Having made some enquiries it seems the resurfacing of these bridleways is more cock up than conspiracy. Yorkshire Water have confirmed that they have carried out the works with…wait for it….permission from Kirklees Council. Yes that’s the same Kirklees Council who have a legal duty to assert and protect the rights of users of public rights of way. In this case that’s walkers, riders & cyclists. These groups are well represented in Kirklees and it’s interesting to ponder why none of their representative groups were consulted on the works to these popular but vulnerable bridleways?
It seems the Council received complaints back in the winter when Yorkshire Water made a ham fisted attempt to cover sections of the bridleways with limestone. Subsequently the Council agreed that Yorkshire Water could carry out resurfacing works but with a local sandstone sized 20mm to dust. It doesn’t appear that the Council asked any questions as to why an organisation like Yorkshire Water which is part of the bigger Kelder Group who also own Bartin & Greaves Farmsteads would suddenly wish to resurface a public bridleway at its own expense. Someone doing something for nothing? Surely not?
At the same time as these discussions were going on between Kirklees and Yorkshire Water Kirklees were objecting very strongly to the planning applications at Bartin & Greaves. It seems odd to me that the Council didn’t put 2 + 2 together and realise that Yorkshire Water’s sudden rush of altruism in wishing to resurface the bridleways must surely be linked to the companies planning applications who’s access is entirely along these bridleways. I’ll quote directly from the Council’s written submission which was excellent by the way!
KC PROW objects to the application in its role on behalf of the council as highway authority for public rights of way in Kirklees. The application submissions are silent and inadequate in terms of public rights of way. The submissions make no mention that the access to the property from the public vehicular highway network at Acres lane is entirely along public bridleways Holmfirth 68 & 189.
No submission is made on the impact of the development, both construction and use, on users of the public bridleways. The lack of information in submissions is of concern. The application refers to the “adequate width and construction” of Nether Lane (public bridleway 189), however recent works to the public bridleway have been undertaken without authority of this council as the highway authority for the public bridleways; those works have included the importation and use of unauthorised non-vernacular surfacing materials.
Public bridleways are relatively scarce in Kirklees and the network north of Digley reservoir is one of our area’s main resources for riders and merits adequate protection. The site is remote from the public vehicular highway network, over 2200m away along the public bridleway, and a significant distance from any public transport service or even small centre of population. Sustainability is an evident question for the planning authority to consider, particularly in this isolated important landscape which forms part of the very popular Digley area, important for local recreation and public access to the countryside,including in-bye land and moorland.
The red line boundary shown in submissions does not include all land necessary to develop the site, unless development is proposed to take place on foot, cycle and horseback. The submissions do not include any blue line boundary for further ownership outside the red line. The submissions appear inadequate for members of the public to fairly and easily identify and consider the merits and effect of the application proposals. KC PROW would ask the PDNPA to consider the benefits of requiring further information in additional or amended submissions and then re-advertising the applications. The lack of public rights of way information in submissions may give the impression that the applicant is avoiding this
material topic, which may mislead the public.
Much of the access from Acres Lane is narrow, with insufficient space for the passing of two vehicles, and insufficient for passing of even vehicle and rider over a number of lengths (e.g.White Walls Lane over a length of 180m+, and the corners and straight approaching Bartin). Intensification of use of this access by motor vehicles would have a negative effect on public bridleway use and peaceful enjoyment of this special part of the PDNP within Kirklees.
KC PROW does not agree with claims made in the application that the application
submissions address all relevant points for consideration. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process and have been largely, if not entirely, ignored, despite the applicant’s knowledge of their existence and location and despite the inclusion in submissions of “access” and “planning” statements.
To add a rich layer of irony to the situation Yorkshire Water’s contractors arrived on site on the very day that the Peak Park Planning Committee were discussing the planning applications. As park officers were advising the committee of the special qualities of the landscape and the recreational value of the rights of way here and in particular the bridleways, Yorkshire Water’s men in hi viz were tipping large amounts of a concrete like aggregate on the bridleways surface,blinding it in with rollers and in effect making a nice smooth road to Bartin & Greaves farmsteads.
Joined up thinking between our public bodies? The peak park, Kirklees Council and even various sections within the Council would appear to not so much know what the left hand is doing but are completely unaware they have a left hand or even an arm with it on. The only people who are on the ball here are Yorkshire Water/Kelder Group.
Moving on to to the material used to resurface the bridleway. It does look and have the consistency of a dry concrete mix but I am assured by Kirklees who are assured by Yorkshire Water that there is no cement in with the aggregate. The stone used although grey and very sticky is, I’m assured by Kirklees who are assured by Yorkshire Water, sandstone from a quarry at Tingley. Very reassuring.
This stone is inappropriate for surfacing a sandstone bridleway. It looks like concrete and has ruined the aesthetics of these historic bridleways which have been largely untouched since the time of the enclosures when they were built. The bridleways did not require any resurfacing and were more than adequate for their normal traffic of agricultural vehicles and recreational use by the public. They were not however in a fit state to provide vehicular access to any future residents of Bartin & Greaves Farms nor would they look very good to any planning inspector involved in a planning appeal.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but isn’t required here as what’s going on is so blindingly obvious. If the public reported illegal surfacing works on a bridleway which gives the only access to 2 properties subject to 2 very contentious planning applications it’s pretty plain what is going on. All Kirklees had to do was stop the works and advise that no further works were to be undertaken. How hard can it be?
Regular readers might be noticing a pattern by now in how Kirklees behaves in regard to its responsibilities on public rights of way. Uppermost in the Council’s corporate mind should be its duty to assert and protect public rights but in the short time I’ve been writing this blog this has been largely absent. The Council are only to willing to consult the Kirklees Infinite Book of Excuses when a member of the public reports a problem on a right of way, and austerity has been a godsend for them in this respect, whilst at the same time they cannot bend over far enough for anyone sailing close to the wind or acting illegally on those very same public rights of way.