedures. Normally any application to change a routes status would be assessed by the council’s cabinet approved priority matrix, judged against a set of criteria and placed in order of the outcoming score. The application at Nether Moor Farm (file 182) is number 90 on a list of 125. So pretty lowly when judged by the council’s own criteria. See here
Some 13 months after the file was taken out of the list and given a unique priority at a cost of £5000 absolutely nothing has been achieved beyond sustaining the 2 year closure of a well used and liked public right of way.
The council has already spent some £14,000 on unspecified legal fees and an unknown and written off amount on botched enforcement. This could well be the tip of the iceberg as they are giving very little away regarding other costs. It’s telling that despite all these public resources nothing has happened..
The council has argued that the results of these investigations will “inform” their “postponed” enforcement action on the byway.
However it is clear that at the same time Kirklees accept the routes status is a byway. The Council’s Director of Place and now Chief Executive Jacqui Gedman has signed Town & Country Planning Act Notices which refer explicitly to the routes status as Huddersfield Byway 231,the council has received legal advice stating that it should treat the Byway as such and council officers as recently as June 2017 advised on the status of the way as a Byway in the planning process. See The cost of doing nothing 2 The obvious question is why isn’t the council allowing its Chief Executive’s view, it’s legal advisors view and it’s own officers view that the byway is a byway “inform” its enforcement action?